Night of 3 to 4 May -- Pine nest owls (cont.)

Here are a couple more recordings. The first is from the male's third and final visit, made during the dawn chorus at 3.50 am GMT (ten to five British Summer Time). Among other things it shows Sod busily at work as the cars that pass are almost the only ones in an hour-long track. It's amazing how accurately he can throw his spanners. There's more than one male in this -- in fact all three may be in there somewhere. You can tell which is the nesting bird's man as females only respond to their mates.

The second sample is the nice cock who began crowing in the chicken hut right next to me, followed by contributions from some of his wives -- they're venturing outside. The only reason for putting the sample up is the nice familiar sounds these birds make.

Third visit with dawn chorus 2.9 Mb mp3, 160 kb/s, Rode NT1-A mics

Cock and hens 1.5 Mb, mp3 as first sample

4 May -- Nestbox owls

IN THE AFTERNOON we visited the nestbox to get some camcorder pics of the chicks. It had become extraordinarily warm, and for the first hour or so the chicks lay low. When one did occasionally bob into sight it was visibly panting -- owls overheat very easiily. Eventually persistence paid off and, as it became cooler, I got some reasonable clips. We also saw the first indisputable evidence that there are two! One of them seems to keep very quiet at night -- I only ever really hear one, or one at a time. Below is a still from the camcorder, which is on balance the best way to take pics as one has a huge selection to choose from even if the quality is not so hot. It was taken with the x20 telephoto.

Mid-afternoon on a hot day and the chicks take a break from frolicking and preening to look at us as we film. The one on the left is the older, probably aged about 22-24 days here, with the one on the right the youngster at about 17-18 days. The one on the left is sitting in the position the mother was when peering at me in the night pic taken 30th April. The dark area on the back wall is a pic of the two chicks that died in 2004 -- the nestbox was made in their memory.

5 May -- Back to London

MY SISTER has had a "roosting" box made for Sophie. It's actually from a design for a Barn Owl nestbox. I'm not sure what to do with it as it's impractically large. Twenty tawmies could fit into it with room to spare. But Jonathan, who made it, has done a magnificent job and it's obviously gone down a treat with Sophie, so a couple of pics below. I love those little disappearing feet in the right pic.

Finally, driving out of the area on my way from taking a new masthead panorama at Maplesden Farm I had to brake to a halt in Backtilt Wood. For there, singing from his usual place after returning from Africa, was the Nightingale we've heard since we began walking the lanes in 2003. Same one, without a shadow of doubt. So next time I'll do him the honours with a trip to his wood with my not so portable recording studio!


That's it for this visit. Processing all the material from two recorders, a camcorder and a camera takes longer than actually getting it in the first place! This is a little frustrating as it's easy to feel you haven't done full justice to all you've heard and seen out there over several hours.

8 May -- London

BABY OWLS BOUNCY IN BOX, Corinne telephones to say. She drove down today and went out as soon as she arrived to check on them. Mother not around. That was about 6.15 this evening. She asks when I'm coming down. Sigh and tell her I'm still struggling with the mountains of material from the last visit. But maybe Wednesday. I want to see that dad back at the nestbox. And whether the pine nest chicks have hatched -- which they should have done as early as 21 April. Looks as if the female may take to the nest quite some time before she actually lays.


9 May -- London

NO NESTBOX INSPECTION today but a lovely pic from Corinne that conveys the peace of these lanes. This is the one that goes up to Mount Hall farm, a particularly quiet location right in the centre of our area. The day these lanes are widened such scenes will be a thing of the past. As for me, I'm hoping to get back down to Kent tomorrow. So another break in this diary while I collect more stuff. Should be back 12th. Jump to next owls entry -- rest of this page is London nattering.

Meanwhile, on quite a different topic. Here's another passable wine, got in Sainsbury's for a penny short of 7. Famous name Crozes Hermitage, it's a Cote du Rhone syrah (Shiraz), with one-third, so the bottle says, matured in oak. Still trying it out, here against the Caroline de Beaulieu merlot. The Australian stuff is my lodger's. Much prefer the more subtle French offerings apart from one deliciously smooth syrah from the Errazuriz estate in Chile. That was from Tesco last year. This year's equivalent is completely unremarkable.

Chirrup savoured my cabbage, and Sophie has had two baby mice. Right now she's tucking into a share of my lamb bhuna, rice and cabbage drizzled with cod liver oil (her portion, not mine!). I know some of the owl crowd will mutter about a sin against the Holy Ghost, but others with more flexible minds will know, or will understand, that tawnies, like many of our fellow creatures, enjoy good, tasty food. If they could cook, they would! Anyway, what can you do with an owl that steals and eats apple cores? I am happy when my owls are catholic in their choice of food, and feel sorry for captive birds that turn their beaks up at anything other than frozen chicks. And no, I don't give my birds alcohol. Full-time pilots don't drink!


Postscript: Chirrup, 30 May

CHIRRUP died today. He became ill about ten days ago, and when he showed no signs of recoveriy I took him to a specialist vet in Romford. Tests suggested he had developed liver cancer. It was what I had always feared as budgies seem to be very susceptible to cancer, especially lipomas, though it was strange because as an active, free-flying bird he had little fat. He was also a mere two years and four months old.

Here he is shown in happier days being inspected by a young Sophie. He's more interested in the telephone. Later Chirrup had to be confined to his cage when Sophie was around as she could catch him effortlessly and, much as she found him cute and charming, instinct would have taken over. He must be one of the few budgies in the world to have been caught by an owl -- twice -- and lived to tell the tale.

I shall greatly miss his gay, enlivening little presence, especially on long car journeys, which he loved.

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