Monday, 24 December 2012

Many birds do not make it

One of the peak months for Barn Owl mortality is October and this is due to the fact that many birds are beginning to look for their own territories and begin to hunt for themselves following dispersal from their nest sites.
Reports are beginning to reach me of birds that have sadly been found dead and a few examples are shown below.
This young female had been ringed at Betley (one of a brood of two) at the beginning of June and was recovered dead at Crewe, a distance of 8km away.
This male bird was ringed at Acton Bridge (one of a brood of three in July) and he was unfortunately discovered dead underneath the same nest box; not having managed to leave his natal site successfully.

The story of this little chap is more upsetting as he had managed to leave his farm at Little Leigh and settled in the loft space of a  barn on the neighbouring farm. He sadly became disorientated and could not find his way back out becoming trapped and dieing of starvation before being discovered by the landowner.

This well-developed male had been ringed at Wettenhall in the summer along with his three siblings. He was found dead on a golf course 6km to the north in Winsford.

These birds serve to illustrate the plight of Barn Owls trying to make their own way in the world in the immediate period post fledging. It must remembered that the brood size of Barn Owl clutches are sufficiently large enough to ensure that many birds do survive this traumatic period and can go on to join the breeding population in the following year.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Threat to Ash Trees

The threat posed to Britain's Ash trees by the  deadly Ash dieback Chalara fraxinea disease has implications for much of our native biodiversity. This includes Barn Owls which often nest and roost within the natural cavities found in the Ash.

This video helps to identify the sympyoms of this catastrophic disease:

Chinese Lanterns

The RSPCA advise against the use of Chinese lanterns and recommend the use of harmless alternatives instead.

What harm can be caused by a Chinese lantern?
Chinese lanterns can cause injury, suffering, and even death, through:

  • ingestion,
  • entanglement,
  • entrapment.

Livestock (e.g. cattle) can eat or become caught in lantern debris in grazing vegetation, or eat lantern parts that have been accidentally chopped into animal feed during harvest.

If an animal eats sharp lantern parts, these can tear and puncture the throat, stomach or internal organs causing internal bleeding or, in worst cases, death.

An animal that has become trapped or entangled in a fallen lantern can suffer from injury, stress and panic as itl struggles to free itself.

A wild animal that cannot free itself may eventually die from starvation.

There is the added risk of fire caused by lanterns that fall to the ground whilst still alight - this can destroy habitats and set fire to animal housing, feed and bedding.

Evidence of the dangers of Chinese lanterns

This barn owl was found dead after becoming trapped in, or colliding with, a lantern.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘biodegradable’ lanterns are safe! Bamboo can take decades to degrade and the sharp parts can cause injury to animals, plus they still pose a fire risk.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The benefit of Good habitat

Today I checked a few boxes for potential second broods and although I was disappointed not to discover any I did reacquaint myself with this pair of fourth calandar year owls which have been together in the same nest boxes, near to Crowton, since 2010.

A roosting/nest site that is combined with ideal Barn Owl hunting habitat should guarantee that the birds remain on territory as they have all that they need. One of the distant trees below contains the nest box in a field that is permanently left as rough grassland - Barn Owl heaven!

Monday, 22 October 2012

A change of box

This pole box was originally erected in October 2006 and after six years of exposure I decided to replace it as it was beginning to show signs of wear and tear.

In order to encourage any youngsters to remain in the nest site until they are capable of flying I have chosen to put up a deeper A-Frame in its place; this should prevent any inquisitive owlets from falling out of the box as they cannot access the exit until they are that much older.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Into a new home

Having replaced one of our older boxes near to Stretton in late August I was delighted to discover a pair of owls had moved in. The male bird (above) had moved a couple of miles from a neighbouring farm where I had ringed him last October.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Predated Stock Dove

I made this grusome find in one of my owl boxes on Monday evening. This freshly killed Stock Dove was in a box that contained fresh Barn Owl pellets but the identity of the killer remains a mystery.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Post-breeding moult

Once a pair's young are well grown and ready to make their own way in the world the male bird will often begin the process of moulting his main flight feathers. The process will involve replacing certain feathers each year and the whole process can take four years until all of its flight feathers have been renewed. By contast the female will replace her flight feathers whilst she is confined to the nest site caring for her offspring. Sometimes, especially if she is going to double-brood, she will not begin her moult process until later in the year.

Inspection of nest sites can often reveal evidence of these flight feathers being replaced and can be a good indicator of the bird's activities. This nest site that was checked upon yesterday had produced four young that had fledged in July and now the parents are roosting together following the juvenile dispersal.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Checks for second broods.

I decided to take advantage of today's glorious sunshine and begin to search Barn Owl sites for potential second broods this afternoon.The first two sites that I had hopes for yielded nothing but empty boxes but my third and final attempt of the day saw me find the solitary youngster pictured above.

This is the first time since 2009 that successful second brood nesting has taken place within Mid-Cheshire; hopefully there will be more birds to find over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Tonight I ringed this solitary owl near to Great Budworth. His parents had suffered a failed breeding attempt earlier in the year but managed to try again later in the Summer. This is the second successive year that the site has been successful following the erection of nestboxes during the Winter of 2010-2011.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

This female is the first bird of 2012 that I have found to lay a second clutch of eggs after successfully fledging young earlier in the year.

I had ringed her chicks in the first week of June and she is now incubating four eggs in the same nestbox.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Chick Development

The original picture was taken on 1 July and the development of the same birds that has taken place to date is self evident.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What's in a name?

In old English dialect Ullard is a name for a young owl. It was, therefore, appropriate that I ringed a pair of owlets there tonight, much to the joy of the famer.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


I came across these two emaciated owlets which had died of starvation at the end of June; victims of the torrential rains which had prevented their parents from feeding them.

Last night I revisited the site and was delighted to discover that both adult birds are still on territory and that the female (first picture below) is incubating four new eggs. Their urge to breed has remained strong and hopefully they will have greater success this time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

200 Owlets this year

This brood of three owlets, that have already began to make their first flights, marked the 200th chick to be ringed in our boxes during 2012. A remarkable number given the wet weather that has disguised itself as an English summer!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Wet weather takes its toll.

An evening spent visiting five nest sites yielded only seven chicks to ring on Wednesday. Broods are being decimated by the wet weather as the adults are finding it increasingly difficult to hunt.

Although these horses were interested in the Barn Owl chicks they weren't the only ones with long faces!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Monday, 2 July 2012

Another new beeding site

I made a quick visit to Acton tonight and after ringing three birds at a traditional breeding site I found this single owlet at a new beeding site nearby. The box gave obvious clues that breeding had taken place and this female is only a few days from making her first exploratory flights into the wide world.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Little ones

I found these two little ones this morning at another new breeding site.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Good News

On 21 May I found a breeding pair of Owls near to Weaverham. Unfortunately a few days later the male bird was discovered injured by the roadside in Sandiway; he was unable to recover and subsequently died.
Today I found the female bird again; she has moved south towards Oakmere and has found a new mate to breed with. She is now sat incubating 5 eggs which will hopefully hatch successfully later in the year.

In the adjacent box, 300 yards away, I then discovered another male bird with a single owlet. The amazing thing is that this male bird is the son of  the aforementioned female; fledging last year in nearby Sandiway.

Do they know that they are back so close to each other? A question that we cannot answer.

Friday, 29 June 2012

More broods

Tonight I found three broods in and around Daresbury. These two male birds, almost ready to fledge, were high up in a barn; thankfully a stack of straw bales made the task easier than last year's perilous climb up the ladder!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Definitely (Maybe) the last Kestrel brood!

Just over a week ago I announced that, unless I discovered a late brood, I had found my last Kestrel chicks of the year. Tonight I discovered that late brood; so much so that this female was the last bird waiting to fledge.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Tawny Owls

This afternoon I returned to check upon the late Tawny Owl brood that I found a couple of weeks ago. The photos clearly show the transformation that has taken place over the last fortnight although sadly one of the three youngsters didn't quite make it.

Golf courses provide good habitat

Last night I came across my second breeding pair of the week that are using nestboxes which are situated on local golf courses. The habitat created by areas of "rough" provide ideal hunting ground for the birds and their future young.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


This afternoon I ringed a brood of five Kestrels and, barring a late discovery, this is probably the last clutch of Kestrels that I have to ring this year.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mixed morning

Following the recent bad weather I resumed checking my nestboxes this morning and what a contrast there was as I went round. Firstly I found these well-developed pair of youngsters, one male and one female, that are not too far off from taking their first flights.

About half a mile away I then discovered this new first-year female sat incubating a small clutch of eggs.

Finally, on the adjacent farm I came across another clutch of dead Barn Owl chicks. The three birds had all starved to death during the recent bad weather.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Devastating effects of the bad weather

Unfortunately the reality of the recent rain and wind has resulted in many Barn Owls being found dead in their nest sites. The inability to hunt in such conditions means that young and vulnerable birds die from a combination of cold and starvation.
These birds were discovered at two nest site inspections that I made yesterday.