Tawny Owls and Chimneys

March 30th 2014

Article originally published in the Assynt News during April 2014

Tawny Owls and Chimneys

The clocks have gone forward, lambing is about to start and the first bumblebees have appeared in the garden – so we know spring is here. After some recent events I would be tempted to say another sign of spring is when a Tawny Owl comes down your chimney.

Brian Scott with one of the Tawny Owls. Photo M. Scott
Brian Scott with one of the Tawny Owls. Photo M. Scott

In the last two weeks I know of three people who have woken up in the morning to find a rather distressed and blackened owl sitting on their living room sofa! You see Tawny Owls like to nest in large mature hollow trees. And as we all know Assynt does not have a plentiful supply of large mature trees (hollow or otherwise). So this time of year they will be checking out any cavity, large enough for them to fit into, to see if it would make a suitable nest site. At first glance a chimney pot would seem ideal – until they fall in.

Many owls get stuck. Brian and Mary Scott spent a whole afternoon trying to extract a Tawny Owl from their chimney last week, finally resorting to a chimney brush. After climbing on the roof and lowering the brush down the chimney no owl appeared at the bottom. However when the brush was extracted, lo and behold amongst a billow of soot, was a lovely male Tawny Owl sitting on the brush! They spent the next hour or so cleaning the living room. But that was not the end of things. Next morning a soot-stained mother owl was sitting on the living room floor.

The lesson to be learnt from all this is: if you have an open chimney – watch out for owls looking for a nest. If you know they are in the area think about covering the pot to prevent them falling in or try giving them a nest box. I can provide a design.

Andy Summers
Highland Council Ranger in Assynt

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