Owl in a day's work at Gunby

Tawny owl chick held by a volunteer at Gunby

Gunby's specialist volunteers regularly check the owl boxes on the estate and enjoyed meeting some new arrivals recently.

This tawny owl happily calls Gunby her home
Tawny owl at Gunby owl
This tawny owl happily calls Gunby her home

In May the volunteer team checked an owl box in the Gunby grounds and found an unringed female tawny owl incubating three eggs.

A tawny owl is being ringed at Gunby by specialist volunteers
Tawny owl being ringed at Gunby by specialist volunteers
A tawny owl is being ringed at Gunby by specialist volunteers

The young owl was ringed and weighed (she was a healthy 565 grams). Her ring number and weight were noted down for future reference.

This is a typical ring used for ringing adult tawny owls
A volunteer holds a ring used for ringing owls
This is a typical ring used for ringing adult tawny owls

Some of the owls that the volunteers monitor already have rings, as they were ringed when they were chicks, so we know how old they are. But this tawny female had no ring, so the team had to make a assessment of her age using her plumage and amount of moult.

A volunteer measures the wings
A volunteer measure the wings of a tawny owl at Gunby
A volunteer measures the wings

Owls shed a third of their wing feathers every year, so by inspecting the different hues of brown in her wing, the team can make an educated guess. They reckon that the Gunby owl is at least three years old.

Volunteers check the wing of a tawny owl to see how old it is
Volunteers check the wing of a tawny owl to see how old it is
Volunteers check the wing of a tawny owl to see how old it is

A nice surprise

When the team returned to the owl box in early June, they were very pleased to greet two fluffy sizeable owl chicks and a very healthy looking mum.

A proud owl mum with her two healthy chicks
Female tawny owl with her two chicks held by volunteers at Gunby
A proud owl mum with her two healthy chicks

Unfortunately one of the eggs didn't hatch as, for reasons unknown, it wasn't viable. Owl eggs are white and don't need to be camouflaged as the nest is normally very well hidden from the view of predators.

Unfortunately this tawny owl egg wasn't viable
Volunteer holding a tawny owl egg
Unfortunately this tawny owl egg wasn't viable

The two chicks were weighed, ringed and checked for any injuries. Both chicks passed their assessment with flying colours and were put back in the owl box again.

The chicks were ringed so we can monitor their progress
Gunby owl chick held by a specialist volunteer
The chicks were ringed so we can monitor their progress

The specialist volunteers will check the owl box again in a year's time to hopefully find another mum or mum-to-be in residence.

If they can't see you, can you see them? This tawny owl is well hidden
Look carefully and you might spot a tawny owl in the parkland at Charlecote Park
If they can't see you, can you see them? This tawny owl is well hidden

The male owl will have been in the area of the owl box too, but the female only allows him to bring her and her chicks food. He sleeps elsewhere as his hunting instincts may take over to such an extent that he'll harm the chicks.

Other feathered residents

The Gunby Estate is not just home to tawny owls, but we also have several barn owls nesting in the grounds.

Young barn owls being checked on the Gunby Estate
Young barn owls being checked on the Gunby Estate
Young barn owls being checked on the Gunby Estate

Last year the team ringed and checked this fluffy pair. Aren't they gorgeous floofballs?

A pair of barn owl chicks that were ringed, so we can identify them in the future
Pair of barn owl chicks
A pair of barn owl chicks that were ringed, so we can identify them in the future

The team also had their hands full with a kestrel family that had taken up residence in one of the boxes. We hope they all live well and prosper!

A specialist volunteer holding an armful of fluffy kestrel chicks
Volunteer holding an armful of kestrel chicks
A specialist volunteer holding an armful of fluffy kestrel chicks

Do keep an eye out for Gunby's owls and other birds of prey when you visit. Have a hoot  looking for them and if you're lucky enough to take a nice photo, do share it with us by email to Astrid.Gatenby@nationaltrust.org.uk or via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

That's owl for now....