With so many universities now offering courses in various types of Nature Conservation, I often receive emails from students asking if I can offer them the chance to do some conservation work at first hand; I always try to help if I can as the more people I can get involved in Barn Owl Conservation the better. Over the years I’ve taken out quite a few young people who’ve always enjoyed the experience and hopefully learned something that will help them in their education.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a student called Nova and this week, I invited her to come out with Chris and I as we polished off most of our chick ringing, mainly around the Vale of Belvoir.
We had an early start with Chris coming round for 08:00 and we were round at Nova’s house by 08:15. Knocking at her door was like opening a Barn Owl box; you don’t know what you’re going to get so it was a pleasant surprise to meet a very nice redhead with a lovely smile who turned out to be an extremely pleasant young lady!!
Nova told us that she was soon to move to move to Brackenhurst College where she was to do a Conservation and Falconry Course. She’d handled captive bred Barn Owls before but not wild birds.
Our first call was a box at Bingham to see whether a female we’d found alone in a box 4 weeks ago had laid any eggs. She’d laid earlier in an adjacent box but the box had come down off the tree and the eggs had been broken.
She was still in the box and on 2 eggs and there’s a chance she might lay some more so we’ll be back in another 6 weeks to ring any chicks; it’s gonna be a long season!!
I checked the female out to ensure she was the same bird as last time and Nova had her first experience of a wild Barn Owl!!
Next, it was on to Whatton to ring chicks in one of our best boxes and there were 4 chicks to ring; one of the few 4 broods of the year. We then went to Thoroton to check a new bird in a box occupied by a Barn Owl for the first time but this box that should by now have growing chicks was empty apart from Stock Dove eggs and all signs of the Barn Owls had gone. This does happen occasionally; possibly the female abandons the eggs and Jackdaws steal the eggs. However, there is another box nearby that had 4 dead chicks inside in mid-June and found a new female inside on 6 eggs so another surprise.
Needing coffee, we then headed to Sutton to see my friend Jo who always comes out with us when in her area. We had arranged to meet a farmer at a box nearby and the female and one chick were in the box. There was another box on this farm and this had a further 2 chicks in it which were soon ringed.
Jo thought that there might be Barn Owls in the box behind her house as she’d been hearing a lot of activity but her box was empty, another surprise.
To date, I’ve found 35 breeding pairs, ringed 59 chicks and could have another 25 which is unlikely and I might get 15 if I’m lucky considering the lateness of these broods. On a more exciting note; we only need another 10 chicks to reach our 700th chicks ringed for RUBOP!!