Stepping out of my front door just before midnight on a frosty January evening, I'm greeted by the long drawn out, wavering 'twooo-ooo-ooo' of a tawny owl perched  about fifty metres away in an ancient oak.

He calls again but there is no answering 'kee-wick' from a female.

At this time of year he is prospecting for a territory and hopefully trying to attract a mate.

Although it is mainly the male that utters the hooting, the female answers rapidly with her 'kee-wick' contact call and the familiar 'twit-twooo' is made up of a duet between the two birds. In other words, 'twit' or 'kee wick from the female with the male answering 'twoooo-ooo-ooo' etc.

However, both sexes can sometimes voice either call !

Confusing for us listening perhaps but hopefully not for the owls !!

Some time ago a pair of tawnies nested regularly in a large sycamore close to my house until, very early one morning before anyone could protest, the tree was illegally felled to make way for a new house. The builder was fined but it was a nominal sum compared with the asking price of the house.

Hearing that owl now after so many blank years gives me hope that the birds may nest in that old oak nearby if there is a large enough hole in the tree. Time will tell