Tawny Dramas in My Patch

My cameras at home have been rather neglected of late… a combination of dire weather and working  has meant that two of my cameras have been down for 2 weeks… two pretty important cameras, as they are in two tawny boxes. One box is just across the lane from my house, facing up an ancient bridle path. The second is in a very old pear tree at the opposite end of my garden. One camera had been attacked by the darn squirrels and one had failed. Due to the rather precarious positioning of these cameras, I need someone at the bottom of the ladder and with the high winds and rain recently, I have just not had the chance to get up there. There had been little activity, other than squirrels and Jackdaws in these boxes, although I had captured a Tawny looking in my Barn Owl box… before the squirrels filled it with twigs.. and after they had! It was obvious they were on the look out for somewhere to nest.

This is the time  of year that tawnies settle into a box, so I knew I had to get the cameras sorted before it was too late and I missed the whole season.

The Pear Tree nest box over looks the lane and is just above my hens.

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On the image below, you can see the lane in the middle and my garden on the right.

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This is the view, up the lane, from the box…

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Yesterday, I decided to tackle the pear tree box first, as I could see the lights were not working inside and there had been a lot of squirrel activity up there. Positioning the ladder up to the box, I climbed up and tapped on the box. It is always recommended as, hopefully, if there is anything inside, it will come out. There was not a sound. I was at the back of the box and I climbed up until I was above the roof. Using an electric screwdriver I removed the screws on the roof. I gently slid the roof to one side. As I did, I got the shock of my life! There was a tawny on the box! I quickly slid the roof back on and gently screwed it back in place. I was gutted. How long had it been in there? Was it just roosting or had it started nesting and now I had disturbed it? Without a working camera in there, I had no idea. I did know, that 2 weeks ago, there had been no Tawny activity. Hopefully this meant she had not yet started nesting and was just using this as a roost. I did not know anyone who had tawnies that had laid yet. I quickly positioned a Bushnell on a branch and crept away. The Bushnell would show me what activity there was that night and whether she had left in the morning. I could do nothing more.

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Later in the afternoon, I moved to the other Tawny Box I have. This is on a large tree opposite my house, facing up an ancient bridle path. For the last two years, the Jackdaws have nested in this box. I have put a ring around the box so you can see how close it is to the house, but in a beautiful position, with a great outlook!

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The camera had been playing up, so I hoped it was just a matter of swapping the camera to a new one. It was freezing up there and I carefully removed the roof, peeping in, just in case…. nothing this time. I had a couple of spare cameras, but one proved to be rather unreliable and I finally managed to get a new one in, quickly checking the image on my phone, via the icatcher app, I could see it looked ok. I would finish off, complete the focus and add some more wood chippings in the morning. Light was fading and I was freezing cold!

We returned indoors, but all I could think about was the Tawny in the pear tree box. Had I disturbed her? I could not believe she had sat solid after all the noise I had made at the box. Hopefully the Bushnell would give me some answers in the morning.

I was up early, keen to get the Bushnell. I went up to my office to check the footage from my other cameras. I could not believe my eyes! There, in the Bridle Lane box, was a Tawny! Sitting in the unfinished box, with the camera not quite in focus and a bit low, she seemed quite comfortable. Part of me was excited that I had not scared it off completely and part of me was frustrated that I had not managed to finish the job yesterday! I hoped that this indicated that she was still at roosting stage and had been roosting in the Pear Tree box. Yesterday’s disturbance had meant that she had decided to roost elsewhere. I hoped that her appearance, in this box, meant I could safely get back to the Pear Tree box and get the camera and lights repaired in there!

I collected the Bushnell and checked the card. I could see that a tawny was on the outside of the box early in the evening. I think it is the male and you can just hear him warbling. The female can be heard in the distance, also calling..

The Bushnell footage did not show the tawny returning to the box, so I could fairly safely assume that the tawny I was now seeing in the bridle path box, was the same individual from yesterday… I hoped so… she had not gone far!

I climbed back up to the box and carefully removed the lid….. nothing inside! Phew! Removing the lid, I could see the devastation the squirrels had caused! The had bitten through all my lights, a lot of the box and the camera was full of cobwebs. It took almost 3 hours to replace and repair everything before I could return the lid, camera and new lights to the box. The lights (in all my boxes) work on a sensor system. In the day, some low-level LEDs illuminate the inside of the box, giving a better image. At night, these with off and IR is added in some set-ups.

With the set up complete and everything working, I put the lid back on , set the Bushnell back in place and had to just hope for the best.

Finally, I tackled the Barn Owl Box. This box is diagonally opposite the Tawny box and was put up a couple of years ago when I spotted a Barn Owl on my kestrel box I had at the time.

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For 2 weeks,in 2014,  I had a beautiful pair in there… but one night, they did not return and I have never seen them since. This footage was one of the many clips I captured of these special visitors…

I cleared out all the twigs the squirrels had brought in and put some more chippings in. The tawnies like a deep bed to settle in to. I also screwed some old rotten planks (like I had at Yew View) to the edges. This makes the box a little more snug and offers the tawny the chance to nibble bits off, as she might in a natural nesting hole.

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The view from this box is quite stunning!

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I did not do this in the pear tree box, as I did not want to change the space at all or disturb it any more than I had to.

I screwed the lid on… all done! All I needed now was for the individual roosting in the unfinished box to go back to her original one, so I could finish that one too… then I would be sorted! The camera was good enough for me to watch her (I am saying ‘her’ but not sure if this is the female).

I watched the box as the light faded. Soon she was calling and looking out of the box. I hoped her mate was nearby. Watching my cameras, suddenly another tawny appeared in the Pear Tree box!

 

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For about 10 seconds, I had tawnies in both boxes! I think they were trying to locate each other after their roost during the day. Then, they were both off… hopefully to reunite! At least all three boxes that are suitable for them, now have cameras functioning. I can get up and finish off the bridal path box later in the week, if they don’t return to roost in there. Thank goodness for my iCatcher software, as this will monitor the boxes all night for me… I will be up early to see if they reappear  during the night and whether they roost in one tomorrow. I’m exhausted after all that excitement!