A common resident. This is the common Owl of the county, and is abundant in all woods and plantations.
We had numbers at Stone Hall, where it was no infrequent sight to see one or two roosting during the day on the roof of the house among the chimney pots. They nested in old Crows’ nests; quarrelled with the Jackdaws for possession of unoccupied Pigeons’ boxes, sometimes, by eating the young Jackdaws, giving a very strong hint of their desire to occupy them, and we have also known them to nest in chimneys.
In the spring they would hoot throughout the day as well as at night, and on warm mornings in the summer we have seen them sitting out on bare branches sunning themselves. So numerous were they around us that a gentleman visiting at St. Lawrence Rectory, just beneath us, who went out into the Rectory garden one fine night and imitated their hoots, declared that he soon counted twenty-six or twenty-seven Owls replying to him from either side of the valley.
Very often at night an Owl would perch on the ledge of our bedroom window and hoot to us, but such visits as these would sometimes disturb and alarm our guests. Although we had so many Tawny Owls in our plantation, we never missed any of our young Pheasants, and are certain that the Owls never molested them, confining themselves almost exclusively to the rats and mice.
One summer a regrettable incident occurred. Passing one morning through one of the covers we detected an old Crows’ nest in an oak tree we had not before noticed, and in order to ascertain if it was occupied or not, we fired a shot at it, when immediately great was the commotion in the nest, and a Brown Owl fluttered to our feet with one of her wings slightly injured. We got our man to climb the tree, when he found that we had slain the five Owlets that were in the nest by our unlucky shot. After interring these victims at the foot of the tree, we carried the Owl carefully home, and placing her in an empty stable at once set some traps and supplied her with plenty of mice. As soon as night arrived she was speedily discovered by her disconsolate spouse, and so great was the hooting kept up by the two birds that no one who slept on that side of the house could get any rest. In the morning it was found that the injured Owl had contrived to escape by dragging herself through a wonderfully small hole at the bottom of the stable door, and we saw no more of her for a day or two, until we discovered that she had found a retreat in a corner of the shrubbery, where she was fed regularly all through the summer by the male bird, who not only showed his devotion in this way to his injured partner, but also took to himself a second wife, and successfully brought off a family of Owlets in an old Crows’ nest in a Scotch fir, not far removed from the sanctuary of wife No. 1.