Throughout the year we are constantly working with our many nest boxes, it could be making new ones and then erecting them, re-locating or cleaning out existing ones or just monitoring them throughout the year. Yes it is very time consuming and a labour of love really but all the hard work becomes worth while when the springtime arrives and we reap the rewards when occupancy is taken up.
During the past few weeks I have been monitoring quite closely a dozen or so boxes where it seemed as though the resident owls had selected our box for breeding purposes. There were three boxes that had pairs of Barns Owls coming and going on a regular basis and at least 9 boxes with Little Owls showing the same kind of interest. In previous years when the weather has been more settled the different pairs of owls get down to their breeding within a week or so of each other. This year has been nothing like that, for example we had one box being used by Little Owls and when it was checked out it had 3 chicks of about a week old in it. Just down the road another box was checked and she had just laid her first egg, taking all the statistics of incubation periods into consideration that made a difference of around 4-5 weeks between when the two pairs started to breed!
So the decision of when to visit the boxes and ring the owls chicks has not been an easy one, timing was very much of the essence. I'd calculated that we had a window of two to three days when the eldest chicks would still be in the respective boxes and the youngest chicks would be developed enough to ring. That date was last Thursday and we had invited over our newly appointed ringers Mick & Denise to come an help us do the task. They live very local to myself and they are part of the Stamford Ring Group. We had been conversing with one and other for a couple of months and had agreed to meet up outside a country public house in the evening, this was actually the first time we had met up!
The first ringing site of the day was at our closely monitored Barn Owl site, because of the recent loss of the male owl here we decided not to disturbed them too late in the evening as that would be when the hen owl would be feeding the young. Glynn (the land owner) can be seen in this first image up in the barn where the box is located,
One by one we rang the three very healthy chicks, both Col and I had a go at ringing under the watchful eye and guidance of Mick.
Col seemed pretty pleased with his effort, the bird was quite docile and didn't flinch once!
Glynn's daughter (Amelia) can be seen here posing with the owl that I had rung.
And this is the third owl that Mick rung, as can be seen they are quite well developed.
The chicks weren't out of the nest box for too long, I reckon the whole process from start to finish was around 15 minutes. In this next image Glynn can be seen replacing the owls back into the nest box.
And the view looking out from the barn revealed this motley looking crew, from L to R Col, Denise, Mick and John.
I mentioned earlier in this post that I had also been monitoring another two pairs of Barn Owls that have started to use our boxes. Well these birds are still about but sadly they have not got around to breeding yet? I have since found out that it is a similar story for the rest of the UK, it is thought to be a consequence of the "wintery like" spring we had and it seems to have put the owls off breeding, I am hoping that is not the case and it has just delayed matters, time will tell?
Part 2 of our ringing evening will be posted soon and that features the Little Owls..........