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How my garden pond became a ‘hoot tub’ for hot owls this summer
Owl’s cool off from summer heat wave in a ‘hoot tub’
As temperatures soared to record levels here in UK, a pair of tawny owls began using my garden pond as their own personal ‘hoot tub’. The owls returned nightly – and unusually also in broad daylight – to swim and bathe in the pond. Watch them below. If owls could be said to be washing under their armpits, I’d say these two were! Look how they fluff out their feathers and give themselves a good scrub! They have continued to bathe in my pond throughout the prolonged summer heat wave. I’ve even got footage of one owl swimming a length of the pond!
Owl hoot-tub becomes highlight of my art exhibition
These owls were first spotted on screens in my gallery in Thixendale, North Yorkshire by visitors to an art exhibition currently on show here until July 8th. The screens show live images from wildlife cameras I use to inform my paintings. They drew unprecedented crowds last week when visitors became enthralled by the sight of a lone owl cooling off in the water. This owl was flapping its wings to splash water onto itself and kept dipping its head to take long drinks of water.
I have a lifetime’s experience of watching owls in the wild and have more than 40 surviellance cameras hidden in my garden capturing animal behaviour 24 hours a day. Even I was surprised to see this owl drinking and bathing in broad daylight. These birds are nocturnal and rarely come out in the day time. But what is particularly unusual is to see a tawny owl drinking. Most birds of prey get their moisture from their food. Watch the clips below to see the bird gulping down the water in brilliant sunshine.
Owl in a hoot-tub goes viral
The clip of the lone owl bathing was so extraordinary it was picked up by BBC Radio before going onto the BBC website where it made BBC News Online’s Top Video. It also appeared on Yahoo News and on the Daily Mail Online site, as well as on the Yorkshire Post, York Evening Press and Minster News sites.
Bathing in the hoot tub turns out to be a regular thing
After spotting this fist owl bathing, I kept a closer eye on the surveillance camera trained on this pond and discovered that the ‘hoot tub’ was a regular haunt for these owls. Temperatures in Thixendale reached 29 degrees – although not as high as other parts of the country, high enough for this part of the Yorkshire Wolds – and the brilliant sunshine was relentless. The ground was hard and very dry, reflecting back the heat. These owls clearly needed to cool off. And as the heatwave continued I even spotted barn owls bathing in the pond. But the tawny’s seemed to use it the most. They appeared to treat it as their own personal hoot tub. Not only were they using it to cool off in during the day, but they were also taking midnight dips in the water. I guessed they must be the cleanest owls going!
One owl swims length of the hoot tub using ‘owl-stroke’
And then, extraordinarily, the cameras picked up this owl actually swimming a length of the pond. If an owl could be said to be swimming breaststroke this is it! Or perhaps it’s the butterfly stroke?
Owls often bathe, but before attempting your own ‘hoot-tub’ at home there are risks
Tawny owls do bathe in water, but usually at night, never during the day. Sadly they often try to bathe in cattle troughs and risk drowning if they cannot get out. My pond is shallow and has plenty of rocks that the owls can hop onto to use as steps to get out. Before anybody considers digging their own ‘hoot tub’ this advice from The Barn Owl Trust is invaluable. Designed to help prevent barn owls from getting trapped in water troughs, it is applicable to tawnys too. Click here to read it.
How studies of owls in my garden become paintings
I hope you have enjoyed the story of the owls in my ‘hoot tub’. Take a look here at how photographs and information I get from watching tawny owls on my wildlife cameras inform my paintings and don’t miss the timelapse below of my painting these owlets that live in my garden.
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