I met up with Dave, an experienced man when it comes to finding tawny owls and chicks, at 9.30pm on Friday night. We set off to a wood in the Staffordshire area.
It was just getting dark so we headed into the wood with a flash light and camera. Heading into a dark wood alone I would not have been able to recognise the call of a tawny owl chick, but with Dave’s guidance I could hear the owl chick very clearly. In fact, this was the only sound that could be heard in the wood.
Actually spotting the chick in a dark wood with trees dense in foliage was another matter. We followed the sound for a while, shining the flash light in the trees. Dave finally spotted him. I’m not sure how as he was very well camouflaged against the tree. This was the only owl chick we could see and hear in this wood. After a bit of team work, me in charge of shining the flash light in just the right spot (no pressure!) and Dave with the camera, Dave managed to get this very cute photograph of this tawny owl chick.
Another amazing wildlife moment for me. Everytime I think I have experienced the ultimate wildlife moment, something else comes along that makes me realise there will be something as equally amazing to see.
We then headed off to a small village in the Staffordshire area. As we approached a farmhouse, Dave told me that he had seen many tawny owls here. As we turned the corner I spotted an ornamental tawny owl sitting on the wall of the farmhouse. I guessed they must have put it there as it was well known for tawnies. But then I was very surprised when it moved! This wasn’t an ornament, this was a real life tawny owl! I had never been so close to a tawny owl. The headlights on the car spooked it and it flew up to the top of a telegraph pole. We tried to take a photograph, but once the flash light was on it, it flew away. Dave assured me that if we drove around the village and came back in 5 minutes he would be back. And sure enough, he was. What an amazing sight to see. We didn’t hear any chicks though.
We headed off to a few country lanes, and although we didn’t see anymore owls or chicks, we could definitely hear the chicks, with at least three at one spot.
Dave told me that owl chicks screech at different octaves which makes it easier to identify just by sound how many chicks there are. After listening to the chicks tonight I can see what he means. It made me realise that hearing the chicks and identifying the number of chicks just by sound is as rewarding as actually seeing the chicks.
It is very strange as chicks can not be heard at one spot, but drive only a few seconds down the road and they can be heard very clearly.
Our search for owls went on until the early hours of Saturday morning. When it comes to watching wildlife, spotting that one particular species is the only thing on your mind. Feelings of hunger, thirst or tiredness never even enter your mind. For me, it is an escape from the ‘real world’ and that is what I love most about it.