I met up with Dave at about 10.00pm on Thursday night. Our mission? To spot tawny owl chicks of course!
We headed to Parrot’s Drumble first. As you know, this is where I spotted an adult tawny owl a few weeks ago so we were keeping our fingers crossed we were going to hear or see some chicks. Finding the exact spot where I had seen the tawny owl was very tricky in the dark, and losing your bearings is easily done. Unfortunately we didn’t see or hear any signs of tawny owls or chicks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any living in these woods. If you remember from my last owl blog, owls and chicks may not be heard at all in one spot, but travel just a few metres away and they can be heard very clearly. A short distance can make all the difference. We could have walked further into the wood, but neither of us were familiar with this particular wood and we were very aware that we could have easily become lost. Not sure getting lost in a wood looking for tawny owls would have been a good enough excuse for missing work the next day.
So we made our way to another area where Dave had seen a trio of tawny owl chicks a few nights ago during a rainy spell. We parked up and made our way into the wood. We could hear the chicks but they were quite a distance away. We followed their calls and after trudging through plenty of mud and having a brief tussle with a barbed wire fence, we finally reached the tree where the chicks were sitting. It is certainly a challenge spotting tawny owl chicks in the dark with woods thick in foliage. But as I always say, if these things were easy everyone would be doing it.
Shining the flashlight into the tree, we finally spotted all three chicks. The scene reminded me of a children’s book that is often read at school called ‘Owl Babies’ which I am sure all of my pupils reading this will be familiar with.
Now for me, spotting wildlife isn’t just a hobby, it is a consuming passion. That first sighting always makes my breath catch in my chest. Suddenly nothing else matters because at that moment my mind is solely focussed on this amazing encounter. It is like seeing a mythical creature or perhaps I can liken it more so to seeing a celebrity. You know they exist, you have seen them on TV, but seeing them in the flesh I can’t describe the overwhelming feeling it gives you.
The trio of chicks were so busy screeching to each other that it was very tricky for us to get a photo of them. They were quite high up in the tree and seemed quite stubborn when it came to ‘smiling’ for the camera. But in the end we managed to get some very cute photos which certainly have the ‘awwwww factor.’ We could hear the mother tawny owl calling in the distance. She was probably aware of our presence, so as the flashlight started to fade, we left the chicks in peace. I am sure soon after we left the mother came to feed her brood of hungry chicks.
Of course we didn’t stop there. We went to our usual locations to listen for more tawny owls and chicks. We saw a tawny owl again at the farmhouse and heard a male tawny owl calling on the country lane.
Dark woods, clambering through mud, not arriving back home until 3am on a school night and waking up with a huge twig in my hair… some wildlife encounters are worth going that extra mile for.
What a truly magical experience.