Friday, 23 December 2011

Mouse control.

We have passed the winter solstice so the days are slowly beginning to lengthen. The farmer always says that local folklore says, 'as the days lengthen the storm strengthens.' Let's fervently hope that he is wrong.

Bats have gone into hibernation - although where on the farm they over-winter we have no idea. Each Spring they reappear in small numbers, so they must sleep the winter out somewhere near. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, tend to make for the hay barn and the warmth of a covering of sweet-smelling hay. There they stay until the weather warms up - and hopefully they have enough fat layers on them to survive.

But for owls this seems to be THE time of year. When the farmer takes his last walk with Tess at night our Scots pines are full of owl conversations. There are tawny owls in a barn across the field - they breed there every year and have done for years; there are barn owls close by. Our neighbour has a barn owl box in one of his barns and we know they brought off two babies last year, although whether they survived our cruel winter we don't know. What I do know is that if we drive up the lane in the dark, we almost always seen the barn owl's ghostly form gliding across the lane. As for little owls, we always have plenty of those around. They are diurnal to some extent and any time you care to walk down the yard and into the pasture you may well hear the alarm call of a little owl - usually in the same holly bush. And there are several fence posts which are favourite roosts. Last winter, in the cruelest weather, a little owl spent a large part of each day on a gate post watching out for any road kill to provide a meal.

They all make a rather melancholy sound - in fact Ronald Blythe tells us that Byron thought there was only one thing sadder than the call of an owl, and that was the phrase ' I told you so!'
Shakespeare called the owl 'the fatal bellman' in Macbeth. But, of course, their voices are not sad and doom-laden at all - they are the most communicative of birds. And to add to that the Tudor musician used to sing about them, saying: 'Thy note, that forth so freely rolls - with shrill command the mouse controls.

So spare a thought this Christmas for the poor little mouse - victim of owls and farm cats, of necessity searching in the hedge bottom for something tasty to eat rather than becoming something tasty to eat himself. Enjoy the run-up to Christmas day - and don't forget Carols from Kings tomorrow evening - my favourite programme of the whole Christmas on TV.

13 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love owls but am sad that 'my' tawny owl hasn't shown itself so far this year. It's roost was taken over by jackdaws in the spring and there's been no sign of the owl since

Have awonderful Christmas, Pat!

Toffeeapple said...

What a lovely post, so informative with a warmth that gladdens the heart. Thank you Pat.

It's me. said...

large great horned owls are our primary locals--though we have barred and screech owls too--love to hear their soft hoo hoo's as they speak to each other in the predawn hours--awesome hunters----they have been known to snatch up small dogs

Gerry Snape said...

"t'was the night before christmas and all through the house nothing was stirring not even a mouse"......
well let's hope the owls didn't catch them!...our bats are hiding but who knows where...some times I hear a rustle in the attic but I don't look! the potter would be upset if they were there!

izzy said...

I do love owls- I feel terrible for the field mice. Empathy and compassion for most of Gods creatures- Have a Merry and peaceful
Holiday.

angryparsnip said...

Wonderful post today !

I love the Owl that likes to sit on my chimney. I have named him Bernard and I adore his "hooting"
The first time he appeared both the dogs sat staring at the fireplace wondering were or who was making this sound.
I know we have lots of small critters that like to cause damage so I am very glad he/her likes to visit my home.

cheers, parsnip

Gwil W said...

I'm something of an owl fan too. I love the way they can roll their big amber eyes - in fact their whole heads - like wheels.

Squirrels are very busy on the ground here. A ladybird has found its way into the kitchen.

Lovely post.

Dominic Rivron said...

They certainly communicate, owls. Owl on a rainy night who can't be bothered to go and meet its girlfriend: to-wet-to-woo!

Heather said...

Such a lovely Yuletide post Pat. We used to hear little owls at our previous home but didn't see them and I will never forget the thrill of a barn owl gliding silently above my head as I walked home many years ago - it's wings scarcely made a whisper. We have hedgehogs, bats and mice in and around the garden but I have no idea where they nest or sleep. I'm just happy to have them.

Rachel said...

We have lots of owls here . And it certainly will be one of Dominic's nights tonight, too wet to woo in Norfolk.

MorningAJ said...

We hear owls in the churchyard quite often. Little owls mainly, but occasional tu-whits as well (we never get tu-whu for some reason. I can't remember which is which but he/she sadly doesn't get replies.)

Pam said...

Lovely to hear about your owls. It seems so very cold in your part of the world while our birds,mainly yellow crested white cockatoos screech in the heat here, and the cat seeks out the coolest part of the house.Merry Christmas to you and yours.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the response.