Wharncliffe & Greno Woods is a beautiful place near Sheffield and every time we go we seem to discover different paths for walking and find more mountain biking trails too. We were walking in the woods a little off the normal path when Jon suddenly heard an unusual sound. It was a ‘clicking’ or ‘sharp snapping’ noise which drew his attention downwards toward the base of a large tree, he then saw something sat on the ground. At first we couldn’t quite identify what it was, but it slowly dawned on us that it was in fact a baby owl.
After we’d got over our initial excitement, the “Awwww’s” and the “Oh Wow he’s gorgeous!” bit, we then didn’t know what to do. We asked the questions…Do we leave him? Will he survive being on the ground? Had he fallen out of a nest? We then felt responsible for the little fella as we couldn’t just leave him, so I turned to Google, (luckily I had good reception in what seemed to be the middle of no-where) and typed in, “Found a baby Owl” Straight away a page from the Barn Owl Trust came up and helped us out. What a great website!
Firstly, we had to identify which type of Owlet it was, (yes our first lesson learnt was what a baby owl was called…) because the course of action was dependant on which owlet it was, a Barn owl or a Tawny owl. There were photographs and descriptions on the site to help us out with this problem.
We decided our new friend was a little Tawny owlet and it was very common for them to leave their nests early, way before they can actually fly. The instructions from the Barn Owl trust went on to say;
“Tawny owlets go through a phase called ‘branching’, when they walk, climb, jump and flutter around in the trees at night. The adults locate them by their contact calls and will feed them anywhere. It is not at all uncommon for owlets to spend time on the ground during this phase and they are surprisingly good at climbing back up again. It is very likely that the owlet you have is perfectly okay and if it is left where it is, or returned to the same spot, it will be fed by the adults and will be able to climb to safety”.
But we were worried about leaving him. He seemed so vulnerable, so helpless and the thought of walking away was horrible. The advice from the Barn Owl Trust gave further information…
“Owlets on the ground sometimes fall victim to natural predation and are also vulnerable to dogs. As a result, you should consider picking the owlet up and placing it somewhere off the ground, on a shrub, or low branch for instance”.
Secondly, we had found our fluffy little friend on the ground at the base of a big tree so we decided the above advice was what we’d do. Jon didn’t fancy putting him onto his hand because although he was young and small, he had menacing looking claws. We found a stick and guided his sharp talons onto it. Luckily he seemed happy with this and confidently perched whilst being slowly moved from the ground to a higher position on a nearby tree branch, still low but off ground.
We then moved back and began to walk away. It was difficult to take our eyes off the little fella, but we were conscious that his parents were probably watching and actually had it all under control. We hated leaving him, but also felt we’d done the right thing, although after reading a little further down the website page about signs of whether the Owlet looked ok or in distress, we decided that actually the little fella had been perfectly healthy and we’d probably been worrying for no reason, after all, nature is truly amazing. Sometimes cruel, but still amazing.
Thirdly – Walk away and leave him/her alone.
Our little Tawny owlet encounter was fantastic and we were so happy we’d come across him or her 🙂