20 July 2012

Tawny Owl vs House Martin

On the back of the house we have artificial house martin nests, previous natural ones having been so frequently destroyed by grey squirrels that the martins simply gave up.  It's taken several years for the martins to become familiar with and start using the artificial ones although blue tits have, for years, used one in particular as a winter roost. This year of the five nests three are in use and broken shells have been seen on the ground below the sites and more recently the little black and white heads have been seen poking out and the whole brood is heard chirruping away.  Two weeks ago one of our resident tawnys was seen swooping up towards one of the artificial nests battering its tail on the window, the fledglings fell silent and the worst was feared but the next day they were as noisy as usual.  The owl has tried at least three times, that we know of, and each time has been defeated by the concrete of the nest. The martins have grown and fledged in the last couple of days, last night one of the youngsters got totally confused and flew in through the open window did a couple of circuits of the room before perching on a lampshade which was either rather hot (the light was on)  or not ideal as the small bird fell to the floor and lay panting.  It was carefully gathered up, checking briefly for any injury - none visible and it held on to fingers very tightly but its tail was only half grown and there was still some fluff on its back so it was obviously a youngster - before being launched into the air out of the open window.  It took to the sky with a chatter and was soon lost in the swooping crowd busy munching the evening midges.

There are, or rather were, two nests at the front of the house.  The newer one this year has been hit by an owl strike, at least that the concusion we've reached.  This was the sight earlier this week.
Destroyed house martin nest
nesting material
The bottom of the nest completely ripped out, the soft nesting material still in a cup shape but 6 metres away in the middle of the lawn and under the destroyed nest one solitary dead nestling, there had been three little heads so we're assuming that two went for owlet supper.  The remaining nest is high up in the apex and so far remains active, we think because the roof shape here and lack of guttering are preventing the owls from gaining access.
dead nestling



The grass in the fields is so high that the owls are struggling, their usual hunting areas are still covered and this is pushing them into new (for us anyway) and unusual hunting patterns, whether now that they've discovered this easy prey they will repeat the patterns next year remains to be seen.  But just in case we're going to put up some more of the artificial nests at the front giving the martins the option of natural or concrete.  Then all the fledglings will have to contend with is the sparrowhawk who puts on an amazing upside down acrobatic display taking the martins in mid air.

Back in the office it's been a quiet week and this week's edition went to press on time all thirteen pages of it with 38 new paid posts of which 24 came direct to CJS.  There are five pages of news and information plus 18 adverts for voluntary posts. Digital editions will live and emailed later this afternoon.