Thursday, June 4, 2015

Backstone Bank wood

Thursday's Guardian Country Diary is about this fledgling tawny owl that we found comfortably ensconced in the crevice formed by the roots of an oak tree in Backstone Bank woods in Weardale. 

Here it is on the day that we found it .....

.... and here it is a few days later, although this might not be the same bird; it most likely had siblings, which the parents had distributed around the wood and would come back to feed at dusk.

Backstone bank is an ancient woodland SSSI and part of the forest that once clothed Weardale. It's a lovely sessile oak wood on acid soil, covering the hillside on the eastern edge of Tunstall reservoir.It's a popular spot for birders, not least because ....

...pied flycatchers nest there. Above, a male, below, .....

..... his consort, who is nesting ....

... in this nest box.

While we sat and watched this long-tailed tit caught caterpillars ...

... and this robin paid us a visit.

The woodland has lots of fallen wood that is left to decay, gradually sinking under a blanket of moss and woodland wild flowers.

There are some nice stands of wood horsetail and lots of ...

... bilberry.

Yellow pimpernel, an indicator species of ancient woodland, is plentiful here.

The trees are mainly sessile oak, with ash, hazel holly and birch and some scattered bird cherry and rowan.

All in all, a lovely place for a tawny owl to raise a family.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Phil

    I visited these same woods last month and have done on a number of previous occasions. Always lots of botanical interest for a trainee like myself and some great bird life at this time of year. I've never managed a sighting of Tawny Owl, but have found it a real good site for the likes of Pied Flycatcher (which has to be one of our top summer visitors), Redstart and if your really lucky Wood Warbler. I was of the impression that the Pied Flycatchers seemed to be increasing in numbers here and no doubt the nest boxes are helping. I was sure there was more nest boxes up now. We watched a male bird feeding a female on the nest in between bouts of courtship with another female. So good to watch what is common behavior in this species. An excellent walk. Cheers. Brian.

    1. Hi Brian, I was told there were redstarts there last week but didn't see them, but the song of a wood warbler was pointed out to me - that sound of a coin spinning on a table that now I'll never forget!

      There used to be regular nesting pied flycatchers in the alder wood at Low Barns but it's a few years since I've been there.

      all the best


  3. Nice post Phil, that young Tawny Owl is cute!

    1. We were really lucky to see it. Went back yesterday but it seems to have moved deeper into the wood.

  4. Phil, how do the young owls move about. Do they just hop?

    1. I wondered about that Adrian. They can walk and climb quite well but I suspect their parents must carry them in their talons too

  5. What a beautiful place. I found a baby Tawny last week too- less fortunate, this one was injured on the road and is now at a wildlife sanctuary. Always the last resort to remove them but he appears to be doing OK, feeding himself and we're all keeping everything crossed he'll return to the wild in due course. Lovely to see the pictures of yours.

    1. Thanks Countryside Tales - really hope your chick survives. Fingers crossed here too!

  6. That's a beautiful place, Phil. I love your images - particularly of the owlet. In spite of my interest in owls, I've never seen a Tawny owlet - but I'd love to!

    Best wishes - - - Richard


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.