Barn Owls: 2021 Breeding Season Review

I started monitoring Barn Owl breeding in north-west Wiltshire in 2017. In that first year my team helped me check on 15 boxes. To be fair, we didn’t start until the September, so it wasn’t too surprising that we only ringed 3 broods comprising 8 chicks: at Drill Farm, Plain Farm and Blakehill Farm. We also managed to ring 4 Jackdaws in 2 broods at Blakehill Farm. It was a similar situation in 2018, but only 2 broods of Barn Owl chicks were ringed, plus one roosting adult. This time we had youngsters in one box at Blakehill and an adult in another there. The other brood was ringed in a condemned barn, in the worst box of our entire stock.

This box has been one of our most consistently productive but it won’t be there much longer. If it doesn’t fall down it will be pulled down. The Wildlife Trust, I am delighted to say, erected three new boxes in 2020, in the immediate area of this box.

2019 produced 10 youngsters and 2 adults from 15 boxes visited. It also produced one brood of 2 Stock Doves. 2020 was a bad year, primarily due to Covid restrictions imposed by the BTO, plus the need for social distancing and taking sensible precautions. We still ringed 8 young from 3 broods plus two broods of 2 Jackdaw chicks each.

So to 2021. Unfortunately, our nice Jackdaw nests, in the bug hotel at Blakehill Farm, were made homeless over-winter when the structure collapsed. However, we did get to check on 20 boxes. Of those 20, one box failed: there were 6 eggs laid but, on first checking, they were cold. On second checking six weeks later, they were still cold and unhatched. Eight boxes produced 26 young Barn Owls, one produced an adult Barn Owl, two of the new boxes erected by the Wildlife Trust produced a young Stock Dove each, and one box near Somerford Common produced young Jackdaws.

Some images from this year’s activity:

Newly hatched chick plus eggs (four hatched and fledged)
Fluffy chick stage: for such beautiful pale birds they do live in muck
Ready to fledge

Many of the boxes that we have been checking are very old and becoming extremely dilapidated, so I looked into if I could get funding to replace them. I approached one of the local landfill operators, Thomas Crapper & Sons, as I know they have been generous funders of developments for the Wildlife Trust, and they pointed me in the direction of Community First. I had to jump through a few hoops, filling in forms, getting quotations, so that they could put it forward to Entrust, who approve or deny such applications. I am delighted to say that I have received notification that the application has been successful and that the funding (hopefully) will be made available mid-November. That will set my team up for some hard work over the winter. The offer has been made to the team: the more help they give to get these boxes set up, the more opportunity I will give them to ring Barn Owls. Bribery is not always corruption.

Stock Dove a couple of weeks to fledging
Stock Dove ready to fledge