During the weekend I did make an effort and went out checking for any signs of Little Owl breeding activity with my mate Col Green. In total we checked out 12 boxes and of these we found Little Owl activity in six of them with clutch sizes ranging from one to four eggs. Now I suppose 50% is a pretty good return when one considers that Jackdaws, Great Tits and Squirrels are all partial to using them too!
One of the first boxes we checked out was deffo a "no hoper", it is perched precariously on the top of a very decayed Ash tree and very very rotten. It was put up nearly four years ago and because we haven't been able to persuade the owls to vacate the Ash tree and move into it so its just been left. But because we were passing we stopped off to check it out........just in case? I went up the ladder and to my utter surprise when I opened up the door both owls were inside along with three eggs!! Unfortunately we didn't take any record images here as the tree was far too high and no branches to hang onto whilst taking an image, its just not worth the risk!
The next box was far easier to check out as it is only four feet from the ground! It has been used now during the last three consecutive years so we had very high hopes here. Col can be seen here posing prior to me getting in the ditch and checking it out.
Upon opening the door I was confronted with what looked like a very angry hen owl, I don't think she was too pleased to see us? Unperturbed though she just sat there giving us "the stare".
After a wee bit of encouragement she moved to the back of the box and her pride and joy was revealed. One egg and two chicks along with a dead Shrew in her larder.
After a couple of quick record shots were taken we left her alone and departed.
Not such good news at the next box, although the ladder wasn't quite long enough to get all the way up to the box (we left the third piece at home) Col was still able to open the door at arms reach. Dam and blast something other than an owl had taken up occupancy because I could see that it was full of nesting material.
We know that there was no owl in there as they do NOT use nesting material, such a shame as only two months ago I witnessed a pair of Little Owls coming and going from this box.
It wasn't good news at the next two boxes either, although very rotten this box had three well developed Starling chicks in it. The parents had gained entry through a hole in the roof! We have since learnt our lesson on how best to protect the boxes from the elements and all will be revealed later.
The disappointment at the next box wasn't that it had rotted away through poor location or bad timber protection but the fact that ivy had virtually smothered it to death. I cleared it all out of the way and it now awaits its first owl.
I was volunteered by Col to go up to the next box, a pretty tatty box again that had never before seen any previous owl activity. Because we forgot the third piece of the ladder I had to stretch to reach the door, and to make matters even more awkward this door had been screwed rather than using a catch. After opening up the door I was very surprised to see a pair of owls inside guarding a single egg! We are hoping that they have just started their clutch so a re-visit will be on the cards soon.
Whilst out we went and checked on a relatively new box that was only but up towards the end of last year. And it was more good news here, a pair had obviously found it and it must have been to their liking as the hen owl was inside with her precious four eggs. What a result get in there!!!
Our final task of the day was to erect another new box, and I had just the perfect location. No owls are present here at the moment, well not to my knowledge there isn't? A super quiet setting that I am hoping this time next year the box will be fully occupied and brimming full with owlets. This box is encompassing our new design, a slate roof. Both Col and I are convinced that if we can protect the roof from the elements they will last for years to come.
The next batch of boxes are to be checked this coming weekend (time allowing) and if we can have the same level of results as on this day it is going to be a bumper breeding season.