Due to the fact that my owling wing man is currently laid up recovering from a hip operation our Barn Owl box checking this year has been somewhat delayed. It isn't really a job I can do on my own as it involves climbing up and down ladders, so things will just have to wait until Col is fit again. Anyhow, I was pestered last night by the Mrs to accompany her with a bit of dog walking, reluctantly I agreed, (but unknown to her at the time I secretly had another motive to go?).
About this time last year Col and I made and erected 4 Barn Owl boxes that we sited in the western part of our study area. These were the first boxes in this area and we didn't even know if there were any Barn Owls local or not? So after agreeing with the Mrs to take the dog (Patch) for a walk I suggested where we should go, (oh you can see where this is going now).
The 4 boxes in question are all situated in old buildings/hovels within an area of approx 2 square miles, too far to walk between them all during an evening stroll but maybe we could have two or three small walks? Obviously I didn't have any checking equipment with me (ladders, drills etc) otherwise the Mrs would have smelt a rat right from the off, therefore I had to be content with the casual walk past an old building and then just casually pop in to see if there was any activity or evidence that Barn Owls had been visiting?
At the first location the plan went perfect (well nearly!) just as we approached the building I pointed it out to the Mrs and said "oh look a barn, I'll be back in a mo, just going to check it out". Luckily in this building there was a couple of old oil drums that allowed me to climb up to the box. I quickly got the screwdriver out of my pocket (I'd stashed that earlier) and started to unscrew the door, just then the Mrs walked in. She saw I'd got the screwdriver with me and instantly knew what I'd been up to, I was rumbled!! But luck was deffo on my side as before she could speak a Barn Owl flew out of the box, yeeeeeesssss!! I could see that she was as excited as me to see the Barn Owl and no further explanations on my behalf were necessary, thankfully.
In this box were four chicks and 1 unhatched egg, the eldest chick was nearest to the door, (see crappy i-phone image below) and I'd estimate it to have been around a week old?
Walking back to the car I obviously had some explaining to do, but I managed to wriggle out of getting a rollicking and persuaded her that beings we were in the area we may as well go and check the other 3 new boxes, see agreed!
At the second site my good fortunes continued, just as I walked into the building a pair of Barn Owls were flushed from a post they'd been perched on against the far wall, they had obviously been using this location for a while as the floor was littered with pellets and poo! The nest box here is quite high and there was no way I could check it out without my ladders, I was more than satisfied to just see them and I'm sure that this pair were new residents and almost certain breeders, get in there!!!!
The third site/farm we checked belongs to my cousins in-laws, here we chatted on the front lawn for a while and they said that no owls were using my box but I was more than welcome to go and have a look. As we all entered the building the first thing I saw was a fresh primary feather from a Barn Owl, it lay on the floor right beneath the box! I suspected it must have belonged to one of the birds from either of the two sites we'd already visited, maybe it was using this site as a roosting location?
Dave (the farmer) eagerly fetched me a pair of ladders, up I went and after a light scratch on the side of the box out flew a Barn Owl!!! It flew over the heads of the observers below and out of the window, if you could have seen the look on Dave and his Mrs's face, it was of utter disbelief!
I didn't need to remove the door on this box as I could peer into the entrance hole, it was now my turn to disbelieve what I was seeing, (image below) two chicks and three eggs, unbelievable!!!
This was a crazy crazy Barn Owl evening, I just can't believe that we have managed to encourage Barn Owls into these four different boxes so quickly, and because they are quite close to each other too, just what is going on????