21 September 2020

Images below show 2 Barn Owl nest boxes that were fitted to huge Oak and Beech tress on a huge estate in Gwent South Wales. I am in the process of building another Barn Owl nest box again for another part of the estate. Exterior barn owl nest boxes can be fixed to trees or to the outside of buildings.

Where possible, they should face onto grassland and be reasonably conspicuous with an open flight path to them. They should not face into the prevailing wind.

Although barn owl nests are usually well spaced out, placing boxes in pairs, from twenty to a few hundred metres apart, will provide a pair with roosting as well as nesting sites. The male and female roost separately, and some pairs use different boxes in those good years when they can have two broods.

Since many barn owls are killed by road traffic, it is best not to put up owl boxes close to motorways and main roads.

Barn owls are specially protected by law, and so it is illegal to disturb them close to their nest. Occupied nests - even your box - should only be visited by someone who holds a schedule 1 licence.

16 September 2020

As previously mentioned before I have been lucky enough to be granted permission to use a Local Estate owners land for my project. This particular land owner has miles and miles of perfect farm land with a dozen or so farms and cottages with outbuildings dotted about the landscape. All the farms have existing old stone Barns which is absolutely perfect for Barn Owls to use. There is also the bonus of knowing that all buildings are secured and not in use. So in affect any potential pair of Owls would have a quiet and safe environment to raise a clutch of Owlets each year. This year has been such a success with 3 Pairs of Barn Owl each raising a clutch to adulthood. All 3 pairs chose outside nest boxes mounted of trees or on the end of a building. I am sure that we could double the numbers next year with  these internal boxes in place.

8 September 2020

My good friend Brenda Powell contacted me to say she has a resident Owl that uses her newly built car port as a roost. She asked if I could put a nest box inside the car port to hopefully get a pair of Tawny Owls to nest.

Tawny owls live in wooded or partially wooded areas; you even get them in large gardens and parks in towns and cities. They need to be sited in a coppice or wood in a deciduous tree. People often make the mistake of siting owl boxes where they can get a good view of the nest box and the owl; instead of thinking about what the owl needs. Unfortunately, being looked at is the last thing that an owl wants. To ensure breeding success tawny owls need to feel safe. They are much more susceptible to disturbance around their nest site than barn owls. Their nests should be out of prevailing winds, so face yours south east. It needs to be at least three metres off the ground with branches nearby for fledgling chicks. Ideally they also need to out of full sun, although most of the year this isn’t too much of a worry since tawny chicks have often fledged before the weather gets too warm. And the box needs to be sheltered to avoid being exposed to heavy rain.

I’ve noticed that designs of commercial tawny owl boxes, or boxes suggested by charities, offer too small a nesting space . These are usually just 25cm square at the base. Although tawny owls prefer a smaller nesting cavity than barn owls, the spaces inside most boxes on the market are usually so small there isn’t enough space for fledgling owls to flap their wings inside. This is important so they are able to climb out when it comes to fledging time. These boxes are usually designed with the nest cavity located at the bottom of a tall box and I don’t think the tawny owls can get in and out of these nests without landing too forcefully onto their eggs or chicks and adults often damage their tails. There is also not enough space for them to feed their chicks. And there is not enough space for the male and female to sit together in the nest box during early spring for courtship and later egg laying.

6 September 2020

My good friend Steve Roberts asked me to build him a Swift Colony nest box for the gable end of his house. I made it out of marine ply with inside compartments sectioned off using sterling board.

Swifts spend most of their lives soaring high in the sky, only ever landing to nest. They are easy to spot as they look like an arrow whirling through the sky, and often fly in groups. Originally, they would have nested in trees or cliffs but now prefer the roofs of old buildings like churches. Swifts spend the winter in Africa but travel to Britain every year in April and May.
They feast on small flying insects by catching them in flight. Insects collect in a special pouch at the back of the swift's throat, where they are bound together by saliva until they form a kind of pellet known as a bolus, which can be regurgitated and fed to chicks. A single bolus can contain over 300 insects, with some holding over 1,000.

The swift is black all over, with a small, pale patch on its throat. Looking a bit like a boomerang when in the air, it is very sociable and can often be spotted in groups wheeling over roofs and calling to each other with high-pitched screams. It is larger than swallows and martins (which have white undersides) and, unlike them, does not perch on wires, buildings or trees.

Below image is a adult Swift