Saturday, 5 March 2016

Langholm's lang-luggit hoolets get lucky!

Lang-luggit hoolets, aka the gorgeous long-eared owls, are fantastic birds living up in the wilder parts of Scotland. Along the forest edge of upland plantations is a good place to listen for them (see here for calls). As part of our licensed monitoring we ring and measure the chicks when we can, which for these birds means before they leave the nest at around only 24 days of age! By the time I found this family one fine warm May evening last year, these long-eared owls had fledged and left their tiny, scrappy nest, the scattered youngesters shouting out their distinctive squeak like a rusty gate. As these owls don't build their own nests, their always on the look out for an old crow or pigeon nest but these often get blown down in the winter. We are keen to encourage them to stay and working with the brilliant Making the Most of the Moorlands our plan is to offer them a fine alternative to keep them cosy. So with the excellent assistance of Rick from Making the Most of the Moorland we rigged a trio of super-chic baskets near last years old nest, which had long since been blown down, and they looked ace to us, so we'll just have see what them hoolets think of them! Here is one of the baskets in situ:

Each nest basket gets a lining of fine sticks and here is the champion nest liner at work, as seen from 12m up.

Getting up these Sitkas require a certain amount of elbow grease and luckily it is great fun too! Using a flipline and climbing irons is the only way for these trees and I was trying out a new prusik for me, the brilliant Blake's hitch, on my climbing line.

Ok, here is another basket in place and ready for go...can you find it?

We put three baskets in three different parts of the wood to give the owls the final say on the what the ideal location is, assuming of course it does choose one of them at all! We will just have to wait and see. As we walked back across the moor the sun came out and that was a fine reward for a good morning's graft.