The 12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - An owl in an oak tree

Tawny owl by Beverley Carpenter

Christmas is in the air and here in Ipswich we’re starting to feel rather festive! Join us in the run up to Christmas by celebrating some of the town’s wild places and awesome species as we adapt the famous words of the 12 days of Christmas. Traditionally for the first day of Christmas we’d be receiving a partridge in a pear tree from our one true love, but we’ve decided to tell you about an owl in an oak tree instead.

Christchurch Park in Ipswich is well known for its association with Tawny owls due to its famous resident Mabel, who was a much loved figure and was frequently, and rather unusually, spotted asleep in her tree during the day. Whilst Mabel herself was last spotted in 2008, we know that Tawny owls have continued to have a presence in the park and in 2018 we were delighted to find two fluffy outlines perched in a tree, one of which can be seen in the photo below. 

Tawny owlet - Christchurch Park - Jake Brendish

Tawny owlet - Christchurch Park - Jake Brendish 

Over the past year however, it all went a bit quiet in terms of Tawny owl sightings and not a single hoot was heard! We even hosted a “Big Hoot Hunt” evening where lots of people joined us for an evening to hear a recital from the owls, with autumn being the optimum time to hear them due to them nosily defending their much sort after territories. Luckily leopard slugs and lots of small mammals were present on the evening in the tawnies absence.  

We are therefore so delighted that a Tawny owl has been spotted back in Mabel’s tree over the past week with some individuals claiming it still to be Mabel! Whilst this would be wonderful, it would make Mabel a grand old girl, much older than the average 4 years that Tawny owls live for.

This has excited lots of people in Ipswich as it’s uncommon for Tawny owls to sleep so exposed during the day and we just had to go down and see the owl, who has been named Matilda by the people of Ipswich, for ourselves and we weren’t disappointed! Sat snug in the same hollow in Mabel’s veteran tree, posing perfectly for the photo below, we spotted Matilda with an almost smug look on her face as she slept. It is certainly well worth a trip down to Christchurch Park to see “her” and we can really recommend going to see her as this is unusual behaviour for a Tawny owl giving people the perfect chance to see one in full view and appreciate their beauty. Head to the Westerfield entrance of Christchurch park and look for Mabel’ statue, and Matilda can be found in the tree adjacent.  Like “her” famous predecessor, Matilda is set to be one of the most photographed owls in the UK, possibly, but certainly in Ipswich. Do remember however, that she is a wild animal and take care not to disturb as you pay “her” a visit. 

Hooo-ever (ahem).. this Tawny owl is whether it be Mabel or Matilda, we are so pleased to have one back in the beautiful setting of Christchurch Park and we can’t wait to see if any chicks appear in spring 2020! 

 

 

Tawny owl (Matilda) - Christchurch Park

Tawny owl (Matilda) - Christchurch Park - Lucy Shepherd

Like “her” famous predecessor, Matilda is set to be one of the most photographed owls in the UK, possibly, but certainly in Ipswich. Do remember however, that she is a wild animal and take care not to disturb as you pay “her” a visit. 

Hooo-ever (ahem).. this Tawny owl is whether it be Mabel or Matilda, we are so pleased to have one back in the beautiful setting of Christchurch Park and we can’t wait to see if any chicks appear in spring 2020!