Mabel the famous tawny owl missing from Ipswich’s Christchurch Park for six weeks
- Credit: Su Anderson
She has delighted viewers for almost a decade, but an expert fears Mabel the celebrity tawny owl may be gone for good.
The beloved bird lives in an oak tree in Ipswich’s Christchurch Park and despite her nocturnal nature she is often spotted in daylight.
However Reg Snook, who has written a book about Mabel, said the majestic creature had not been seen since early February.
“We are just hoping she is around, eventually she will come to the end of her life span and she won’t be there anymore,” he added.
“I don’t think any other tawny owl will sit there during the day because they don’t do that, they hide themselves away, except Mabel.
“She’s probably the most photographed bird in the country, we find her photograph in the national newspapers.
“She is a real celebrity and it will be a shame when she’s gone, but it will come one day and we hope that day hasn’t arrived.”
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Every year Mabel disappears for a few months from middle to late March after breeding to incubate her eggs and look after the owlets.
Her premature departure has sparked concern among fans, but Mr Snook said Mabel may just be nesting early this year.
Paul Stancliffe, of The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), said tawny owls could start nesting anytime between the start of January and the end of March.
If she is waiting for eggs to hatch, Mr Stancliffe said Mabel may not return to the park until September.
“It’s a waiting game now,” he added.
The typical life span of a tawny owl, which use the distinctive toowit twoo call, is four years, but Mr Stancliffe said this was because around 80% of young die in their first year.
The oldest ringed tawny owl the BTO has on its records is 21 years, 10 months and 24 days.
John Grant, environment correspondent for the EADT and Star, said it was impossible to estimate how old Mabel is because she was first spotted as an adult.
He added: “She has been a popular tourist attraction for many years.
“The good thing about Mabel is she has helped connect more young people with nature because she has been seen by lots and lots of children and hopefully one or two have been inspired to find out more about birds and the natural environment in general.”
Although tawny owls are widespread and common in Suffolk, Mr Grant said many bird watchers could go long spells without seeing one because of their nocturnal lifestyle.
Mabel is considered an anomaly as she will perch in her tree during the day, unperturbed by passers-by.
Mr Grant added: “It’s very unusual because so many people have access to her. She’s quite a character.”
A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council, which owns the park, said: “Mabel is one of Ipswich’s best known ‘residents’ and we always keep a look out for her in Christchurch Park.
“At this time of the year, she is often busy nesting and will reappear after several months.
“The Barn Owl Trust says the nesting season has moved forward in recent years and we hope that is what is happening now in the warmer weather.”
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