CALL THAT AN OWL? THAT’S AN OWL!!

On my recent trip the Belarus, it turned out that one of our guides, Denis Kitel was an Owl Man; putting up platforms for nesting Great Grey and Long-eared Owls and monitoring nest holes of Tengmalm’s Owls. He was able to show us Great Greys and Long-ears on the nest but Tengmalm’s were absent. One day, knowing that I did a bit of owl work myself, Denis asked me if I’d like to ring an Eagle Owl chick. Would I?? Bring it on!!

We drove into a town to a housing estate, a funny place for an Eagle Owl nest I thought but we were just picking up a man who was the guardian of the forest and knew where the Eagle Owls were nesting. We drove to the edge of the forest and walked along a path into the woods; eventually coming to a large patch of feathers and bones on the ground beneath a large pine tree. A look through the feathers revealed the wings of a Long-eared Owl and Jay feathers. There were no chicks in the nest and after a brief search around the nearby trees we found two hiding behind trees, playing dead but peering at us with just the one eye!! After admiring them both, Denis pulled out a ring and a pair of ringing pliers; while the rings I put on the Barn Owls are about half an inch across, this was about the size of a 2 inch jubilee clip.

Denis bent down and pulled out a leg, the claws on the feet were about an inch long but the chick didn’t attempt to grab him but just clapped its beak together a few times, nothing more. I watched carefully as the ring had 2 tags on it that had to be folded together with a nipple located in a hole. We approached the other chick and I pulled out a leg; again a bit of beak clacking but nothing more, I slipped to ring onto the leg above the massive foot and folded the tags together and eventually locked them into place, the ring was quite hard and I had to use both hands on the pliers to squeeze the tags together. It was done to Denis’s satisfaction and photographs were taken before we moved away.

The mother had been seen briefly in the forest and no doubt she was keeping an eye on us as we worked on her chicks and we were pleased to get out of there intact.

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