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
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.
As 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
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
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 2
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
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
The old goat shed
The old goat shed – we used to have Toggenburg goats – is 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 🙂
So still loads to do, never a dull moment and owls to fly every day – I love my life!!
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 – anyone 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 – but 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
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.
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 dry
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!
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.
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 – however 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
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
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!
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 – he totally loved it and sulked when I had to put him back in his aviary!