Birds, Ecology, Gardening, Wales

Protecting the Innocent

Baby barn owls and Jan

Here they are:  last years baby barn owls safe in the arms of local owl whisperer, Jan, from the Species Habitat Protection Group that monitor the owl box on our land.  I couldn’t show you these last year as their location was better kept under wraps — there are evidently still people out there who will abduct baby barn owls to rear as pets and for sport.

We hear barn owls every night but this year Mum and Dad have not used our box again.  It should be a better year as the dry weather allows the parents to hunt every night.

Two days ago Alan and I went to inspect the osprey nest over the hill.  This year there are three chicks, two male and one female, just about ready to fly, jostling for space in the untidy nest.  The location is well known now so their custodians have made a car-park with a hide which provides many volunteer watchers (and doubtless electronic surveillance).


One fuzzy ‘fish-hawk’

Here are pictures from a previous year from the Osprey Centre webcam in the Dovey Estuary courtesy of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust Creative Commons License .


The mother was sitting on the cross-bar above the chicks, when we visited, waiting for the male to return with a big fish.  Below, the reservoir was shrinking fast in our only dry summer for years!


Whoops — I spoke too soon — with a crash of thunder the drought appears to have ended!

We are reminded that, despite the drought, our habitat is Temporate Rainforest and that our garden, tended only by the Almighty is, this year, very fashionable!


It would merit a gold medal at any of the horticultural shows — Chelsea, Hampton Court or Tatton Park!

Birds, Ecology, Wales

Happytat Creation

Here’s something to cure election fever!

Something new and glorious and full of hope!  It’s something we’ve discovered 50 yards from our back door — a pair of nesting Barn Owls!

SAM_3198 (1)

Here is the male (I think) who is paler and here is his mate with her buff coloured chest

barn owl cropped

and dark spots on her flank.

Best of all, there are three chicks which I hope to show you in a couple of weeks when they will be ringed and meet the public.

All this and the photos are courtesy of the Species Habitat Protection Group who erected the nesting box and have been monitoring it for 3 years.  Last year there was just one tell-tail Barn Owl feather, so we knew someone had been house-hunting, but we had no idea that they had moved in this year and started a family.  Thank you Jon, Jan, Roger and Brian and the other volunteers.


Taking the lid of a habitat


oldbilluk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Thanks to oldbilluk for this fantastic Barn Owl (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Our recent wild-fire damaged the Barn Owl habitat — here is how it should look — tussocks of grass growing through a thatch of the previous years’ hay.



After a dry week this loose weave of hay had dried out surprisingly and fire spread rapidly.


Aftermath of the grass-fire

From the other side of our valley you can see (in the bottom/left) where the flying ember ignited the hay on the opposite side of the track — then it spread in minutes across the fifty yards or so of rough grassland, up the hill (to the top/right of the picture).

Where the weave is trodden in the animal runs, trampled by badgers, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, hares, domestic cats and dogs and the occasional stray sheep, the drying and, in consequence the burning is less. Now you can clearly see evidence of the frenetic activity (mainly nocturnal) that shapes this landscape.

But look more carefully.

The fire has taken the lid off the vole habitat

The fire has exposed the labyrinth of  passageways, burrows, tunnels and store rooms beneath and within the sward — vole sized ones and tiny shrew sizes scamper-ways, occasionally enlarged by pursuing weasels or torn open by buzzards.

I have found caches of lightly roasted hazel nuts, larger ones presumably hidden by squirrels but fortunately no bodies — it seems the fire moved quickly and superficially and, I guess (well, I hope), the residents fled to their basements!


This little chap (vole deceased!) was not so lucky — photographed by Tom Brandt (CC BY 2.0)