Saturday, 7 August 2010

All Gone... Nearly

Tiring work, being an Owl
It appears that congratulations are in order... Dad has performed miracles, seemingly on his own, to successfully raise 5 owlets whom have all now left the nest, bar one.

Having not seen any of the young for three days, I assumed they had all flown. However, late last night there was suddenly a owl-sized white bundle hurtle down from the nestbox and land on the post at the front of the tree. At 9.15pm on a cloudy evening, it was near impossible to identify which bird it was... but from the way it proceeded to throw itself ungracefully into a large nearby bush I think it can be safely assumed to be one of the juveniles.

The adult male has not returned that I have seen, although he has been spotted around the farm. So we know he is ok and has likely decided it's time the youngsters looked after themselves. A good plan, but he may have done himself out of a roost in the process! It will be interesting to see how long the homely juvenile is tolerated. Young Barn Owls very rarely stay around the area they were reared; average distance of dispersal is around seven miles, but some go further. It's possible - if it's a female - that she will not be driven away if mum is no longer around. If it's a young male he will soon be given his marching orders when Dad decides he wants his nestbox back.

I'm as certain as I can be there is no second brood, which always seemed at the far end of optimistic. We won't see much of him/them now until early 2011 with any luck. If we do, it probably means feeding isn't so good - and I'd rather think he's keeping well and has no need to hunt during the day. We could do with a mild winter; the lengthy cold last year has, according to estimates, decimated the Barn Owl population. There could be as few as 1,000 breeding pairs left. A mild winter would increase the chances of this year's brood and older birds surviving to breed and start increasing numbers again.  Juvenile Barn Owls across the country are entering a critical stage - the next three to six months are likely to be their toughest as they look for a home and experience their first winter. 50% of those who don't make it will be killed on roads. Please keep an eye out for them when you're driving, particularly on major roads, it might just save an Owl's life.

There's obviously been little to shoot over the past week, so I've posted up one of my favourite shots - three of the young napping at the front of the box. It proved near impossible to get this, the bright bush you can see at the bottom of the frame and the dark leaves of the tree usually obscure the front of the nest box completely during summer. On this occasion a gust of wind somehow swirled around enough to blow them in different directions.

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