Monday, 21 May 2012

Tawny Owl Treat

Participants on today's lunchtime biodiversity programme guided walk led by Allan Watson -  'Birdsong for Beginners' were treated to this fine sight from the footpath into Great High Wood.

Photo: Allan Watson

Tawny Owls are the most nocturnal of the three species of owl recorded on the University estate. Of the other two, Barn Owls are fairly regularly seen in daylight towards the end of the day and Little Owls are almost completely daytime birds.  To see a tawny owl right out in the open in full view and in broad daylight is relatively unusual.  They almost always hunt between dusk and dawn but they are recorded hunting in the open during daylight when they have young in the nest - as is the case now. (For a photo of a young tawny taken in the botanic garden, click here)

'Tu-whit, tu-who' as Shakespeare wrote in Loves Labour's Lost.  Except that William got it famously wrong. Both male and female make the typical 'hu....huhuhuhoo' call and both make a separate contact call, a sharp 'kee-wick' but neither does one straight after the other.  You might get close to the bard's description if you happen to catch a 'kee-wick' from one bird followed by a 'hoo-hoo' from the other.

However, this one did not seem to realise that we were on an aural exploration and stayed resolutely silent.

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