Its now 23 days since releasing the Little Owls (Sunday 14th September 08) I was joined on this monitoring session by Hawk and Owl Trust member and volunteer Paula Rich. Things were different upon arrival there was no sign of any Little Owl's at all, this in itself was very unusual as normally there would be the odd sighting of them in the surrounding trees. The food was placed on the hack board at 1927hrs. At 1942 three Little Owls appeared almost all at once, although they came from the left so from the evergreen trees they must have been further away due to the height they came in at. What was really inter sting was there was no immediate rush for the food placed out for them, they were most defiantly holding back. In fact it took a further 7 minutes for one to come forward jump onto the board and take a food item. The other 2 actually took off quite uninterested in the food flying towards the right of the release aviary heading out to the fields in a North west direction.
Note: This is not unusual to me as is something I have witnessed before in the many other releases I have done. What I am witnessing here is the beginning of the owls becoming self supporting and abandoning the food placed out for them.
1956 hrs. Number 4 Little Owl appears on top of the release aviary and again after a while takes food off of the hack board and fly's back the way it came, to the left. From then on as darkness falls we don't see any more Little Owls. Interestingly we do hear them, as we have one constantly calling from about 1 mile away. This whilst the others give vocal exchanges from around the site, but for the first time very spread out.
This big change in behaviour, as in becoming far more independent and also not rushing in for the provided food, all means that they are sustaining themselves. Interestingly it coincides with three days of really good weather the first run of days that have been without rain. This means that insect prey will be very much more abundant, so that its the weather change and not anything I have done that has caused this change in behaviour. What I can do now is reduce the food I'm providing safe in the knowledge that they are coping. Further proof will be needed and as I know where three of them are roosting I can collect their pellets during the later part of the week and just double check. I normally give them a good month at hack before reducing the food however, they are telling me that they are ready.
Thanks for all the nice comments about the Little Owl release, also good that other wildlife re-hab schemes are getting benefit from this information as well.
As we are drawing to a close on this story I must thank Animal Affairs and The Hawk and Owl Trust who have supported this release financially.
I will write about them again soon.