Wednesday 4th July.
I was hoping to get the Broxtowe Barn Owl Project boxes done this week before Gordon left for Peru; he said Wednesday would be a good day but the weather forecast was not good and I got to his house by 08:00 for an early start. It had already rained once that morning and arriving at the first field, I realised I should have worn my waterproof trousers. The grass was over 2 ft high and very wet and by the time we reached the box, our legs were soaked. To make matters worse, the box was empty so we walked back getting even wetter.
There was some respite at the next box; one of the few that day that we were able to drive up to. There were 3 nice chicks here and we hung around while the land owner fetched his wife so she could look at the owls.
We were also joined by David and Linda Parkin who’d we’d phoned and the local post lady who just happened to be delivering letters to the house.
Eventually, we escaped to look in other boxes and at Cossall, we were surprised and delighted to find a female and 2 big chicks in a box that hadn’t been used before. the female was very wet; she’d probably been hunting in the wet grass and I wrapped her in a towel to dry her off a bit and put a nice ring on her leg. Unfortunately, the lane where we’d parked was very narrow and an oil tanker couldn’t get past the wagen so Gordon went back to move it while I finished ringing the owls. This meant that I had to carry the ladder and all the gear back to the road and I was on my knees by the time I got there. Also; with wet socks, my boots began to rub and I developed a nice big blister on my right heel.
The next box was round a wet cornfield but was occupied by a female who scarpered as we approached but left 2 nice chicks for us to ring. On to Beauvale Priory; the box was empty as usual apart from a Stock Dove but the man there told us he’d seen Barn Owls back in the old priory after the recent renovations. We had a look inside and found a few old pellets but no sign of heavy use.
At the next box, the farmer wouldn’t let us drive on his precious grass which meant another slog through long wet grass but there was another downpour and we waited for a while before deciding to move on. However, I realised we’d left the blocker and pole behind and retraced to pick it up. Meanwhile, the rain stopped so we had another strength sapping yomp through the grass. And yes, it was empty!!
The next had a box that had held Barn Owls for the last few years but this was empty as well; however, a 2nd box on the site had a female that we’d caught last year; she had one egg and was very heavy so there’s a good chance she’ll lay more eggs.
The Greasley Estate has been a good site for us for 2 years; 2 years ago, we had two pairs but this time just the one with 3 well grown chicks in the usual box and we found the female in another box that the farmer had said was only 100m from the road; by now I was limping heavily and it was nothing like 100m; it seemed miles but was worth it to find this beautifully marked bird.
One more box to do and another downpour. As we neared the end of our route, we decided to plod on and with the rain pouring down we got to the box to find nothing. The rain got even harder and we decided to shelter under the tree but a loud thunder clap had us hobbling back to the wagen; with Gordon carrying the metal ladder and me with a long metal pole in my hand it was no place to be caught out in a thunder storm.
So that was that; the end of a very tough day but with the consolation of ringing 4 broods of well grown Barn Owl chicks and finding 3 adults.
Gordon wants to go out again on Friday but I’ve just seen the weather forecast, an Amber Rain warning so it’s gonna chuck it down again. Watch this space!!