Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2007 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 7 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across. I hope you enjoy your visit!!!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Barn Owls are..........BOOMING!!!

A couple of nights ago was the evening that would tell if all the hard work Col & I have put into our local Barn Owl project had been worth it? We were joined by Mike Townsend, our local ringing guru and trainer and off we went to visit four different box locations.

Our first stop was a private site near to the village of Blaby, the nest box here is the only active one we have where it is not situated in a building of some type, in this instance it is mounted north facing on an Ash tree. We knew that a few weeks ago the hen owl was sitting tight on six eggs so expectations were very high indeed! Over the previous few years we have become accustomed to a bit of cannibalism with Barn Owls where the elder chicks eat the younger ones, well that's nature I suppose. So when we opened the box and discovered there were four very healthy chicks inside we were more than happy, a really great result!

Blaby Area - Barn Owls
As can be seen from the image above, three of the chicks are almost the same size, almost peas in a pod but the youngest (on the left) seems to be a few days behind its elder siblings. Its facial disc isn't as well developed nor did it have the same advancement with its pin feathers showing. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the youngest is now large enough not to end us as a meal for one of it's brothers! All four chicks were soon rung and returned safely to the box, but not before we had a quick family portrait that nicely shows off their punk hair styles.

Col ringing
The second site we visited was not far from the village of Gilmorton, the box here is again on a private site and located in a brick barn. Again we had a super result with another four healthy chicks (3 large & 1 smaller) from the original six eggs laid, strangely the statistics of eggs laid, chicks reared and their apparent age's seems to have mirror the owls from the Blaby site. These owlets can be seen here nestled in the grass after being rung and before being safely return to the box.

Gilmorton Area - Barn Owls
The third site of the evening was not far from the village of Fleckney, we knew we were not going to make it a hat trick of consecutive sites with four chicks because they only had three eggs on our last visit. But when it comes to a ratio of eggs laid and chicks reared this site has done the best. The three chicks here are not quite as developed as the previous sites they were coming on nicely. The three of them can be seen here in this next image sitting in the back of my Landrover awaiting their turn to be rung.

Fleckney Area - Barn Owls
The last Barn Owl site we visited was not far from the village of Arnesby, again a private site with the box in an old building. Again the statistics were almost identical to the first two sites, initially six eggs were laid and now the box is brimming with four very healthy looking chicks. The one main difference though compared to the first two sites is there didn't seem to be any great difference in the development/size of these chicks

Mike and the owls.
As can be seen in this next image the four birds are almost at the same development stage. They really were very well behaved and posed nicely for the camera.

Arnesby Area - Barn Owls
Before we safely returned the owls to the box Col wanted to take an image of me with one of the owlets, whilst I posed waiting for the camera to click the owlet decided it was going to have a wing flapping session and consequently I got a good whack in the face!!

WHACK!!!!!

What a beauty!!!
We wouldn't have dared predict these very positive results this time last year when all we were doing was either finding dead owls or having reports of others finding them. The terrible weather was the main culprit and we thought that the development of our Barn Owl project had been wound back four years to when there was only one known breeding pair in our study area. 2014 is fast turning into our best year yet for Barn Owl returns and to already have four successful breeding pairs with 15 chicks is brilliant and very rewarding. But it may not finish there as there could well be more to come?? We know of one more site that has a least five eggs and two other sites, possibly three that I continue to monitor where things are starting to develop and occupancy and breeding may well be proven in the near future?

Many thanks again to Mike for taking the time out to come and ring our owls and a massive thanks to all the land owners/farmers who very gracefully allow me access to their land whilst monitoring the owls.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with me this very satisfying Barn Owl period...........

16 comments:

  1. I get the impression that the future of Barn Owls in Leicestershire is safe in your capable hands (with Col's assitance, of course!). I think we all owe you a vote of thanks, Paul. Your hard work is being admirably rewarded .Top Man!!

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    1. Yes we are now starting to reap the rewards Richard, thanks for your comment mate.

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  2. congratulations to all for a job well jobbed!..keep up the good work

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  3. Congratulations on all your hard work - I'm sure the owls are very grateful - even if they sometimes have a funny way of showing it!

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  4. Great news Paul. The Fleckney site it looks like the owls aren't as well developed as some of the other sites, two still look vulnerable. The Arnesby owls look stunning and we'll on their way. Great work Paul and Col

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  5. What a great night that was buddy, and I would echo them thanks to all the land owners and to Mick Townsend top bloke

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    1. Yep a great and very rewarding evening, many more to come hopefully?

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  6. Nice one, you, Col and the owls have done really well. All your hard work has paid off, but don't stop now keep the production line running.

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    1. Yes we plan to keep the production line going Carl, a target of 10 breeding pairs next year!

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  7. Hi Rid! You did a good job! Nestlings of the Barn Owl are so cute.
    The documentary photo session is really successful.
    Greetings from Poland

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Dzial.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your success .It is most appreciated and I enjoy your posts

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    1. I am pleased you enjoy reading about my owls Alison, thank you!

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