TreeStuff

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Owls about

Barn owls are gorgeous and one of our iconic bird species and yet 2016 seems to have been a tough year for them, at least here in southern Scotland. Can we blame this all on the year's weather, or are low prey numbers a major factor? Throughout the season, most of the boxes we monitor were either empty or only had adult birds in with low numbers of owlets. And all owlets were very late so it was good to do a late summer check on the owl boxes.

With this in mind I was not expecting anyone home as I did the last round of box checks for the breeding season. 6 local boxes were indeed empty or rammed to the gunnels with jackdaw stick nests. I cleared these out and broke a very old rotten jackdaw which made my fingers stink so much I had to hold my hand out at full stretch for the rest of the morning! 

Box number 7 was different. To reach this furthest box involved wading through thick vegetation and nettles for some way with all the kit. As I neared the base of the tree I immediately spotted the dark-speckled tan breast feather of a barn owl caught on a dock stem, and wisping in the breeze. The box held one roosting barn owl. It had clearly made itself at home on top of last years old jackdaw with lots of moulted feathers and fresh pellets. Although there was no sign of any eggs or young or signs to indicate a breeding attempt things look positive; this was a female so keep your fingers crossed for 2017!


This female was one from another site earlier this summer. Note the very dark markings on the disc feathers of her face.