WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SCENES OF PREDATION
Our Tawny Box at Yew View was set up 2 years ago and the resident tawny pair have shown a lot of interest early in the year, at breeding season, but have then opted to use their original nesting site. We think it is in a mature, ivy-clad tree not far away. Each time, we have watched, with bated breath and fingers crossed, hoping they would choose to breed there so we could observe and film them raising their family. Sadly this year, despite the signs being promising, the tawnies did not stay. Once they were no longer visiting the box, we had a few other visitors. For a while, I thought the stock doves were going to take up residence, but then a jackdaw pair stared building and soon the female was sitting on 5 gorgeous blue eggs. She has incubated them diligently for the last month, with the male regularly bringing food to her. We were looking forward to following this new family, as the image and audio in the box means we can record some really good footage.
These hopes were dashed this week and the first clue that this was going to happen was on the 13th May, when a tawny appeared at the box, scaring off the incubating female and taking a look at the yet unhatched eggs…
I had observed this visit on my icatcher console app on my phone, which allows me to access the cameras on site. I knew this did not bode well. The tawny had discovered the nest and I felt it would only be a matter of time before it returned.
The Jackdaw chicks hatched on the 15th May and I was able to record the first views of these tiny chicks being fed, with incredible tenderness, by the adult birds…
I love the way the adults call, then lift the tiny heads up, encouraging them to open their mouths for their first meals. It was fantastic watching these early moments, but in my heart, I just knew that their time was limited and I was not wrong. On the night of the 16th, the tawny returned. This tawny removed the chicks, one at a time until it had cleared the nest. Somewhere nearby are hungry owlets and newly hatched jackdaws would be an excellent meal. Despite this being a little disturbing to watch and, after all the time invested in nesting, laying and incubating for the Jackdaws, this is what nature is all about. Predators and prey; the daily battles between species to survive. Would we have been concerned about the prey being brought in if we were watching three tiny owlets struggling for survival?
I am posting a couple of the clips here. The others can be seen on the Yew View YouTube Channel.
Once all the chicks were gone, the tawny returned and spent some time making sure! A tawny owl’s close up vision is not good and, due to the positioning of their eyes, they cannot see what is directly close in front of them. You will see her moving her beak around, feeling for any remaining chicks, before finally departing the empty nest….
It was several hours before the female jackdaw returned to the nest. She spent several minutes, searching around the nest before settling down. She left in the early hours, returning with her mate on a number of occasions before finally abandoning the nest.
When following families like this, it is impossible not to get somewhat ‘attached’ to the individuals we follow. Of course, I was sad to see this new young family lose their lives so soon. Hopefully the jackdaws will breed again. On the other hand, I am pleased to think there are a new generation of tawny owls somewhere near. Nature can be brutal and, whereas some people asked if I was going to publish the videos and suggested that it may be too sad to show, I feel that I cannot filter, picking and choosing only the most pleasant sides of it for my blog. Nature is about survival; survival of the fittest and the cleverest and is what helps species evolve. We need to understand the whole picture and that includes life and death. The jackdaw pair have survived and they will breed again, hopefully in a more secluded spot away from tawny owls!!