Tawny Owl, Strix aluco
Little Owl, Athene noctua
They are in our area, in fields and woods south of the Benenden Chest Hospital. I''ve seen others late in the evening, perched on a telegraph pole or on cable over a road. Small, chunky outlines against a darkening sky, about feral pigeon-sized, but unmistakeable in the roundness of their silhouette. There seem to be quite a few about.
The pair recorded here however are from near my own family's ex-home, near Cranbrook. I was out in the garden with Sophie at about 9 pm when there was suddenly a bird call I'd never heard before. Kaa-aa, kaa-aa, with a rising lilt on the last syllable. Quite a plaintive and haunting sound. I knew somehow it must be an owl and checked with a disk of Geoff Sample's back at the house. Yes, it was a Little Owl, and I decided try to track it down with the Telinga mic and dish. All mp3s are at 192 kb/s, no filtering applied apart from bass rolloff on mic.
17 June 2005
I heard them again the first night I went out with the recording gear, but by the time they first called I'd attracted an entire herd of cows. They followed me around a field and now, unafraid, all 40 or 50 of them had me pinned against our garden perimeter fence near where the first owl had been. Here's the result. I'm not familiar with the complete repertoire of this conversational bird, but I think that the peacock-like calls near the end are also the Little Owl.
I didn't manage to track them down that night apart from establishing that they seemed to operate in the grounds of a large estate beyond the field.
I went into the grounds of the estate and fooled myself into thinking that I'd got the dish trained on a hissing sound, which I took to be owlets in a nest. I only heard the adults at the end. If they'd called earlier it would have given the game away, and it wasn't until the next night that I finally located the nest tree some 50 yards away.
Now at last I found the nest site and began to get decent recordings -- apart from the darned traffic! The next track was recorded after 10.30 pm on a Sunday. But it's still nice, with the adult's lilting call, then the hissing of the babies, and then an adult's alarm calls at my presence. I was sitting under a tree about 30-40 ft from the nest. This is a slightly edited track, but all these calls were made within about 3 minutes of each other. Listen to the echoes of the parent's sharp calls ricocheting off nearby trees towards the end.
I went out again on the 21st and 28th. This last time I went out shortly before dawn (3.30 am) to try to escape the traffic noise. By now the owls seemed to have grown used to my presence, so I was surprised when towards 4 am one of the parents on a branch over my head struck up with a series of alarm calls. Not believing it could be because of me I looked around and saw a fox some way off crossing the vast expanse of a lawn. This recording is nice because the owl flies around (I didn't move the dish) and there are traces of a dawn chorus. And no traffic!
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