25 October 2020

As you can see in the image below I have several Barn Owl nest boxes stored awaiting erection. Barn Owls are cavity nesters that will breed in buildings, natural cavities in trees, amongst bale stacks and so on, but will also readily take to artificial nest sites, making them an ideal species to monitor using boxes. Barn Owls are not particularly fussy about where they breed, but do require a relatively large cavity due to the potential size of their broods. Barn Owl is listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). A Schedule 1 licence must be in place for the project lead and any accredited agents before commencing breeding season monitoring. Barn Owl density is habitat dependent; in good areas (for example, wildlife corridors, stream valleys, rough pasture, unimproved grassland and so on) and good prey years, multiple boxes sited within a few hundred metres of each other may all be occupied, whereas in poorer habitat, boxes may need to be positioned 500 m apart. Occupancy rates will also vary depending on the year and the amount of available prey. Where possible, pair boxes close together (these can be very close) both to allow the male (or the pair) to roost away from the nest and to provide an alternative site to other species that may otherwise try to evict Barn Owl from a box. Alternatively, double-decker boxes can be used

A project of any size has some value but the size of the project has to be commensurate with the situation of the person/people conducting it; a retired person may have more time than someone in full time employment for instance. For health and safety reasons (and to share the burden of carrying all the equipment), it is advisable to have at least two people present when checking owl boxes, especially when using ladders. It is more valuable, in terms of the data gathered, to carry out more visits to fewer boxes and to gather nest recording information, than to have so many boxes that only a single visit can be undertaken each year

If registering the project as a RAS, this requires a minimum number of adults to be caught (enough to produce 30 retraps a year), so this factor this has to be considered. It is hard to estimate in advance the percentage occupancy and therefore the number of adults likely to be caught. One contributor noted that their retrap rate at regular boxes was normally well over 50% for females, but only 25% for males as fewer males are caught. A scheme with around 50 regularly-occupied boxes would probably produce the 30+ retraps needed for a RAS; however, fewer occupied boxes may be required if a greater effort is made to catch both adults. Farmers are usually very cooperative if approached regarding siting a box on their land and are often keen to be present when the chicks are ringed. One potential issue with indoor boxes is that a farm building or cottage may be sealed up, renovated or demolished without warning and good boxes and sites can be lost in this way.

Barn Owls will readily take to most nest boxes including double-decker boxes, A-frame boxes, tea-chest style boxes, plastic tubing or even re-purposed rabbit hutches! The design of the box chosen may differ depending on whether it is being placed indoors or outdoors. Regardless of the design, the lighter the box, the easier it is to erect! Be aware that not all commercially available Barn Owl boxes are fit for purpose, with some failing to include access hatches and some being either too small or with not enough depth between the box base and the entrance/exit hole. The lack of depth enables the chicks to exit the box early (before they can fly) and many will fall and die even with an exercise platform or tray present. It is good practice to ensure a minimum depth of 300 mm from the bottom of the entrance hole to the base of the box. If Barn Owls are found nesting in difficult to access cavities, or birds are seen in an area without a box, locating a box nearby will usually encourage them to transfer to, or use, the box.

10 October 2020

I have been very busy trying to erect Barn Owl nest boxes i have stored in a nearby Barn. As youi can see in the images this particular barn owl nest box was fitted inside a nearby barn about 4 months ago. I was driving past this barn and decided to check to see if their was any evidence of a Barn Owl using the barn. On inspection I was really pleased to see that this Barn Owl box is being used by at least one Barn Owl. Great news considering it was ere t very recently.

I now have about 40 Barn Owl nest boxes erect locally and a few in Powys. If I can get more than three pairs for this breeding season then I will be very satisfied. Hopefully I will have double figures within then next five years.

5 October 2020
Little Owl nest box project 

As you can see i`ve been busy constructing little owl nest boxes. I actually constructed 16 Little Owl nest boxes for a my friend Richard Clark who is one of our local BTO offices. Richard has a nest box project similar to mine with Tree Sparrows and Barn Owl`s being his target species. Small and stern, the little owl was first introduced to the UK in the 1800s. Look out for them in trees overlooking grassland from where they swoop to catch small prey with their sharp talons. The little owl has piercing yellow eyes and mottled brown and cream colouring across its head and body. The wings are rounded and move with rapid wingbeats. The bird lives up to its name, standing at only 20cm in height, and has a short tail. It’s also the smallest owl in the UK.

It eats mostly small mammals and birds but will also feed on large invertebrates, such as beetles, crickets and worms. It hunts at dawn and dusk, observing the ground from its perch for movement. Once the little owl spots its prey, it swoops, grabbing its meal in its claws or beak. The little owl is monogamous, often staying with the same partner for life. It is ready to breed when it reaches one year of age. It nests in small holes in trees or sometimes, surprisingly, disused rabbit burrows. The young are raised between May and July from two to five eggs.

The little owl makes its home in small copses, on parkland, around farms and in orchards and open woodland. It is found across England and parts of Wales but is absent from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Little owls can be active during the day. Look for them particularly in the early morning or at dusk, perched on poles or fence posts. Listen for their strange mewing call or the male’s ‘hoo-eet’ song on summer evenings.

The UK's little-owl population is in decline, having fallen by 18% since 1995. While it is unclear why the species is declining, some suggest it may be due to more intensive farming methods.

1 October 2020

Dormice are barely ever seen due to the fact they spend most of the day asleep! At night they come alive, climbing high into the trees on the hunt for a tasty snack. Their favourite foods are hazelnuts, berries and insects. Dormice build nests out of grass and leaves ready for the female to give birth to up to seven young. In autumn, dormice start looking for the perfect spot to hibernate for winter. They often choose to sleep in logs or leaves at the base of trees or just beneath the ground where they can avoid the winter cold. Hazel dormice, like many of our other small animals, hibernate through the winter months in order to survive. If food is scarce outside of hibernation season, they can save energy by dropping their body temperature and going into a state of 'torpor'. In fact, dormice can spend nearly three-quarters of the year 'asleep' in some form!