Tuesday 19th June.
You have to take care when removing a Barn Owl from a box. Whether adult or chick, it’s important you point their rear end in the right direction as they have an effective defence mechanism of unloading all over the person who has hold of them.
I’ve been shat on many times but the chick at Whatton today broke all records of capacity, viscosity and stench!
A second’s inattention and I was feeling the warm damposity of half a pint of owl shit oozing down my leg.
My shoe also turned white and it will be easier to paint the other shoe white as well rather than try to remove the offending whitewash. If you could market this stuff, you’d make a fortune as the whiteness and weather proofing makes it twice as efficient as the best possible exterior grade white emulsion.
A long day today as I try to get to all the boxes in the Vale of Belvoir in one day; it’s not easy as some of the boxes were placed before we appreciated the need for hanging boxes in places accessible to motorised transport. Some are a bit of a slog and with my fitter assistants not being available today, I had to ask the afore mentioned Notts Neil, the
well known local author who is not the fastest due to a long-standing foot problem though he does move faster when some type of winged bird food flutters by!!
Making the best of a bad situation, the day started badly when a box that had held Barn Owls last year was found to be full of Kestrels, a bird loved by many when seen skilfully hovering at the roadside but not so popular with this ringer as they scream, scratch, bite and kick throughout the ringing process. Next, a plod through a cornfield that was rewarded with 2 nice fat Barn Owl chicks and then things got worse when at Bingham, the regular breeding box had fallen off the tree and there was evidence to suggest that the birds had commenced egg-laying before the box came down. We found the lone female in a nearby box and there’s a possibility that they might breed again but very frustrating none the less!
Things did improve when a single chick was found in a box where they’ve been absent for a number of years; always a good sign. Chicks seem to be well grown but many nests only seem to have a couple but we did find a new female on eggs in a box that hadn’t been used before. I nearly dropped a clanger with this one ; as we drove up, I thought I saw a Stock Dove fly from the box so didn’t bother to use the blocker. I climbed the ladder and opened the door to find this lady sitting on her eggs. Fortunately; she sat tight and I was able to pop a ring on her leg before returning her to her eggs.
Our elation though didn’t last long as in the next box; one that had held Barn Owls for the last 2 years, we found 3 dead chicks. I’ve found a few dead chicks this year but all have been in boxes with live chicks and this is the only one so far with all the chicks dead.
We then nipped down to Sutton to pick up our fried Jo who loves Barn Owls and has her own box behind her house. She came with us to Elton where we found a pair of owls with eggs in a box. The male here wasn’t at all happy about being disturbed and showed his displeasure by having a real go at me; 300 gms of battling Barn Owl with a jab faster than Amir Khan and claws like needles. I ended up taking a few punctures to hands and stomach before getting the better of him; if I’d have been inflated, I’d have zoomed off over the nearby tree. I held him still long enough to find that I’d ringed him as a chick on this very farm last year.
I limped off to lick my wounds while he came out of the box when we removed the blocker to fly to a nearby tree and I’m sure the little bugger did a victory roll on the way.
Dropping Jo back home; her box having only Jackdaws, we headed for Naturescape at Langar to find their pole box with 2 nice chicks and then on to another adventure at our other box at Langar. Here we found that the door of the box had fallen out of it’s slide and was probably somewhere hidden in the massive hawthorn hedge beneath. I battled into the hedge and finally saw the door floating in the ditch on the other side. Faced with a walk of about a mile to retrieve the door, I decided to take a header through the hedge and managed to use my owl net to get it back picking up a few more cuts and scratches to go with the Barn Owl wounds. Neil insisted we stop at a pub on the way home but again couldn’t find any money but I suppose I have to
thank him for over 8 hours in the field!!