This year has proved a resounding success for our barn owl conservation area with more young found in our boxes than ever before. Each summer when the time is right, our specialist licenced team visit all boxes to establish which ones have young in and then revisit all of these later to ring and record the occupants. This year we have recorded 45 barn owl chicks and 7 kestrel chicks on these visits. We also found a large number of adult birds either within the boxes or in nearby ones providing food for their offspring.
Although breeding success is dependent on many factors including weather and the availability of prey, our project has provided a large number of boxes over 14 rural settlements in areas that have a surrounding habitat suitable to sustain them. This has provided an area of sanctuary which provides them with shelter, food and breeding opportunities. Last winter our maintenance check found 22 adults roosting in these boxes. These have become a lifeline which has helped to restore the previously dwindling population as natural sheltering opportunities have become increasingly scarce. The presence of kestrel young in some of the boxes is a welcome addition as these birds of prey are also experiencing the same survival difficulties.
This success offsets the months of hard work undertaken by the team each year to clean and maintain the boxes, perform initial breeding checks and finally return to weigh, ring, measure, sex and record the emerging young population. It is a labour of love which is reaping encouraging rewards and we are grateful to all team members who give their time so generously.
This is one of this year’s successful boxes mounted in a rural location with perfect adjacent habitat to sustain breeding barn owls.
These are some of the many young barn owls found in our boxes this year.
They varied considerably in size.
Young kestrels also made homes in them. They make more of a mess than barn owls (note the wall splashes) but we are always pleased to see them.
Often it is not immediately evident how many chicks are in residence as they huddle together and we often find more than we thought when we return to ring them.
Recording is done when they reach a sufficient size.
All handling is gently and carefully done by licenced team members to minimise stress to the birds before they are safely returned to their boxes.