Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Autumn arrives and Barn Owl chicks take a dive!

Well, the storms blew through and our Barn Owl family survived, only for the wind and rain to return today with a vengeance. Ferries were cancelled this morning and from indoors the wild weather was quite exciting with trees bent right over and a mixture of torrential rain and hailstorms. Outside it was quite a different matter and we hope that all our young sea eagles are coping with the blustery weather. Autumn has certainly arrived with a vengeance.

We ringed our family of three Barn Owl chicks and I was a wee bit surprised at how small they were for their ages. The smallest has caught up quite well but isn't ready to go for a couple of weeks yet. Apart from ringing the chicks I took measurements and weights from which it was possible to age them to the day, and which told me that the oldest bird was not ready to go yet. Yet four days later the two larger chicks left the box and were seen sheltering in the bracken below. This is definitely a cause for concern as both birds are still quite downy, and their primary feathers are not fully unfurled which will hamper their flight. The younger chick is still in the box and is being fed well by the parent birds, so I hope they are feeding the older two as well. As I suggested putting up the box I almost feel responsible for our young family, so once again I will go up to the hide this evening to watch for the adult birds bringing food to them.

Skye and Frisa are still giving us some good views; they are not keen on torrential rain but they love the wind which enables them to fly long distances without having to flap - great for saving on energy. Food should be plentiful as the deer cull started last month, weeding out the weak or very old stags, and the grallochs (or innards) are left out on the hill by the stalkers for the birds of prey to feed on. Without the cull the deer would continue to multiply until there was insufficient food for all of them, and then the weaker ones would starve.

The stags are already roaring and the rut is due to start any time now, so being outside in the evening can sound quite eerie. I have a stag that frequently visits the land behind my gardens, but just recently he has started to roar and often catches me unaware when I go out to look at the stars on clear nights.

Will keep you updated on the owl family. I've only two weeks left until the end of my third season at the hide, but it will be impossible to keep away during the winter months.

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