Out with Neil today; hoping to finish off all the boxes east of the Fosse.
The first box was a reminder as to why we no longer put boxes on trees in the middle of fields. These trees were once in hedgerow which has been removed, leaving the trees in glorious isolation. 15 years ago, when the box was put up, members of RUBOP had never had the opportunity or experience of battling through waist high Oil Seed Rape!! This first box of the day, at Radcliffe on Trent was the first to ever get a Barn owl in it and produced a brood of 5 in our second breeding year of 2001. It’s been used regularly since including last year so we drove out in anticipation which was deflated when we found the field full of Oil Seed Rape! To make matters worse, it was wet as well but I had water proof trousers with me and we battled through.
The male left the box before we got there and went for a fly round; I could see that it was a new bird as last year’s had a broken leg which flapped around when it flew but it still managed to provide for 3 chicks so not that much of a handicap!! He went round for a full 10 minutes, the female was in the box with 4 small chicks and an egg and was unringed which meant that there was a brand new pair using the box.
Next it was on to Bingham where last year, while doing a photo shoot for the local press, I’d surprisingly found a female on eggs which immediately improved the quality of the shoot. There are two boxes close together here; last year, the birds were in the left box and this year, they’d fancied a change and were in the right box. Both adults were at home, the same female as last year and a ringed male of unknown origin! There was a newly hatched chick and 3 eggs still to hatch.
Our good luck continued at the nest box where there was a female I’d ringed in 08 at Scarrington in the box with 3 chicks and an egg. Just as we were leaving, I got a phone call from a local builder, a man who has a Barn owl box behind his house. Chris is converting a barn at East Bridgford and although he’d had surveys done on the building, they’d discovered a nest with chicks that Chris thought was a Little Owl. We were quite close and went over and Chris showed me the nest, tucked away in the gap where the pan-tiles met the wall. There were small small chicks and a fresh vole in the nest and the broken white eggshell confirmed that they were indeed Little Owls. The chicks where very vocal and though the builders had been on site for a month, this was the first they’d seen of any birds and the female owl must have been sitting on eggs for most of that time. We found a plastic box which was screwed to a roof beam very close to the nest and I’m sure the female will find them OK. The site will now be quiet for 3 days so they will hopefully settle OK into their new home.
This had put us behind time and I was working at 15:30 so we
concentrated on boxes where I thought we would find nesting bird. True to form, the next 2 had their regular females with eggs and chicks and lastly, we visited a new box near Elton that we’d only put up last year. We’d had some boxes kindly donated to us by the Environment Agency and this was the first one to attract Barn Owls. Both adults were at home, the male unringed but the female had been around; I’d ringed her as a chick at Barton in Fabis in 08, she’d bred at Plungar in 09 and now she’d come back to me.
A great finish to a great day. We now had 29 pairs and 135 eggs and chicks and a few boxes still to look at!!