Saturday 7th July.
Over the years, the highest number of boxes of the Broxtowe Barn Owl Project used by breeding Barn Owls was 8 in 2010. Out in the rain on Wednesday, we found 6 boxes with breeding birds and though one of these sadly had only dead chicks it still counts as a breeding box!
Going out this morning, the day before Gordon leaves for Peru in an expedition to find the ancestral home of Pudsey Bear, we had one last chance to break the record by finding 3 more breeding boxes.
The Farmer at the first site was pleased to tell us he had Barn Owls in his box and on approach we could see 2 on top of the box. It was likely that these were full grown chicks which often loaf around on top of their boxes when old enough. As we got nearer, with the Farmer’s brown Labrador leading the way, the owls went into the box and I was able to get the blocker in before they left. However, there was another owl in the tree which flew off and we could tell from its flight that it was another youngster. We were happy though to ring the 2 chicks in the box.
It’s been a strange year, probably caused by the rain; some broods are also already flying and leaving the boxes while others are still on eggs. A female we found on Wednesday had laid one egg and from her weight was ready to lay many more.
At the next box we were told by the Farmer that he had owls and that the chicks were flying around the fields every evening. As we got close, a young bird left the box before I could get the blocker in and we saw 2 more fly from the tree so that was 3 we were unable to ring but another box of breeding owls making 8 to equal the record.
We checked a few other boxes without any luck until there was just one more box to check; one that had been last used in 2009 so there was a chance.
We were drinking in the last chance saloon when we walked down to the box. It had been interfered with a couple of years before and we thought that young owls had been stolen so the door was screwed up. Gordon had to go back to the Wagen to get a screwdriver but I had a crafty feel round through the hole in the box and found a large owl chick. That gave BBOP their 9th breeding box, a new record and the project goes from strength to strength!!