I went out with Andrew Bray to check a few Barn Owl boxes before it got too hot this morning. Two were new boxes, close to the village of Sherston in west Wiltshire, we had been invited to check by Geoff Carss, a one time ringing trainee and good bloke. Geoff’s friend, Kevin Noble came along to direct us to the first box. He was responsible for getting it put up there in the first place!
This first box was situated within the grounds adjacent to Pinkney Park. This is the highest box we have looked at – and it took all three sections of my 9 meter ladder, fully extended, to reach it. It proved to be empty, except for the desiccated carcass of a Tawny Owl. From what I could gather from the carcass, it was a young bird which would have been close to fledging, as its primary and secondary feathers were at medium length, about two-thirds grown. Goodness knows how long it has been there: it might have been from this year but it was very, very dried out. Anyway, we met with the landowner and he is very keen for us to monitor the box in future.
The second box was just outside the village to the west. It was situated in a tree on a ridge running alongside the river Avon. This was a longer distance to walk with the equipment but only a two-section climb. This box, put together by local Scouts, yielded two Stock Dove pulli, just ready for ringing.
Their crops were hugely distended: Mum and Dad are clearly keeping them very well fed. Stock Dove numbers have declined significantly in the last 20 to 30 years, and the species is now amber listed in the UK. They do like nesting in holes, and the prevalence of Barn Owl boxes is certainly helping provide them with nesting places.
On the way back we stopped off at Avis Meadows to check the box that had 2 warm Stock Dove eggs in it three weeks ago. We were concerned that no adult left the nest as we approached, as they are usually very quick to fly off, and on checking the box it was empty, presumably the eggs / young have been predated.
Finally, we stopped of at our Drill Farm site to check the box that had two young and two unhatched eggs three weeks ago. This time we found three youngsters, two of which were ready for ringing and no sign of the other egg or chick. So, a bit of a mixed bag, but as Andrew ringed his first ever Stock Dove he felt teh drive up from Potterne was worthwhile.
I don’t know if any Aussies read this blog (actually, I do because WordPress publish those statistics for me – you would be surprised to know how far afield this blog is read: from Canada / USA to New Zealand and many points in between) but we had the BBC’s Ashes podcast playing on repeat all the time we were in the car. Bliss!