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Our family of LITTLE OWLS: A true story from your Editor

Sunday 18 November 2012

My garden is now comprised of what was, originally, part of Mr Wettern’s well-stocked orchard. All the old established fruit trees on his and our land suffered as a result of the hurricane on the 15th October 1987. We love the shape of the completely overturned fruit trees. Despite their attractive sculptural qualities they still bear excellent crops. However there is another benefit of these trees as we see, on a daily basis, the kind of birds that love woodland trees with plenty of dead wood at their disposal.

Green woodpeckers and great spotted woodpeckers are a regular daily visitor but, this year, we have had a special treat as, about six months ago, we noticed two adult little owls sitting on a nearby tree embarking upon a regular circular ritual every few minutes to fly into our garden to catch food. They would then fly to another tree with a hole in the trunk farther back in the orchard before returning to the original tree to keep watch for more food and then do the circular route again and again.This went on for days. Binoculars didn’t reveal exactly what that tree was concealing until a couple of weeks later.

The owls’ presence was so dominant in our garden that if we didn’t see them when we looked out, we felt quite bereft. The adult little owls obviously felt very much at home around us. We have a balcony overlooking the garden leading from our main bedroom. During the week we both arise at 6am and on several mornings the little owl was sitting on our balcony just 4ft away from our window. It didn’t even fly away when we moved from the bed to the bathroom.
Most days one or other or both of them would sit on the many chestnut fencing posts, some as near as 5 metres away from the kitchen. Often they would be on the lawn nearby or on the lush orchard floor.

Then, one day, on a weekend when we had lots of time at our disposal to just look out of the lounge windows, we saw one, then two, then three and finally four fluffy little owls sitting in the same Granny Smith tree just 15 metres from our back window –three were actually sitting side by side on the same branch. These baby owls would sit all day in this tree unless they were disturbed by something nearby, although they did allow me to venture outside on to the patio or to take things to the compost heap without flying away. Despite any disturbance they still came back to the same branch and tree within a matter of minutes. This wonderful state of affairs from start to finish has lasted for about 6 months but, by the end of October, the adults and their young have gone and we now look forward and hope that there will be a repeat performance of this wonderful pattern of events at the same time next year.

- Katie King-Pettitt