Today is the anniversary of the first Little Owl nest nest to be found in the UK.
Little Owls were successfully introduced into the UK at Lilford Hall, just down the road from me here in east Northants, by the 4th Baron Lilford: in 1889, on St George’s Day, his gamekeeper found a Little Owl on a nest.
Little Owls are not native UK species – for some reason they stopped at the English Channel and didn’t colonise. However, they are very cute-looking birds and several Victorian naturalists thought that the UK would be better off with Little Owls than without them.
The 4th Baron Lilford was a great ornithologist and in his very own ‘The Birds of Northamptonshire‘ he writes as follows:
I have for a considerable number of years annually purchased a number of these Owls in the London market, and as the majority are too young to fly when first received, I have had them placed together in large box-cages in quiet places about our grounds in Lilford, and left the doors of the cage wide open, taking care that an ample supply of food is provided once during the day for the Owls. I regret that I have not kept notes as to when I first adopted this practice, but for several years, beyond the fact that we occasionally saw and frequently heard of one or more Little Owls in the neighbourhood, nothing of importance came of the experiment, so far as I am aware, till 1889, when one of our gamekeepers, on April 23, found a Little Owl sitting in a hollow bough of an old ash tree in the deer-park at Lilford; she would not move, but he lifted her, and found that she was sitting upon a single egg, to which she added three, and brought off four young birds in the second week of June. One, if not two, other broods were reared in our near neighbourhood in 1889
And the Little Owl is the logo of the Northants Bird Club to this day.