It can be quite sad when old friends disappear, and none more so than Boedicia the Tawny Owl.
Boedicia was named by BBC Cumbria listeners last year when she was recaught in May at the grand old age of 21 years. That year she still fledged three healthy chicks, and was only a few months short of the national record of 21 years and 5 months (held by a North Yorkshire bird).
Home for Boedicia is Kershope Forest in Cumbria, part of the much larger Kielder Forest, managed by the Forestry Commission. She was originally ringed by BTO ringer Brian Little in April 1987, who recaught her again last spring. Sadly though, after being caught on CCTV in her nest box in September, Boudica hasn't been seen since.
The Tawny Owl project has reported a dreadful year so far though. Over 200 nest boxes are sited around the forest, and up to 115 can be occupied in any one year. Brian and his team monitored 95 nests in the forest in 2008, but so far this year their total is a mere 47! This is almost certainly due to 2009 being a very poor vole year, with the cyclic population of voles being much less predictable in recent years.
The Forestry Commission are holding two owl nights over the summer, open to the public. More details can be found here..