Gordon came round today and brought John Revill for a Barn Owl experience. If I’m an Owl Man, then you could say that John is a Tit Man; that’s Willow Tits, doing a similar job to us but on a slightly smaller scale; putting nesting boxes into good habitat and hoping that the birds will take to them. An advantage is that you don’t need a ladder to fall off and you go home with your hands intact.

Today, I was catching up on a few inspections to what we could call ‘Dead Boxes’,  some that had never had Barn Owls but in the main provide cozy homes for Jackdaws and Stock Doves. I live in hope that one day, these boxes will have a Barn Owl inside; they’re in good habitat but for some reason, don’t attract the owls. Some have had Barn Owls in the past; I’ve seen Barn Owls come out, found pellets inside and a couple have been used for breeding in the past though not for several years; however, I spent most of the morning wearing a dust mask and heavy gloves pulling Jackdaw sticks out of the boxes.

The one highlight of the day was at a box that had held a female Barn Owl last September and I had hopes that this bird might have attracted a mate and be still at home. However, it appeared that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution had taken hold and that out Barn Owl had evolved into a massive female Tawny. She lay in the box with her two small chicks completely unphazed by my presence; just looking at me with those big brown eyes. Now Tawnies usually scarper pretty quick and are easily caught in the big fishing net held up to the box hole but not this lady who was not for moving. Even when I carefully removed the chicks, she was unmoved and it would have taken a stick of dynamite to shift her. Anyway, we’re a Barn Owl project so it wasn’t the end of the world (that was last week) if I  didn’t ring her. The chicks were too small to ring as well so I carefully replaced them in front of Mum and left her in peace.

So no additions to the total today but I still a load of boxes to inspect in the east of the borough and will hope to get another 10 pairs from those so watch this space.

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The blog was down for a few days; all fixed now thanks to our Webmaster Kevin.

May 18th.

The nest box checks continued  and Neil Pinder was

Zoe with the Tawny Chick

helping out today and he brought young Zoe with him to help brighten the occasion!!

The first stop was a farm near Clifton where we have a couple of boxes. I was half way up the ladder to the first box when an adult Tawny Owl  flew from a hole in the back of the tree. This cavity has had Little Owls in the past but never before a Tawny. There were Jackdaw chicks squeaking in the box so I left them to it and checked the cavity; there was a

And Female Barn Owl

young Tawny inside which was soon ringed and returned. Why doesn’t mother Tawny pop into the box to help herself to a tasty young Jackdaw; surely she can hear them squeaking. Not the brightest!!

Back to the box in the farmyard and we found a female Barn Owl on 4 eggs. A great start to the day.

Next to Gotham Moor; the old female that was here emigrated to another box over the hill 2 years ago and the box has been vacant ever since so we were surprised to see a pair of Barn Owls push past the hole blocker which I hadn’t been able to utilise  in the normal manner. There were 8 eggs in the box; our biggest brood so far!!

Our good fortune continued at the next box where we’ve had regular breeding birds for a number of years. There was a female on 3 eggs so she could still be laying. After this, for the first time this year, rain stopped play.

May 19th.

Neil came out again but without Zoe  and we had a great start to the day as at Thrumpton Hall, we found a female that I’d ringed here in 08 but hadn’t seen since. She’d laid on top of an old Jackdaw nest and there were 5 chicks piled up in a hole in the corner with the smallest at the bottom. Most uncomfortable.

We took them all out, removed the sticks and put them all back where they’ll now revel in their massive new playground.

Back to Gotham and a meeting with the old female

The Old Girl

from Gotham Moor; I’d caught this old girl every year since 05 in 3 different boxes and she was here again with another 5 chicks, the oldest we’ve seen so far.

May 20th.

Chris came round today and we were checking boxes in a good area around Kinoulton, Hickling and Upper Broughton which over the years has been a most

And 5 chicks

productive area.

True to form, we were soon finding Barn Owls, a pair in a barn on 4 eggs and 4 more pairs in tree boxes, all regular boxes but 2 with new females, there seems to be a regular influx of new birds coming in to well used boxes.

We now have 23 nesting pairs and 110 eggs, a good average of 4.7 and it would seem that we’re in for a good year; there seems to be plenty of food around with one box having a cache of 9 voles and a shrew but we won’t count eggs until they’re hatched and we could do with some rain to  make the grass grow and bring on those voles.

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Clive and Gordon joined me today for a long morning round Holme Pierrepont, Radcliffe, Stragglethorpe, Cotgrave, Clipston and Normanton on the Wolds.

We found 4 Barn Owl nests, catching 7 adults, 6 of which were remarkably new birds and had out first chicks of the year, two only a couple of days old, and also another female Tawny and a chick. The barn Owls were on big broods, one had 7 eggs, 2 had 6 and the other 5 bringing our total for the year to 12 pairs and 61 eggs and chicks; an average of 5 per box round Holme Pierrepont, Radcliffe, Stragglethorpe, Cotgrave, Clipston and Normanton on the Wolds.

We found 4 Barn Owl nests, catching 7 adults, 6 of which were remarkably new birds and had out first chicks of the year, two only a couple of days old, and also another female Tawny and a chick. The barn Owls were on big broods, one had 7 eggs, 2 had 6 and the other 5 bringing our total for the year to 12 pairs and 61 eggs and chicks; an average of 5 per box

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A well chuffed householder

After an early spin in the gym, I was out to a house in Keyworth where the householder had told me he had owls in his box. A unlikely setting, a big garden with some wild areas and a square, jackdaw proof box fixed on a high wall. Jackdaws thrive and nest in the chimney pot of the big houses in the area and these Jackdaw proof boxes have a tunnel entrance designed to prevent these intelligent crows carrying sticks into the boxes. They also have a false door and there was a Jackdaw with chicks inside this. Opening the door to have a look in and a design fault  is that the door is too big and the male owl shot out as i peeked in. However, I caught the female which was a beautiful well spotted female that I’d ringed a year ago in another box in Keyworth. She had 6 eggs and was soon back in the box. I got out to Sutton Bonington to met Chris Hughes  by 10:00; we’d erected several boxes in this area last year and this was the first time we’d checked them. As I approached the first box,  a Little Owl shot out to a nearby tree and another sat on the shelf on the box front. There were 4 small chicks inside. The other boxes had been found only by Stock Doves and Jackdaws and we then moved on to Stanford Hall where there had been breeding Barn Owls up to 2 years ago  but now it was Jackdaw city with all 3 boxes full of sticks and Jackdaw chicks and even the tree hole we checked had one come out. Very frustrating!! A box at West Leake has had Little Owls inside for the last 2 years and they were there again; the female scarpered as soon as we arrived but there were 4 chicks inside that we will ring in a couple of weeks. On to Kingston

A well spotted female

and a box where Barn Owls had laid eggs but then abandoned as the food ran out in the drought at the end of May. The same female was there again together with the male  and 5 eggs and lets hope they have better luck this year!! So 8 pairs and 37 eggs so far and a lot more boxes to check!!

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A morning spent dodging showers and though we did find owls; they weren’t really what we hoped for. Local Keyworth naturalist, Neil Pinder was my helper today.

Looking into boxes where we’d had Barn Owls in the past; I found the yellow eyes of a Little Owl glaring at me.  There were a few small chicks as well, hence her reluctance to depart which is what ‘Littles’ usually do. I shepherded her into a corner and gently took hold; they’re tiny compared to other owls and you have to handle with care. They’re delightful little birds; they look quite big when in a tree but are tiny in the hand. I put a ring on her, keeping her dry as we were hit by the first shower of the day and popped her back into the box though she soon baled out to a nearby tree to admire her new jewellery.

Next to Eurobale, the grass factory where we’ve had both Barn  and Tawny Owls    breeding in the last 3 years.

The Tawny female I’d ringed here last year was in the box with a single chick; I put on the builder’s glove and got the net; Tawny’s are much heavier and more powerful than Barn Owls and have to be treated with respect. Not that bright though and she jumped into the net and was soon extracted and wrapped up in the towel.  I ringed the chick and they were both returned to the box where they stayed as we drove away.

We moved on to the Barn Owl box and it looked good as one left the box as we approached but it was a lone bird and for the first time since 06, there were no breeding birds in the box; ah well, you can’t win em all and to make matters worse; I found the remains of last year’s chick in the box.

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Wednesday 11th May; out with Clive again, first to look for some owls missing on

A very pale male

Sunday at Tollerton; the Park gates had been locked then and with 3 boxes inside, there would be a good chance that  they’d moved across the road. Sure enough, with the blocker in the hole of the first box, I could see a Barn Owl trying to push it out. No chance and it was soon in the net; a nice big female, soon to be followed by the male, an unusually pale bird. His ring number was only 5 away from the male we’d caught on Sunday, remarkably, it was another bird from 2005, ringed in a box on Bunny Lane and I can remember it

Ellen holding the same male in 2005

well as my daughter Ellen and partner Jem had been with us and photographs were taken with the chicks. There were 5 eggs in the box!!

Next, we had a date with Sister Mary Julian at the new Holy Cross Convent, a newly converted farm on Bunny Hill. The sisters had only recently moved into their new home; last year, when we ringed birds here, it had been a building site but now, it was almost finished.

In the box, we found the same male as last year with another female that was unringed. She was very pale for a female with none of the spots on the underwing which usually denotes a female but a with a nice brood patch, there was no doubt to her

On the way back, Sister Mary showed us a Grass Snake under a sheet of

Snake in the grass

corrugated iron in the grass.

Later, over the road, we found another female in a box with 6 eggs so 15 eggs found today.

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Sunday 8th May, our first outing to check some boxes to see what was happening with the local owls. The freezing winter was bound to have an effect and I’d had reports of quite a few birds that had succumbed to the freezing conditions, most of them 1st winter birds so hopefully most of the more experienced adults have survived.

Clive James, our founding member came round to help and off we set in brilliant sunshine.

We hit the jackpot with the 2nd box we looked at, a male and female with 5 eggs.

The male I’d ringed as a chick in June 05 just down the road at Tollerton and the female I’d ringed in this same box 2 years ago when she’d raised 3 chicks. Last year, I found her in a nearby box but she failed to hatch her eggs, probably due to a food shortage. With both birds being a good age, they will hopefully bring off some more chicks this year.

Clive with the first owl

There was disappointment at the next box when a pair that had raised chicks here for the past two years were absent and the box showed no recent signs of use. However, there are other boxes in the nearby parkland so hopefully, they’ll be in there but as the gates were locked, we’ll leave to later in the week.

The next box, at Gamston is our best, having raised 38 chicks  since 03 though surprisingly with different females. This pattern continued as there was an unringed female in the box on 4 eggs.

Late last year, I’d ringed 2 full grown chicks in a box owned by the Notts Wildlife Trust at Lady Bay. I was keen to see if the adults were still around so  we went there next. Sure enough, both adults were at home with 2 eggs so hopefully, she’ll lay more. The female was unringed but the male was a bird I’d ringed as a chick at Tollerton in 07. It’s great when you find some of your chicks rearing chicks of their own.

a brilliant first day; three breeding pairs and 11 eggs can’t be bad!

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Extra Owls and a Spare Box

Howard Broughton with a couple of OwlsChris came round and we set off to the Lady Bay area and fields that are probably the closest farmland to Nottingham City Centre.

Some time ago I’d done a survey at a farm yard that was being redeveloped. There had been Barn Owls

around the farm but no evidence of recent breeding. The Notts Wildlife Trust had erected 2 boxes in nearby fields and I was inspecting them to see if there had been any uptake as I’d had several reports of Barn Owls being seen in the area.

The first box we went to had 2 cracking chicks that were almost full grown. What a surprise and what a bonus for the Notts WT. They were delighted with the find.

From here, we went over to inspect the boxes on the Rushcliffe Golf Course. Despite having good habitat and us finding the occasional pellet, we’d never had breeding birds here. The first box had come down off the tree and we decided to take it off the site to hang elsewhere. The other two boxes also gave us a nil return but we did find several golf balls as we beat through the undergrowth to get to a box.

I’d recently found a new site for a new box near to Colston Bassett and I cleaned and repainted the box and will hang it at the new site later this week.

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Another Good Day

convent-fords-010-winceToday, we were ringing the last chicks that we’d found on our early round of inspections in May.

Boxes around Kinoulton, Hickling and Widmerpool have produced Barn Owls for us for some time and we

were hoping that they’d come up trumps again. They all have experienced adults and the box at Kinoulton

had 2 chicks and the Hickling box produced 4.

The next box at Hickling Pastures is a new one so was being used for the first time. The landowner here said

he hadn’t seen the owls around so I was half expecting another failure. However we were pleasantly surprised to find 2 nice chicks in the box. Photos were taken and we were off to Upper Broughton.

and another box with an old pair that produced last year. The female was still in the box with the 3 small chicks but they were big enough to ring and we left them in peace.

The last of the day was another good box at Widmerpool that had 4 chicks but one was freshly dead and I can only put the demise down to the lack of food.

I left it in the box to be recycled by its siblings. Another 14 chicks today.

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More Photos at Bingham

Howard Broughton with a couple of baby owlsGordon came round and we had a date with the photographer of the Bingham Advertiser for the ringing of the chicks that featured earlier in this blogwith my Canadian friends.

The Farmer and friends were there as well so it was with fingers crossed that I climbed the ladder and opened the box.

Young barn owlThey were still there, the three well grown young doing well and no sign of the cache of voles, now snaffled up by the hungry chicks.

Marie, the photographer did her stuff and we moved on to other boxes in the Vale of Belvoir. The first near Screveton had produced 5 chicks last year and this year had two that were almost full grown.

The next box near Aslockton had failed last year but the adults had laid eggs this year so we hoped that the experience would see them producing this time.

The Farmer and his son turned up to see what they had and it was great to find 3 chicks in the box.

The next box at Whatton is one of our most reliable boxes and yielded another 3 chicks this year but this was followed by our only failure of the day when the box at Langar failed after laying eggs.

However, another dozen chicks for us. A good day.

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