A FRUITFUL DAY

Tuesday 20th June.
Taking advantage of the nice weather, an early start had Gordon round to help but we would be finishing early as the poor man had to travel to the airport later to catch a flight to Madeira.

After yesterday’s mishaps, I was wearing clean trousers and shirt.
First we headed out to look in a box that belonged to Colin Shawyer; the UK Barn Owl Guru whose Wildlife Conservation Partnership had boxes along the Trent and a few in Rushcliffe. We struck lucky straight away and found a female sitting on 5 eggs and we’ll be back here in 6 weeks to ring any chicks.
Next, we were off to a site that we never look forward to doing. Most of our boxes are on trees but we have a few in barns and this one is difficult, first, the track leading to it is very rough, even for the old G Wagen and the farmer always plants his crops over the track near the barn so we have to walk the last 100m carrying all the kit before wading through waist high nettles and weeds. The box is in the roof beams on the 1st floor and all of the stairs have gone meaning that we have to use a ladder to get up to the 1st floor then another to reach the box. To make matters worse, all of the floorboards are rotten and I have to walk on some old doors. A good thing though is that the box here nearly always produces owls and struck gold again with 2 big chicks. Getting the first out of the box and guess what; it pooped down my trousers!!    
Towards the end of last year, a man at Kinoulton contacted me about some advice about building a Barn Owl Box; I pointed him in the right direction and he was in touch again about where he should hang it. I went over to see him; his box was fine and he had a very big garden backing onto open fields and some nice trees to hang it on.
We had it up in no time and when I rang him this week, he told me he had Barn Owls in his box.
We made this our last call and found his lower garden to be now a mass of beautiful wild flowers.
Opening the box, we found a young male that I’d ringed in the aforementioned Barn last year and  an older female of unknown origin. They were on 5 eggs so we left them to it and will return later.

Back home and I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon but the phone rang and it was David Stock from Hathern who keeps his eye on 3 boxes that I have around the village.   I arranged to meet David at Stanford Hall where he does a bit of gardening. We have 3 boxes in the extensive grounds behind the Hall and though all the boxes have had owls in the past, we hadn’t seen any here for the last few years. I was cleaning a Jackdaw nest out of the first box when David said he could see an owl in the entrance of another box nearby. The bird dropped back into the box as we approached and I blocked the door and went up the ladder to find another Jackdaw nest. which meant I couldn’t get the owls out of the lower door.

David passed me the net and I removed the blocker. There were 2 owls inside and both jumped into the net; I managed to grab the top one before it escaped and had the other in the net and managed to get them both out in one piece.

The female had laid eggs in the grass cup that the Jackdaws build on the top of the sticks and I could also feel some small chicks. What we do in cases like this is to wait until all the eggs are hatched, then remove all the chicks and clear out the box; put some owl pellets back into the box then put the chicks back and they have a big open space in which to grow up.

David and I then went on to Hathern; we usually have owls here but they were absent last year; however, at the first box we looked at we found a female and large chick.  There’s another box south of the village that has been up only a couple of years; it had pellets in it last year and I had high hopes that they’d stick around to breed. Sure enough, we found the adult male of unknown origin in the box with 2 big chicks which I was able to ring.

So a great result and a great day. I went home to put yet another pair of trousers in the wash!!

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