POSTSCRIPT: There's guff on most of this page as I was stuck in London for five days. Skip to next main owls entry on page 10 . .

16 April -- Mrs Owl seen

CORINNE, back in Kent after a busy Easter weekend singing in London churches, phones to say she has seen Mrs Owl in her nestbox. Weather's nice, and am I coming down? Unfortunately not as I'm stuck here in London doing a paper. That means I may not be down again until after the eggs have hatched. Life is impossible!


17 April -- Rolvenden Cuckoo

EASTER MONDAY, and a beautiful day here in London. The forecast is good until mid-week, with temperatures in the mid teens and partly cloudy skies. Rain on Thursday, but still mild. Sounds like a good time to come into the world.

2.35 pm Corinne's just phoned to say she's heard the Cuckoo. For anyone familiar with the area, she was in Pump wood, approaching the Mount Hall group of farm buildings and houses. The Cuckoo was calling some way to the southeast, in the direction of Rolvenden. Not that that's much clue to his current whereabouts as cuckoos range widely, flying several hundred yards, perching and calling and then moving on again. Tthere's more than one in the area when the season's under way, but they tend to get lumped into one and referred to in local newspapers as the "Rolvenden Cuckoo". Here's a clip from last year, the beginning of an eight-minute cuckooing session near Beston Farm. With that funny cackle cuckoos do, one flew into the tree right above my head and began to sing, bowing from one side to the other with each call.

Cuckoo at Beston farm 800 kb mp3


News of Mrs Owl: Corinne's been to the nestbox today. She emails:

"Lovely blue sky this evening so I set out for the woods at about 6.30pm. Had a very good view of Mrs Owl ... I climbed onto my favourite tree stump, which is just high enough to give an uninterrupted view (no branches in the way) of the left-hand side of the nestbox. There she was peering at me over the top and I could just make out both of her eyes. ... I heard the strange guinea-fowl noise too."

Eggs may hatch any time from tomorrow and I'm stuck in London. Sophie (Mrs O's daughter from 2005) has been listening to the clips from this diary and imitating the wavering male calls wonderfully. Then she started a series of ultra-loud, ear-splitting kewicks from the bird ledge against the partly open window. It was 1 am. What on earth can the neighbours think? I mean, we have a fox locally -- yes, in London N1 -- but an owl? Surely not!

18 April

JUST A REMINDER to look at the wonderful Great Horned Owl webcam from California. Soon it will all be over as the chicks should fledge before long. This is a screen shot taken today. Only one chick in view -- there should be four. The owl on the ledge is a parent.

Postscript 19 April: Nobody there. It looks as if the chicks have flown. Wish them luck!

Fast forward to February 2008: Mama owl is back for the fifth year. Two eggs this time, laid 2 and 6 Feb. Incubation period is given as anything between 26 and 37 days!

The webcam is one of the best around. Bookmark and keep a watch from early to mid-Feb.

Click on pic for large version (photo is from 2006 season). Use link above to reach webcam.

Sophie has had what I had for supper: chilli con carne, broccoli and yoghurt. Though her helping had an ingredient mine didn't -- cod liver oil. When I put a dollop of yoghurt in her dish she wolfed it down appreciatively and ignored the tasty mince. As some who have kept tawnies will know they are extraordinarily omnivorous and appreciate good, tasty food. Owly used to scream for strawberries! Sophie steals ripe plums and nectarines, flies off with them and actually eats half of the damn things as if she were gutting a chick. The first thing Owly ate when released into the wild was a wad of oak leaves -- I have a video of him chucking them back. And for anyone who thinks that's the result of an unnatural upbringing, I have found a pellet of chewed oak leaves in the woods in the parent owls' territory.

Sophie's normal fare is a thawed mouse or chicken chick (there's a pic on page 3 of this diary). After a heavy shop at Sainsbury's this evening I felt too lazy to thaw one. I wonder what her mother would think.


19 April

CORINNE EMAILS: "Today Mrs Owl was in her usual place, though slightly higher and more visible than usual, watching a large insect (spider? bumble-bee?) moving around in front of the entrance hole."

Well, one can imagine that sitting on eggs (or chicks?) for 20 hours a day has its longueurs...

I have 18th April -- yesterday -- as the estimated day on which the chicks should hatch, give or take 2-3 days. With very young chicks it'll only be possible to confirm a hatching by listening with the dish, by watching the mother's movements over a long period, or by being present when food is brought in at night. I hope to get down to do this soon.


21 April

AIMING TO GET DOWN to Kent tomorrow for another night under the owls. What a long gap. The nestbox chicks must have hatched. We may find out!

12.15 am. Sophie's about to get a chick and me some kip. You would not believe how much gear has to go into the car to get recordings and pics!


22 April -- Back in Kent

NESTBOX CHICKS have hatched, but pine nest mother appears still to be sitting on eggs. There'll be recordings of both pairs here tomorrow, and of the nestbox chicks.

Write-up and recordings on next page (p.10).

Next page (10)

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