Watching Owls

birds, nature, Owls, photography

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”

BB King

For I am BB King

Owls like to stare for ages – usually at something so far away it is impossible for me to see what ever it is they find so fascinating.

BB likes to spend quite a bit of time watching the sheep grazing, and a large oak tree on the edge of his field – looking for squirrels perhaps?..

Victor has a general good look around, blinking slowly, taking his time.

Peanut’s favourite spot is on his top rail where he can watch everything, snugly puffed up with one leg tucked away..

Good Morning Peanut

and Whisper just loves the camera – well, she is beautiful!!

2015 in review

Owls

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Owl Xmas Parties

art, cute, Owls, photography

Peanut and Victor had a very busy Xmas and New Year with 5 private dates and 2 charity events in their diaries.  Luckily for me they were all indoors, and in some beautiful rooms – Victor looked especially grand in the billiards room at Fowey Hall Hotel.

Victor New Years Day at Fowey Hall

Victor at Fowey Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The families enjoyed learning owl facts [ most people know the word nocturnal, but diurnal is a new one for many] and making owl masks.

Of course when the children wear their masks they are definitely not allowed to move their eyes but have to remember to move their heads to see, just like the owls do!

Trenython Manor had a glorious Xmas tree in the room, making a wonderful backdrop for the close up and personal photographs with the families.  I would love to offer evening owl walks through their gardens when the weather warms up a bit.

Peanut Xmas at Trenython

Lankelly Rugby Club Junior Xmas Party chose a Hogwarts theme this year, so an invitation for the owls to attend was an obvious choice.  I made sure I was prepared and researched the owls famous in the Harry Potter series, putting together fact sheets showing the children how these owls live in the real world – rather than being used mainly for postal deliveries as in the stories.  As both Victor and Peanut were at the party the children, and adults, could see the huge diversity of these fascinating birds – especially after I pointed out that Peanut was just as fully grown as Victor and not his baby at all!

Victor at Lankelly

The invitation to the Rugby Club’s party came as a direct result of the support I have been giving to CHICKS – Country Holidays for Inner City Kids – who have a holiday retreat in the nearby village, Tywardreath.  Peanut and I attended two of their fundraising Xmas mornings, one in Snuggles Nursery in Bodmin and the second at Happy Days Nursery in St Blazey.  For a small donation anyone could have a close up photograph taken of them with Peanut.  This went down really well and we raised £80 for the charity which was fab!

Peanut working for CHICKS DSCN4653

Snuggles Nursery put us in their sensory room, which was perfect!  Peanut is very used to the public attention and is so photogenic that the nursery are thinking about having him as their mascot!!

I already have a few more dates booked for 2016, which is really exciting as it means my business is starting to fly 🙂  Plans to work with CHICKS and deliver activities to those children are in the pipeline and still lots of digging and building in the field to do too. Meanwhile using other venues is giving me the chance to get out with the owls, meet loads of lovely people and share the owl love!!

Do Owls know its Christmas?

nature, Owls, photography

No of course they don’t, but if anyone asks they got new aviaries, a new weathering and went to a few parties. Yes, new aviaries and parties!  In between getting ready for Christmas and looking after my husband, who broke his hand at work and then a week before the feast day had a bone shaping operation on his foot [very painful and on crutches for a while yet], the new aviaries were finished enough for the two big owls to move into!

It was hard work in the cold, wind and rain but with the help of some amazing friends – especially the man with the larch! – we finished on the 23rd and Victor and BB were in their bigger, stronger and most importantly drier homes.

Side view In progress Box profile

We already had a lot of the materials and the steel roofing sheets and larch made it all good and solid.  The final push on the 23rd saw Pete, my son Cameron and me in the pouring rain taking out crucial panels from the old aviaries to put into the new.  The owls were put onto bow perches and it was a matter of having to finish or they would have no where to go that night.  The final netting was stapled by the light of the mobile phone – but we did it!!

Still need to get a load of gravel on BB’s floor [I have a ton of pea gravel at the bottom of the field to bring up via wheelbarrow as its so muddy!] and after a bit more trim and a lick of paint they will be done.  BB is now in residence in a 12×12 foot space and Victor has a 6x12foot area.  Both have rope swings and plenty of room to spread their wings.  Both also seem much happier, more animated and alert – my Xmas present 🙂

IMG_2964Victor is in

Then the following Monday we had another building day and an amazing weathering shelter was built from another old fence panel and the skillful hands of Owen – with Cameron helping too.  Meanwhile Trace and I moved gravel [again/still] and took more of the old down.  Now Peanut and Whisper will have somewhere to perch out of the wind at the farm – it is really taking shape.

Xmas Monday crewPortable Weathering Done

Ideal – and it has handles so I can move it 🙂

So that’s the new builds, big owls all secure and safe from the wild wind and rain.

I will tell you about the owl Xmas parties next time; here is a selfie from Peanut for now – belated Merry Xmas and Happy New Year everyone!!

Peanut Xmas selfie at Trenython

Victor’s Day Out

birds, nature, Owls, photography

Some days it has been so wet and windy it is hard to get the owls out of their aviaries.   When it is really rough I leave them in peace and quiet; in the wild they would stay put in a sheltered spot and wait for the weather to pass so it’s quite natural for them – just like we like to stay where we are warm and dry, and watch the rain pour down.  On those days I will spend some time standing with each of them, having a chat and giving them their food.

Victor still hasn’t made a sound but the other three hoot, screech and chirrup joining in the conversation!   Victor contributes through expression, his eyelids are the best and he winks and blinks – maybe it’s a kind of owl morse code…I will decipher it one day.  He is getting more confident when he is taken out, and much more interested in looking around rather than staring at me with a rather shocked expression!

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Here we are sheltering in the ‘spare’ aviary during a heavy shower – spare as in it is supplying the spare parts needed for the new aviaries and will soon be taken down completely.  We removed the door and front panel just a few days ago for the new, better and stronger aviaries – fingers crossed finished this week – wow!!!

 

Victor really likes my shed.  The first time he went in to be weighed was the first time I had seen him take a real notice of his surroundings – he had a good look around, visibly relaxed and happily looked out of the window while I made a cup of tea.

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I think he must have been in a shed with his previous owners at some point, as he loves it in there every time now.  IMG_2939

 

My brother and his lovely girls bought me an Owl Advent calendar  – Victor loved it too!

 

It gets a bit chilly in the field while spending time with Victor, so I decided to go for a walk around and see who else was about at the farm.

We visited Pete – who was out, but Victor liked the look of the caravan.

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So then we went down to the yard to see if my brother was about, though forgot that is was nearly 3pm so he would be doing the school run picking up his girls.  Victor quite liked the old cartwheel by his back door and I couldn’t resist making the most of this photo opportunity.

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Soon Victor is going to be guest of honour, with Peanut, at the Lankelly Rugby Club junior’s Xmas party.  This will be Victor’s first public appearance since he came to live with me so it is very exciting.  I am making him new anklets and jesses [or furniture to use the correct term] especially for the occasion, so he will look very smart and I am sure he will impress everyone there, blinking quietly in his way.

Time to put Victor back and feed the owls.

 

 

Remember November – cos it flew by me!

birds, Owls

Wind, more wind and rain – that is what November has been in this part of Cornwall.  What with it getting dark at 4ish each afternoon and the stormy weather my days have been a mixture of inside working on the laptop trying to complete my falconry qualification, digging out my thermals and dodging the worst of the weather spending quality time with Victor and BB to build their confidences in being handled.

So I have been up to Exmouth and spent two days at the Hawkridge Bird of Prey Centre with the lovely Sharon and Richard.  The centre is closed for the winter [they still run courses and experience days] which meant that I could really get behind the scenes and learn loads.

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The birds are all kept wonderfully clean, and they soon got me on the cleaning rota!

 

 

 

 

IMG_2751What was really good was that Sharon also has a couple of Eurasian Eagle Owls.  The male is now 7 years old, called Echo and he is very behaved.

It was a privilege to fly him – and he likes to watch the sheep just about as much as BB does!

 

Spending quality time with Victor and BB is beginning to pay off.  This past week they are both much more relaxed when they are sitting on the glove.  They appear to be getting used to the daily weigh in and being out of their aviaries while we clean and generally sort stuff out.  I couldn’t see Victor in his aviary last week – but he was there…hiding I reckon….check out the front right bottom corner!  IMG_2571

The ground is getting very muddy, mainly due to Wellington boots rather than the birds.  Anyway, to make it nicer for them I have wheelbarrowed about 6 bags of pea gravel up the field to lay on membrane under their perches.  IMG_2762

Hardwork – and very warming!  Luckily the lovely neighbouring farmer took the remaining 8 bags up for me in his tractor.  The floors look so much better, and will be easier to clean too.  [Hawkridge’s good influence!]

 

So I am back up to Exmouth tomorrow for another couple of days absorbing as much information as I can.  Thermals are packed and I am really looking forward to it.

Oh, and this afternoon Victor is let me take this closeup!

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Owls by day

birds, cute, nature, Owls, photography

So much has been achieved since I started on my new adventure in the summer, yet there is still loads to do.  The owls need there daily care, of course, as does Blue and the chickens; the parking area and shed renovation are getting there, just not quite done yet; Victor and BB need better aviaries before the winter really sets in and the shed needs moving to a more level site…busy days!

Daily routines with Peanut and Whisper already feels like this is what I have always done.  Each morning starts with a quick check out of my bedroom window where I can see both aviaries – usually Peanut is on his top perch looking like a puffball.

Good Morning Peanut

Good Morning Peanut

If I call out he will answer with his little chirrup that sounds so much like he is saying ‘Alright’ – he is proper Cornish!

He is slowly developing his grown up call, a quick double ‘hoot hoot’ which we have only heard a couple of times so far.  I even played him a recording thinking that may encourage him to hoot…instead he looked confused and continued with his usual chirrup.

Hello!

Hello!

Whisper is often still awake in the morning, though not always.  I never knew that I would be able to tell if a Barn Owl is tired just by looking at one, but Whisper actually squints if she is up too early or stayed up too late.  You would think that she would go into her box, but no, she is often sitting on a perch on one foot squinting at the morning light!  If anyone goes near the aviary she then dashes into her box to hide – I wonder if she is thinking ‘No, I do not want to come out and play, it is bedtime’. Just like a teenager – she hates mornings!

Morning Whisper!

Morning Whisper!

I managed to record her sleeping a while ago – we had been to the farm for a few hours and she was obviously exhausted by this. Here she is – Sleeping Whisper – you can see her gently moving with her breath as she sleeps. Beautiful!

So, back to the routine.  Once I am up a quick visual check of owls and aviaries shows me if there is anything that needs attention.  The water is changed and the casts collected.  It’s important for me to note if each bird has cast and if the cast looks ‘normal’.  Depending on the diet the casts will differ in colour – day old chicks are quite pale where as rats and pheasant certainly makes my four owls’ casts much darker.  Any unusual changes may indicate the bird is unwell so this is an important check to make.

If all is well, and after a cup of coffee, I spend time working with Peanut in his aviary training him, at the moment getting him to go into his burrows on command with a reward of food.  He is learning well and is very quick to fly for a treat – a bit of beef or cut up chick are his favourites.  When the training is done, basically when Peanut has had enough to eat, I stay for a few more minutes as this is when he is very sociable and at his cutest – Cute Burrowing Owl says ‘Which way is up?’

Mid afternoon I usually head to the field to see Victor and BB.  I am working on building their confidences with being handled, or manned to use the correct term.  They were both hand reared but had not been handled much at all before they came to me this year.  As they are now both about 5 years old this may take a lot of time and patience on my part.  However as Eurasian Eagle Owls can live up to 60 years I figure it is worth it.

BB sitting on a glove!

BB sitting on a glove!

So now I spend time simply being near them in their aviaries and talking to them.  They are both free lofted – not tethered – so it is good that they usually remain sitting calmly when I am with them.  If I do catch them to take them out they still tend to flap but soon settle once on my glove.  BB struggles to stand on the glove, showing that he really hadn’t been handled much at all, and so he needs more practice but as he is such a large bird he gets quite heavy to hold for any length of time!!

Tempting Victor with food

Tempting Victor with food

My aim is to one day be able to fly them in the field – just got to get them to feed from the glove first, which they don’t at all at the moment…..like I say, I will keep trying.

So then after a few hours hanging out with my boys I head back home in time to feed the youngsters.  My days are getting much shorter now it gets dark by 5pm!  My lovely husband has put outside lights for me as it was getting tricky undoing the padlocks with one hand while holding a torch with the other.

I like to fly Whisper every evening, weather depending, and she looks gorgeous flying at dusk.  If it’s wet I bring her in to the house, which is much nicer for both of us!

Good evening Whisper

Good evening Whisper

Whisper evening flight

Whisper evening flight

A pretty good way to spend a day, I think 🙂

Playing indoors

Playing indoors

Getting Creative

art, nature, Owls, willow

So many ideas of what to do.  The space in the field is looking really lovely, especially since my sister-in-law cut the grass again.  I didn’t know that to have a go on a ride on mower was on Cheryl’s Bucket List, but as soon as she mentioned it I booked her in to mow –

Mowing a Meadow

Mowing a Meadow

now she can tick that one off and the field looks fab!

It’s beginning to take shape with the lawn appearing out of what was 20 years of grazing pasture – any gardener would be proud of it.  So now I am trying to decide where to put some colourful planting and keep bringing cuttings from home.  A lady in my village was giving away loads of bedding plants: ox-eye daisies, geraniums and aquilegia which will all help to fill the space, with some left over to brighten up the parking area too.

At the farm there is a load of willow ready for coppicing, so I did!  I took total advantage of a friend who was visiting my brother for a few days and, with Silky in hand went for it.  Blue supervised.

Cutting Willow

Cutting Willow

We then carried the willow into the next field and started constructing a large canopy/arbour/shelter in the top corner where the view is stunning and is the best place to sit to catch the sun.

Getting started

Getting started

We started with the main uprights to get the shape.  7 in all, tied with one bit of string and the rest we just weaved into it’s self as we went.  Jo dug the holes for the uprights while I secured them and trimmed off the excess.  Of course Blue made sure we were doing it right and Pete was on hand too – all in all it was a grand afternoon’s work – apart from the gas on my camping stove running out so we couldn’t have a cup of tea….doh!

Lazy Dog

Lazy Dog


Nearly Done

Nearly Done

Now we wait for the willow to grow and keep on weaving in the shoots.  I have planted an Americana Honeysuckle to grow over the top which will look gorgeous and smell wonderful too.  All it needs now is a large bench.

Willow Done

Willow Done

The ‘port-a-burrow I made a few weeks ago is now finished and Peanut was introduced to it just the other day.  He really wasn’t sure at first, I mean, why should there be a burrow on top of a table inside a house?  With a bit of food to tempt him in he soon got used to the idea and it will come into full use now that winter is finally on it’s way.

Spot Peanut

Spot Peanut


Burrow Inspection

Burrow Inspection

The burrow was really handy to take along to Fowey Hall Hotel for two Meet Peanut afternoon family tea parties over half term.  Peanut did really well too on his first public engagements, and of course everyone loved him.  It was wonderful to give the families a close up and personal experience with an owl; seeing him fly for food and being able to touch him and feel how soft his feathers are.  I also put together a craft activity: pine cone owls on the first day and owl masks on the next.  The pine cone owls turned out well…and I even did one in Halloween colours to be seasonal!

Pine Cone Owls

Pine Cone Owls


Halloween Owl

Halloween Owl

Owl

Owl Shoots in September

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On the last day of September my niece, Zinzi Graham came by to photograph the owls.  It was a glorious sunny afternoon and the owls behaved perfectly: as in they looked amazing – as usual – they looked cute – as usual – they were happy – as usual – and Peanut flew well – as usual! Peanut really enjoys interacting with people, and he has a good appetite which certainly helps to motivate him to fly to anyone holding a treat for him. I have read that Burrowing owls often have a big attitude for such a small bird.  Fortunately his big attitude is a very happy one!!

Smile!

Smile!

Zinzi took some really lovely shots; mostly of Peanut as Whisper decided she would siesta for the afternoon and really wasn’t going to be interested in food or flying at all, so she stayed on a bow perch in the shade – 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon really is too early if your’e a Barn owl!

BB by Zinzi

BB by Zinzi

   BB also preferred to take it easy…

…and Peanut flew – mostly with the sun directly behind him and I really love the way his wings are lit up showing his flight feathers beautifully.  Poor Zinzi was getting blinded every shot but still took this lovely one showing Peanut’s focus – he definitely is going to get that food.

Peanut in focus by Zinzi

Peanut in focus by Zinzi

We moved around the field a bit, working out different ways to capture Peanut just as he is flying – his wings move so quickly.  Whisper would be easier to capture in flight as nocturnal owls hardly flap their wings at all, keeping their flight as silent as possible while they hunt.  Burrowing owls are diurnal, active both day and night, and have a quicker wing movement. They don’t have the cover of night so don’t need to be silent.  But Whisper was asleep by now.

Zinzi even took some shots of me – though I didn’t know at the time…it felt like summer was here all over again.  Such a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.  I hope to be able to offer these sessions to more photographers soon – and really look forward to seeing the results of more owl shoots.

Peanut and Me by Zinzi

Peanut and Me by Zinzi

Apples and Owls

Uncategorized

While I could easily spend every day just chilling with my owls the rest of the garden chores are piling up so this week I had a catch up.  We have 6 apple trees which all have loads of fruit in spite of us being high on a hill where, apparently, apples don’t do well. The Discovery apples always look so red – like real Snow White apples!

Discovery Sept 2015

Discovery Sept 2015

Now the freezer is full of sliced and peeled apples and I still have a load more to deal with so Apple Jelly it is.

leftoversAs it has been raining more and getting dark earlier I have made a papermache burrow for indoor bird training sessions,

Burrow and Apple Jelly Sept 2015

Burrow and Apple Jelly Sept 2015

just a bit of fake grass on top and it’s finished – Hope Peanut likes it!

My lovely husband has made a 5 foot self standing perch so Whisper can fly indoors too. Now I am ready whatever the weather 🙂

Both birds have happily settled into the routine of daily weigh ins – it is essential to monitor their health and be sure they are of a good weight to fly them.  If they are too heavy they may not have cropped yet [cast a pellet, which also needs to be looked out for daily].  This will only lead to frustration as they will probably be more interested in everything and anything else rather than the food I am holding to entice them to fly to my hand for – as they wont be hungry until they have cast!  Equally if they are weighing too light they may be unwell or too hungry and ill tempered which will not give good quality flying time. Each bird is different, so it is difficult to state what weight a bird will behave at it’s best, which is why daily weighing and record keeping will give me the information over time.  Peanut and Whisper have got very used to standing on their scales every day.  Whisper is so relaxed she is standing on one foot…

Whisper weigh in Sept 2015

Whisper weigh in Sept 2015


Peanut weigh in Sept 2015

Peanut weigh in Sept 2015

Peanut usually weighs around 4.8 to 5 ounces, and keeps his focus flying well at this weight.  Occasionally he goes up to 5.2 ounces and isn’t interested at all – I am sure he catches bank voles in his aviary!

Whisper stays between 11.5 and 12 ounces and usually flies really well with good focus on the food.  She tends to be more easily distracted by noises than Peanut, although she is 3 weeks younger than him so still a bit nervous of new things.  The combine harvesters in a near field stopped our flying time short the other evening as there was no chance of getting her attention!  I forgave her though and the following evening my daughter took these beautiful shots of her in flight – stunning!!

Whisper evening flight

Whisper evening flight


Whisper evening flight 2

Whisper evening flight 2