The Headless Owl a BBS Murder Mystery


As one of my 30 days wild this June I set out on my Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) to see if I could find something new for one of my survey squares which is in Wicklewood. The BBS is a scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds. It is a national volunteer project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species in the UK. It involves two visits to record all the birds and animals seen heard and detected one in April/May and one in June.

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Doing the BBS is a great excuse to get out and exercise, relax and  spend time paying attention to the natural world. My Square starts just south of Wicklewood Church and starts with a thriving house sparrow colony and a house martin colony. The walk moves from the wooded gardens on the edge of the village out into open cereal fields. These fields appear devoid of wildlife to the occasional car driver and casual observer but they hold a host of skylarks as well as linnets and pied wagtails and in previous years grey partridge.

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Grey Partridge Credit: Dave Appleton via Compfight cc

The walk concludes in a wooded stretch close to Hackford Marsh and Wicklewood Mere which is an area of swampy woodland which has no public access and holds a host of birdlife. It is only distantly visible from my route but it is always alive with the sound of summer warblers including chiffchaff and blackcap and this year I added sedge warbler to the list. Highlights of my early visit included a number of showy roe deer and bullfinches singing around the last stretch of the walk.  On my late visit the bullfinches were still about in good numbers but a calling buzzard flying low over the  mere was spectacular.

The final part of the trip was notable for the following grizzly find:

Little Owl RIP

Once a little owl now partially plucked leaving its spotted wings and legs and feet and minus its head. The plucking suggested a sparrowhawk kill and as I left the scene a large female ghosted past me towards where the dead bird was. I never fail to be amazed at how silent and unnoticeable these birds of prey can make themselves when they are hunting.

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