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Why it’s no longer ‘tawny owl heaven’

PUBLISHED: 19:18 01 March 2018

Tawny owl: A familiar sound in the Norfolk night... but not as familiar as it once was.

Tawny owl: A familiar sound in the Norfolk night... but not as familiar as it once was.

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The tawny owls are still clinging on in Rex Hancy’s area. But only just...

“Did you hear the owls last night?” asked Eddie. I had to admit I had not but was disappointed not to have done so. He went on to tell me owls had been calling over our gardens for a few nights previously. That was during early November and as no more were heard we assumed they had moved on to a better hunting ground.

After trees were trimmed near my furthest boundary I was clearing odd twigs and found four regurgitated pellets lying on top of a covered bin. An owl or owls had sat in the dense evergreen above and brought up collections of indigestible material as owls and some other predatory birds do. My find followed a period of heavy rain so the pellets were thoroughly saturated. I took them to the shed to dry out before examining their contents. I was hoping to learn something about the current prey items found nearby. Other events took over and I had no opportunity to work on the pellets until recently.

The results were disappointing. The material was completely dried out and compacted so teasing it apart was difficult. I did find a number of shining wing cases of beetles and several limb bones of small rodents which I thought were less than mature. Having been consumed by tawny owls there were none of the complete skulls or lower jaws I would expect to see in the pellets of barn owls. They are the very items which tell us so much about the small mammal population of the local hunting area.

Nonetheless I was pleased to know there is a tiny population of tawny owls still in the district. When we first came here the owls were such a feature. As soon as twilight fell the sound of calling tawny owls was almost the expected background noise. They lived in an owl heaven. A wood plus a considerable acreage of semi- cultivated land provided a huge food resource. In my mind I link the hoots of owls at night with the daytime songs of larks in their vocal contest for territories each spring. Of course, they all lost the ultimate battle. Tarmac, brick and concrete prevailed here as they have done in so many places.


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