A Parliament Of Owls

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01 December 2018


Although the winter months can seem rather quiet in our parks and woodlands, with very little in the way of birdsong, there is one bird which is in full song on cold, clear winter nights. This is the Tawny Owl. Tawny Owls, which are found throughout Milton Keynes, have a long courtship season from the end of summer through to late winter. The female bird makes a loud ‘kee-wick’ call and when the male bird responds with a long, drawn out hoot, it can sound a little like ‘tu-wit, tu-woo’, as coined by William Shakespeare. In fact, both sexes will hoot but it is usually only the female bird that makes the ‘kee-wick’ call. The birds will pair up and mate over the winter and make their nest, often in a large tree cavity or perhaps an old crow’s nest, between January and March.

Although still a common and widespread species, there is concern that Tawny Owl numbers are falling nationally. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is asking members of the public to help monitor numbers this winter by spending twenty minutes at night listening out for their calls in their gardens or local parks. Results, both positive and negative, can be posted online to help the BTO map their current distribution and abundance. A link to the survey can be found here:https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/project-owl/tawny-owl-calling-survey

As well as the Tawny Owl, both the Barn Owl and the introduced Little Owl breed successfully in and around Milton Keynes. Both these species are more associated with farmland than woodland and both Barn and Little Owls breed at several locations in Ouse Valley Park. You may be lucky enough to see the ghostly shape of a Barn Owl hunting at dusk and in cold winter weather they will sometimes hunt during the middle of the day as well. The fields at Stanton Low can be a good place to watch out for them.

Finally, although it is not a species that breeds locally, the beautiful Short-eared Owl visits our area in cold winters – but only when the Field Vole, its main prey species, is present in high numbers. They will sometimes hunt alongside Barn Owls at Stanton Low but the odd individuals can turn up anywhere where there is rough grass. One even spent a few days on Willen Island several years ago. So why not take a late afternoon walk in Ouse Valley Park this winter and see if you can see – or hear – an owl or two.



Discover our parks

  • Willen Lake South

    Facilities:

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    The Watersport Centre at Willen Lake, come on down and hire a boat!

    Willen Lake is Milton Keynes’ most popular park. Visitors take part in watersports activities, go cycling, enjoy the playground, try the high ropes course or simply picnic along Willen’s shores. It’s a great place to entertain all ages of family and friends, whether it’s a visit to the café or restaurant, a stroll, trying a beginners’ course in sailing or hiring a pedalo or bike.

    Refreshments
    The one4six café and The Lakeside Pub operated by Fayre and Square.

  • Tree Cathedral

    Facilities:

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    Contrary to what many believe, Milton Keynes does have its own cathedral. But like the city itself, this cathedral is unique - made from bark and leaves rather than bricks and mortar.

    Refreshments
    There are no refreshment facilities at Newlands. A cafe and pub restaurant can be found at nearby south Willen Lake.

  • Campbell Park

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    Located at the heart of Milton Keynes, Campbell Park hosts many of Milton Keynes’ major festivals and events. Its imaginative mix of formal gardens, water features, woodland and open pasture mean it’s an ideal spot to enjoy the changing seasons.

    Refreshments
    There are no refreshment facilities in Campbell Park other than during special events. However, there are a wealth of cafes, bars and restaurants in the nearby city centre, theatre district and Xscape centre.

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