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

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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 ūüôā

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

Indian Summer and Owls

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I am loving this Indian Summer, and so are the owls!  Yesterday afternoon was so hot and sunny it felt like June all over again.  I took Peanut and Whisper to my field which is just a few miles from home.  There is still so much to do on the site, but I have a camping stove and kettle in my shed so at least I can make a cup of tea and sit back and enjoy a moment of peace while the owls do the same.

BB and Peanut enjoying the sun

BB and Peanut enjoying the sun

These two owls look so alike and it is great having the largest – Bubo Bubo -and one of the smallest – Athene cunicularia – owls together [Peanut is in the distance on the other log!]. ¬†Of course Peanut doesn’t have those amazing ear tufts that BB does. ¬†These ear tufts can show BB’s mood, when they are upright he is happy and curious. However if they are laid back flat he is telling me he really is not very happy at all [a bit like a dog] – fortunately he looks happy most of the time which is good!

Victor stayed in his aviary yesterday, he was soaking up the sun on his branch so I thought I would let him just relax.  I took this 30 second video of him

– the only way you can tell it is a video is by the feather caught on the wood panel behind him moving in the light breeze, oh, and Victor blinks….other than that it could be a photo!! Definitely going to use him for still life studies!

The past week has been very busy with a digger guy putting the septic tank onion in and trenching for the soak away.  I have learnt so much and shoveled a couple of ton of pea gravel too, if I ever have to put in another septic tank I have a good idea of how to do this now!  The space will be good for parking when the membrane and aggregate goes down so my brother can reclaim his yard for his daughters to play in.

Septic tank buried

Septic tank buried

Soak away

Soak away

The old goat shed

The old goat shed

The old goat shed Рwe used to have Toggenburg goats Рis being transformed into a loo and shower block for the lovely guys who live at the farm and help me by feeding BB and Victor when I am not there.  I spent most of the summer removing the 20 years of stuff and now it is ready to be rebuilt with the old blocks filling the soak away up nicely.

Eventually there will be two loos and a shower so friends can camp and join me fly the owls ūüôā

So still loads to do, never a dull moment and owls to fly every day – I love my life!!

Whisper, my beautiful Barn Owl

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Whisper's first photo

Whisper’s first photo

I never knew how bizarre looking young Barn Owls were until this 19 day owlet arrived in June.  She had massive feet, an almost bald head and screeched the entire time she was awake Рanyone who knows how much a young seagull can keep up their high pitched call will appreciate how annoying this can get.  Whisper seemed to be an ironic name for her at this point.  She weighed just over 5 ounces and had already cast her first pellet so we fed her on cut up chicks Рbut no head or feet!

Whisper quickly put on weight and by the beginning of July had reached the dandelion or puff ball stage – still just as loud and still really hungry, weighing over 12 ounces by the time she was 8 weeks old.

Whisper 4 weeks old

Whisper 4 weeks old 

Wings appearing

Wings appearing

The transformation into her Barn Owl true feathers gradually happened over the next couple of weeks and she loved exploring, hopping around the kitchen and pouncing on the dog’s bed. ¬†As the owlets would try to pounce on Blue we had to make sure he was out of the way when they were free to roam – he is quite a happy dog.

Blue

Blue

She got her balance pouncing and playing around, always near by. Always keen to feed and follows my hand eagerly for food so I can’t wait for her to grow her flight feathers and be brave enough to fly to me!

Whisper helping

Whisper helping 

Whisper helping dry

Whisper helping dry

Whisper's new home

Whisper’s new home

She is now 15 weeks old and lives in her aviary. ¬†I fly her every day and she is learning really quickly, but I do miss having her play in the kitchen! ¬†Really funny when she jumped in Blue’s food bowl!! watch this!¬†

Hello BB King and Victor

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As the heat of the summer chills into autumn the two oldest owls of the pack are coming out of their drowsy siestas and taking a bit more interest in their surroundings.

Actually what is the collective known for a group of owls? ¬†A hoot of owls maybe?? Or a hush…or a swoop or a flutter? ¬†It is a cast of hawks….a funeral of crows, and my all time favorite collective noun is a kaleidoscope of butterflies!

Victor as I named him, is a wonderful 5 year old African Spotted Owl.

African Spotted Owl

Victor

Previously he lived very happily at the North Somerset Bird of Prey Center with his lovely mate of several years.  Each year they would carefully build a nest and lay their clutch of eggs Рhowever they never managed to hatch a single one, and earlier this year the female quietly passed away while sitting on their latest brood.  It was decided that Victor would benefit from a change of scene and I was very happy to give him a new home here in Cornwall.

Victor has not yet flown to me, but he is very happy to sit and watch the world go by as I sketch him.  He makes a great still life model!

Victor the model

Victor the model

My other ‘semi- retired gentleman’ is BB King, a stunning Eurasian Eagle Owl – the largest of all owl species in fact.

For I am BB King

For I am BB King

He needed a new home as his owner wanted to retire himself and, like Victor, had also never been flown to the glove or actually stood on a glove at all.  He came to me in May this year, the month the singer BB King died.  As his Latin name is Bubo Bubo and he is the largest of all species the name just had to be BB King!

IMG_2303

BB has settled in well, is about 4 years old, very chilled and also a great model for sketching.  The top photo was taken just this weekend and was the first time he had sat on that post Рhe totally loved it and sulked when I had to put him back in his aviary!

Peanut’s Beginning…

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Peanut came to me at the end of May this year as a 14 day old owlet…he [although¬†I can’t be sure if he is a he, without sending a feather off for DNA checking] still had his egg tooth and would only open one eye for a short time each day!¬† He ate every 4 hours – through the night too for the first couple of days – exciting and hard work for such a tiny thing that only weighed 2 and a half ounces¬†and easily fit in to¬†my husband’s hand!

just arrived!

just arrived!

He was always full of character and very quick Рnow at 3 months old he weighs around 5 ounces Рabout the same as an I Phone.  He spends lots of his day hunting and chasing leaves Рpouncing on them as they blow in the wind.

A couple of weeks ago when it was really hot and sunny [yes, really it was] Peanut was in our conservatory enjoying the space while the final touches were added to his aviary.  As it was so hot I thought I would offer him a cool down by spraying him with cool water Рlook at the photos Рhe loved it!!

Totally enjoying the cool down spray!

Totally enjoying the cool down spray!

More please?

More please?

He actually loved it so much that when he was in his aviary and it rained he would stay out and got so drenched that I just had to bring him inside to dry Рhe really will have to learn not to stay out in the rain when winter comes!

Saved from the rain

Saved from the rain