A Difficult Tawny Decision….

If you have been watching the story of my Tawny Owl on my website, you will know that the story has not turned out as I had hoped. Initially, the female broke an egg she laid. Luckily, she laid another and diligently sat on this egg. The male fed her regularly at night and I awaited hatch day. This day came and went… in fact another 2 weeks have passed and this female has now sat in this box for over 5 weeks. She will be weak now I was hoping she would give up on her egg, leave the box and regain her strength, ready to breed again next year.

Up until last week, the Jackdaws, who nested in the box last year, had left her alone. Last week, probably sensing that she was getting weaker, they started to come to the box. She offered little resistance, almost ignoring their intrusion unless they pushed the limits. I hoped that she would decide that it was time to go, but she has not. She has remained and, in the last few days particularly, has coped with a quite incredible intrusion by the jackdaws. This slideshow shows the build up in the last few days. You can fast forward through the clips, using the arrows…

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The Jackdaws’ confidence has grown and they have begun to bring more and more nesting materials into the box, whilst the Tawny sits there. Yesterday, in particular, they bought a huge amount of material into the box, almost completely covering her and she offered little resistance. She seemed resigned to the fact they were dominant, yet not able to break that strong instinct to incubate.

I was getting increasingly worried. The jackdaws were now coming into the box onto the platform of materials they had brought in. They were getting bolder and showing aggression towards this unwanted tenant.

Dave Culley, a friend and tawny expert, told me of a box he found with a tawny and 2 jackdaws inside. All three were dead; the tawny had its talons in both jackdaws and the jackdaws had pecked out her eyes. I have seen the aggressive side of jackdaws and have filmed fierce battles inside my nest boxes. Competition for such nesting spaces is fierce. I did not want my story to end like this.

It was a difficult decision to make but, with no chance of the egg hatching and my tawny’s life in danger, I decided to intervene. She was almost completely covered by the twigs, weakened by some 5 weeks in the box and two jackdaws, becoming increasingly bold. She would have had little chance of survival when they chose to attack her… and I felt that was imminent.

This morning, with a friend, Rob’s moral support at the bottom of the ladder, I climbed up and carefully unscrewed the lid of the box and removed it. As predicted, she did not move. Opening the side hatch, I removed some of the twigs and, at that, she left the box, flying up my lane and landing in a tree some distance away. This clip starts with the lid of the box removed. As I pull out the twigs, you will see her leave the box…

I removed all the nesting materials and her single egg. I have blocked the box entrance for a few days and hope she can now be released from her futile incubation and to rebuild her strength , ready to breed again next year.

I am confident that, had I not intervened, there was a very strong chance she would have been killed or seriously injured. I want her to return next year and raise her family… I really hope she does.