I CAME ACROSS SAMPLES of Allan's recordings on Rob Danielson's Rode NT1-A microphone pages and was curious to see that one was of Tawny Owls. I contacted Allan and he was kind enough to lend me most of his collection of tawny recordings to put up here. What is remarkable about this small collection is that it contains such a variety of the calls that they make. Allan swears that he simply struck lucky. In fact he was very sensible. In the first two clips given here he went to one of the best places to record owls -- a nesting site. In the third clip though he does seem to have got lucky, and we hear the rarely recorded warble and wail calls made by Tawny Owls. The fourth clip is a recording of a recently fledged owlet waiting to be fed by its parents.
The field notes are by Allan, interpretations are by me. Microphones used are a pair of the highly regarded Rode NT1-A cardioids. For the mic arrangement see illustrations on Rob Danielson's page on Allan's ORTF setup. More on the mics on my NT1-A page. Copyright for these samples belongs to Allan; please respect it.
1. Tawny pair at nest, with male arriving to feed chicks
Recorded 3 April 2006, 8 pm, at Coverack headland on the south of the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. (2 min 5 s, 1.9 Mb)
The female has probably been sitting with the nestlings most of the day and the male arrives with a catch. As it's only 8 pm it's likely to be the first feed of the evening. When her mate turns up the female may stay on the nest, hop off to a nearby perch or fly around. Here she seems to be moving around. In this recording the male feeds a chick himself, though more often he presents the catch to the female to pass on to the chicks.
The recording opens with pinking Blackbirds and I think Wrens (the sharp zits). This often happens when there are owls around during daytime. Eight and a half seconds into the recording the male and female make a quiet, conversational noise at the same time. 19 s: male, then female, making the same quiet call: oo-wa, oo-wee. 33.5 s: that's the male, after which he breaks into hoarse hoots (he's still got the catch in his beak!), accompanied by sub-kewicks from her. She calls alone until 1:31, when he hoots again and feeds a chick at 1:40. Here you can hear a quavering noise from him merging into yikkering from a chick (chick heard until 1:48).
Feed extract: A 16 second extract with the feed part amplified a little -- first dad, then the chick. Starts 1 min 36 s into main sample above. 300 kb.
2. Same pair next morning
Second recording from Coverack, 4 April 2006 at 5 am. Same recording position, but facing a nearby stream. (1 min 49 s, 1.7 Mb)
More goings on typical of a male's visit to the nest, but here there's no feed and the female flies around shrieking like a banshee. She's happy to see him. He stays somewhere near the nest. Her excited kewicking winds him up, and near the end he dithers on the verge of a warble. Females seem to like winding their mates up like this, and the whimpering from the male can be very funny. Sounds as if he moves off at one point, but he doesn't go far as the noises he then makes are quiet ones. (Original recording has been amplified to bring out the calls; there is a rather noisy stream nearby which makes it a little difficult to hear the owls in the last half as they move away.)
3. Various owls calling, including warble and wail calls
Recorded in Lower Wood, Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, ~8.15 pm (dusk), 28 April 2006. (1 min 52 s, 1.8 Mb)
Allan seems to have arrived near a spot where a male may have been calling to his mate, though the female is distant and her first faint kewick is only heard at exactly 1 min. The male then starts a series of warbling calls which go on until the end. Near the end of the clip (after 1:39) another male can be heard "wailing". My ears nearly dropped off when I heard this clip as neither is a frequently heard call. The warble is quiet and doesn't carry far, and I haven't yet heard it from a wild bird. Names given to it are "xylophone trill" and "ocarina". The owl sounds as if he's gargling. A French CD I have suggests it's a call indicating alarm or anxiety. I don't know, but the owl on that CD was near a forest fire. For more on warbles and wails see the Tawny Owl calls pages.
4. Fledgling making food calls
Recorded at 10.15 pm, 7 June 2005 on the banks of the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. Calls from deep within a dense thicket at dusk. Tracked EQd to remove the M5 traffic. (1 min 32 s, 1.4 Mb)
One of my favourite sounds, and this is a good rendition of it even after equalisation. It's a tawny fledgling, maybe 3-4 weeks off the nest. The sad thing about it is that there is only one -- another chick (or more) may have perished. One can say this as there are almost always two or more chicks, and in early June they'd certainly be together waiting to be fed by the parents. No parents heard here though -- they may become much less vocal after the chicks have fledged. By contrast the fledglings call non-stop like this all night.
There's another fine owl recording by Allan on Rob Danielson's field recordings page. This has two male tawnies, one close by, and one female. Recorded at dusk in April 2006, it's a little unusual as the male calling appears to be territorial, something one would expect to hear more of in the autumn and winter.
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