3.30. a.m.

If it’s not one thing it’s another.

There’s an enormous tree just outside the open bedroom window. Something has taken to sitting in it, making an almighty racket. An owl? Maybe, but not the ‘too-wit too-woo’ of the tawny owls that we have grown so used to. A bit too squeaky for that. Whatever it is, there’s no option but to listen to it. Sleep is now out of the question.

And it wasn’t just the one night either. By the next time though I am ready. I’ve found a site on the internet with recorded owl calls, to play alongside the sound from outside. Isn’t technology wonderful? Perhaps I should just have figured out how the volume buttons on the iPad work. Maybe if I start up the audio clip and then hit one of the buttons and see what happens. Louder or softer? I’ve a 50/50 chance. In any case, Mike doesn’t have any trouble sleeping. He probably won’t even hear it. Right?


“If that owl comes in here because you are playing that sound…..”


The following night I went for the safer option. I did my own recording. I think it’s the sound of a juvenile tawny owl. Anyone know for sure? Listen very carefully and you can hear two of them, calling to each other across the wood. And if you listen more carefully still, at between 10 and 15 seconds in, one of them may even have caught a mouse!!


This is the first time I’ve experimented with audio files. Let me know if it doesn’t work and I’ll try something else. You may also need to turn your sound up!


2018-04-10T18:03:52+00:00August 4th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. 1secondhandrose August 4, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Works a treat!
    Rose H

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rose.
      It was quite a palaver to get it so I’m glad it works!

  2. wherefivevalleysmeet August 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Love that photo of the moon – H is the expert in our house being a farmer’s son, and he says it is a Little Owl.

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      I’ve been out into the wood this evening, there are all sorts of large birds out there tonight. It would be good to find we had more than one species of owl!

  3. starproms August 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    I could hear it just fine Jessica. I played it with my cat on my lap. She was mildly interested. Lovely picture of the moon.

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Oma. It’s an old photo, but I couldn’t resist using it again. Apparently next Sunday evening there will be a super-moon, definitely worth another shot at a picture!

  4. Gigibird August 4, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    if I didn’t know better I’d say you had one of my chicken’s up your tree;-)
    We stayed in a lovely B&B in Hay -on -Wye last September and they had owls in the trees surrounding the house but they were a real twitteroo variety.

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      There was something out there tonight that sounded like a cat up a tree. I went to investigate and found a large bird of some kind, sparrowhawk perhaps. Need to go googling their calls now. I do like listening to owls. There seem to be quite a few here, must be the never-ending supply of food!

  5. Em August 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a squeaky wheel to me. Maybe you have a phantom cyclist, Scooby Doo style?

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Oh-er. Perhaps the ghost of the blacksmith who lived and worked here many many years ago…

  6. Marigold Jam August 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Perhaps he has a sore throat! Love the photo but can understand that bird would be somehwat annoying in the middle of the night!

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      It does sound just like that doesn’t it. Or maybe a mouse bone caught in it?
      The owl sits literally six feet from the window. It’s very loud!

  7. Chloris August 4, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I think it is a baby tawny owl. I once had a young family of 2 baby tawny owls which lived just near my bedroom and they kept me awake all night calling their parents for food. But they were so cute. Little fluffy ball with big eyes.
    The moon was amazing last night, you almost felt you could reach out and touch it.
    I’ m very impressed by your audio recording. The things you can do!

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      I thought it would be a lot easier to do the recording than it was. For some inexplicable reason the iPad won’t do audio recordings, even though it can capture video with sound. It needs an app. And then a way of getting the file on to a PC, and converting the format into something mainstream. And then me working out how to get it on to WordPress..

  8. Isabelle August 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Middle-of-the-night raket: my pet hate. You have my deepest sympathies.
    And men always sleep through everything, grrrr. xxx

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Yes, mine too. There are worse noises though so I shouldn’t complain too much. If only the owl fancied a tree a little further away?

  9. SeagullSuzie August 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Oh how exciting…sorry I know you’re suffering from lack of sleep and ditto men sleep through everything! I think it’s young tawny owls calling as I’ve lived with them all around me before and to confirm this visit http://www.godsownclay.com/TawnyOwls/Calls/tawnyowlcalls1.html and play the fledgling food call…it sounds just like yours. Hope that’s helpful. By the way I would love that to be the sound that woke me at 3am instead of hubby snoring!

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      I think that’s it. It does sound very similar to my little friend.
      And on your last point, I couldn’t agree more! Thanks Suzie.

  10. snowbird August 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    The sound isn’t working on my lappie, it does this every so often then just starts working again…..
    I love your moon pic. I rather like listening to owls at night the only things I can’t stand are snoring and ticking clocks.xxx

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      If you can play SeagullSuzie’s clip above then you more or less have it.
      Yep, snoring and ticking clocks, just the same for me.

  11. rachel August 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Tawny owls…. just like the ones we hear when walking the dog at night.

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Great to hear them isn’t it? Very difficult to spot though, unless they fly across your path.

  12. countrysidetales August 4, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t listen to it on the tablet but baby tawnies are learning to use their voices at this time of year and they sound nothing like the adults. Much more like rusty bits of iron being scraped along something so it’s very likely that’s what you’ve got. They’ll stop soon. The perils of living in the countryside 🙂

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Try SeagullSuzie’s link above. Your description is accurate. I hope the babies stay around. I can offer plentiful food…

  13. CJ August 4, 2014 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Oh it’s so sweet! Nothing so rural and lovely round here unfortunately, although down the road where the streams and the trees are there are owls. CJ xx

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      Sweet wasn’t the word I used at 3.00 in the morning. Perhaps with a bit of moonlight I might try and spot it, given how close it is. Fluff balls with big eyes does sound rather cute..

  14. Mark and Gaz August 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    It worked on my tablet Jessica, and a nice little mystery and a perk of living in the country 🙂

    • Jessica August 4, 2014 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks. It’s all quiet out there now. Hope I haven’t scared them off. With all my attempts at making the recording work they might have decided there’s too much competition around.

  15. Freda August 4, 2014 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Fun though! Country life, eh?

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Indeed Freda! Much as I complain I wouldn’t swop it willingly.

  16. Alain August 5, 2014 at 2:18 am - Reply

    The recording worked fine for me here in Canada.
    Just consider yourself lucky you do not have an eastern whip-poor-will as we do. They are rare and so when you tell guests they might be woken up by the whip-poor-will, they tend to say “How lovely”. The next morning they tend to say, “Isn’t there a way to throttle that damned thing”. Their ‘song’ is VERY loud and they repeat it about 50 times before they decide to move on and wake up someone else. Fortunately you get used to it but it takes a few nights each spring.
    If you are at all curious, here is a recording of it.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:23 am - Reply

      It sounds like the worst possible kind of burglar alarm. I can see how it came to be rare!
      Thanks for the link Alain, yes I was curious and about to google it. And thanks for the laugh too, in a way that a fellow sufferer can laugh you understand.

  17. woolythymes August 5, 2014 at 5:14 am - Reply

    oh, I wish I had a bird call to record and share…..!!!! (for some reason, I’m finding this extremely funny…..and I know it’s NOT when it involves lack of sleep!!!) My nighttime noise-maker (aka hubby who snores) gets drowned out by a very loud white noise machine that is almost (not quite) louder than the 5:30 am train! wanna hear???

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Given how many of us suffer from the same noise at night (a husband who snores) isn’t it amazing no-one (no woman) has found a cure for it yet?

  18. Christina August 5, 2014 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Well done Jessica, it’s brilliant. We have a little owl on our roof almost all the time, I’m used to them so they don’t keep me awake. Your call might be a Little Owl, they all sound a bit different. It is like a sharp intake of breath, or someone practising the slurp of wine tasting! (but without the wine). I must try to do this sometime soon. Thank you.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Listening to the various recordings on the internet I did notice that little owls and baby tawnys have a similar call. It would be good to have more than one species around. Especially if the little ones also dine on mice.

  19. justjilluk August 5, 2014 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Female Tawny owl. Definitely. Dawn Patroller.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Thanks DP. A young female tawny maybe?

  20. islandthreads August 5, 2014 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Jessica one of the perils of wild life gardening, if it is a young tawny owl calling for food then perhaps it’s parents have to travel further for food due to the recent mouse extermination 😉 in spring I have the pleasure 🙁 of being woken in the night by the call of the cuckoo, not fun, I would rather have an owl, so much more interesting and not a plague on smaller birds, I hope you got a better nights sleep last night, Frances

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:42 am - Reply

      I’ve never heard a cuckoo down here, which I miss as long as it’s at a distance. Oh dear, I wonder if the present round of owl calling is indeed self inflicted! Last night was quieter, it was raining which they don’t appear to like. It is raining to tropical proportions as I type. Interesting, because The Met Office says there is currently a less than 5% chance of rain.

      • islandthreads August 5, 2014 at 11:33 am - Reply

        I’d never heard a cuckoo until I moved to this house, it’s the trees, having a few trees on an almost tree less island attracts birds, which I love, listening to the cuckoo for a month or so is worth it when I have the rest of the birds too, glad last night was better, hope the rain (you wished for) calms down and only pours at night, Frances

        • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

          Thank you for reminding me Frances, the rain was self inflicted too!

  21. Anne Wheaton August 5, 2014 at 9:16 am - Reply

    We had a muntjac making a racket outside the other night. Next time I shall have to record it.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:01 am - Reply

      That one is interesting too, having just listened to it. I may well have heard it and mistaken it for a fox. Plenty of those around. I’ve not seen muntjac here yet though, only roe.

  22. Pauline August 5, 2014 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Fascinating! It’s amazing the way it is always the females wake up with unusual noises and the men sleep through! I can’t say I have heard your noise in the night here, we just seem to get the adult owls calling to each other. This reminds me of when I was little, safely tucked up in bed, living in a town in the NW and they sat calling down the chimney to me!

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:51 am - Reply

      I always thought it was quite a spooky call when I was little. But night sounds always were back then!

  23. Jo August 5, 2014 at 10:01 am - Reply

    I can’t sleep with the window open as the dawn chorus always wakes me up. The lilac tree is right outside our bedroom window and I’m sure it must be filled with birds first thing on a morning by the racket they make.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:05 am - Reply

      They do make a racket but it’s a wonderful thing to listen to. It’s blackbirds that tend to wake us up early here. Which makes me realise that I haven’t heard them recently. Oh dear. No more blackbird song until next March.

  24. Marian St.Clair August 5, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

    How exciting for you! The night disturbance might be annoying for a bit, but how thrilling to know owls are making your place their home too. We don’t have the tawny, but I’ve seen and heard horned owls here. They make a nice hooting sound. Our happy pest is the Carolina wren, a tiny bird who can wake the dead with it’s sing-song when it welcomes the sunrise each morning.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Yes, wrens here too.. they make an amazing noise for their size! It is good to have the owls, on the few occasions I’ve actually seen one it felt quite a privilege.

  25. 1gus1 August 5, 2014 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Well done, Jessica:-) It does sound like a tawny owl, albeit somewhat asthmatic!

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Exactly Janice! Maybe it was out of breath from having chased the mouse.

  26. Sue@GLAllotments August 5, 2014 at 11:57 am - Reply

    It sound like it is a Too-wit with a sore throat so maybe a Tawny practising. Hope you managed some sleep after that.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Now that it’s raining again they have taken cover. Last night was quiet, presumably tonight as well. It’s hurling it down.

  27. sustainablemum August 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    It sounds exactly like a tawny owl baby that we heard in some woods we were camping next in late June. After a couple of nights we went off to find it and did, sitting on a branch making that exact sound :). It was very exciting I hadn’t seen a baby owl before we spotted the mother too, a wonderful experience. Hope you can find your owls too.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      Oh that sounds fantastic! They are so difficult to spot too, you did well. I keep trying to see them, but no luck so far.

  28. AnnetteM August 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Great post – hope you have caught up on your sleep now. Am I correct that both male and female tawny owls do the twit bit, but only the male does the twoo? We have heard both here, but never together. I have never seen one properly either, but just a shadow flying off – never worth the effort of getting out of bed. I think your baby owl needs some Strepsils!

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      I think that’s right Annette and I’ve never heard them together either. Although if we now have a baby or two presumably they managed it somehow. Perhaps I should hang out of the bedroom window with a Strepsil in my hand and see if I can lure them close enough to have a good look at.

  29. Cathy August 5, 2014 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Loved reading this post and all the comments, Jessica (and hearing your recording of course!) ps hurrah for no more early morning wake up calls from the local blackbird population until March….! 🙂

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      Did you click on Alain’s link to the whip-poor-will too? Amazing. I will miss the blackbirds. Mike won’t though. The only way I will ever persuade him to chop down a tree is if there is a blackbird sitting in it at 4.00 in the morning.

  30. Jennifer August 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    I’m no help but I love that you’ve recorded it. If it makes you feel better, I have a woodpecker in a tree directly outside my bedroom…oy. I hope your sleep improves very soon!

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      You have my sympathies then Jennifer. Ours decided to test the resonance of the bathroom soil pipe in the early hours of the morning last year. Thankfully for his continued existence he only did it once.

  31. Sue. August 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Who said it was quiet in the country, we also have an owl who lives in aviary and is used by the castle in their flying displays. \I am convinced he or she snores at night and from our bedroom it is quite loud and the owl is a 400 yards away. So outside your window must be deafening.

    • Jessica August 5, 2014 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      It is. We should have the tree down really, it is far too close to the house. But it harbours so many birds as well as the owls, I will miss it if it goes.

  32. elaine August 5, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Excellent idea – hope it works. Might have to do the same thing about the pigeon that insists on cooing at 4.30 outside my window.

    • Jessica August 6, 2014 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Much as we love the birds they can be an annoyance on occasion!

  33. Suzanne August 6, 2014 at 2:44 am - Reply

    I think it’s owls. In the distance you can clearly hear an adult answering to the young ones squeak. Here in NY we have barred owls. A month or so ago there was a very loud altercation between birds. They didn’t sound like birds at all to me. Of course it was 2 in the morning.
    After researching via the iPad I found descriptions and calls very similar.
    Ps. You can wear headphones while using your iPad.
    I tried posting after your last before and after photos. Very much improved border without the astilbes. They will do fine elsewhere.

    • Jessica August 6, 2014 at 9:44 am - Reply

      I had exactly the same thought about the distant owl, which sounds like a Tawny Owl. The call is quite different to the one in the tree but they are clearly responding to each other.
      We’ve had a lot of rain in the past week, the astilbes seem to be thriving!

  34. Gina August 6, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

    This did make me laugh! I think it’s probably an owl too. We hear the same sounds at night.

    • Jessica August 7, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Hi Gina. Two of them flew through the garden while we were sitting outside a year or so back and landed on the bird table. A fantastic sight.

  35. Anna August 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Preferable to the sound of a burglar arm going off at that time of night 🙂 What a fabulous moon.

    • Jessica August 7, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Absolutely! The picture was taken a couple of years ago, but it deserves another showing I hope.

  36. Paul Clancy August 7, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Isnt that the most amazing stroke of luck seeing as you have a mouse problem in the garden.
    Fill yer boots Mr Owl, the cafe is open!

    • Jessica August 7, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      The parents weren’t keeping up, so the arrival of babies is a real bonus. Well fed babies this year..

  37. Annie August 11, 2014 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I’m listening to the local buzzards as I type (at midday I should add). At night we hear a positive plethora of wildlife, and something I’ve yet to identify but that sounds like a murder in progress. It probably isn’t … it happens often enough that there’d have been something in the local papers by now if it were 😉 But I do want to know what it is … clearly I need to record it.

    • Jessica August 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Maybe foxes? Or does anyone around have peacocks? Their call can be quite unearthly and just like screaming. I once stayed in a hotel which had them and one landed on my balcony in the middle of the night. It was like something out of a horror movie I can tell you. I’ve always described it as sounding like a baby being murdered, if one can imagine such a thing.

      • Annie August 16, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        Having spent a couple of summers on Brownsea Island as a kid I’m sure it’s not peacocks .. I see your one on a balcony and raise you one in a tent … waking you up by squawking in your ear! Not foxes either. I’m pretty sure it’s a bird of some kind.

        • Jessica August 17, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

          I think you have me trumped. A peacock in a tent is not even slightly funny. Not at the time anyway. I hope you find out what your mystery night caller is, intriguing!

  38. New Moons For Old November 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    The bird book I’ve had since childhood says that young tawny owls have a call which sounds like an un-oiled gate. I’m pretty sure that’s what you have recorded. I do envy your being able to do that – was it on a smart phone?

    • Jessica November 23, 2015 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      That’s a great description of the call! I did it on an iPad with an app that gives me the ability to get a voice recording.

  39. Helle (Helen) March 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Had to come over and have a look at your blog after reading the Telegraph article, and I’m not disappointed. I agree with the others, it does sound like a juvenile tawny begging. Do you know the site xeno-canto.org? There you can search recordings of bird sounds and there are several of juv. tawnies that sound exactly like yours. Your place sounds like paradise to a bird lover like me.

    • Jessica March 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Helle and welcome!
      Thanks for the link, I will definitely check that one out. I knew absolutely nothing about birds until we came here and it’s been a revelation. I love the owls in particular, lying in bed at night and listening to them calling to each other. I was outside this afternoon and have discovered that work in a certain area of the garden must now come to a halt because there are long tailed tits nesting. We can’t possibly disturb them now can we? They’re so cute.

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