Sunday, 20 March 2011

Nothing to Declare

For anyone interested in the Barn Owl situation - No sightings since the weekend that it was first seen. I have been regularly checking in, and I'd really expect to see some activity by now if there was any chance of a nesting pair. So my gut feeling is she's either moved on, or is a solitary bird who has no need for hunting in daylight hours at the moment. If she has gone elsewhere, of course you start to wonder why... Are there simply too many dog walkers and joggers around the farm? Have the fields been over-grazed by the cows and sheep that were employed as biological lawn-mowers (I'm not particularly up on this subject, but the grass still seems rather short to support a population of field voles to me... and there was little in the way of verge left by the hay cutting last July)? Has the seemingly never-ending building work at the house caused too much disturbance? Unless anyone speaks Owl, all we can do is speculate. However I do feel that there is room for improvement in the management of the site; at the moment it seems little more than a communal dog toilet. Still, the optimist in me hopes she is still there, and a mate will arrive in the coming days. We may just have a longer wait for the young to emerge compared to last year.

Away from Horsham - I've heard of two reports of Barn Owl deaths in the Arun Valley this week. One predated, the other possibly starved. Even the birds that made it through the winter are likely to be poor condition and struggling to condition themselves for breeding. This will have a knock-on effect with small broods and females who may abandon nests in need of food; it doesn't bode well for the future. We need a dry summer and a kind following winter to allow the population to begin to recover.

My focus has switched to the area around Warnham for now - there have been sightings of Barn Owls in the area encircled by the A29, A281 and A24. No luck yet, but then I'm still waiting on the extra hour of light from next weekend to give me more time. Tracking down subjects for wildlife photography and working full-time are not compatible - I guess that's why I encounter few like-minded people of similar age to myself. But I have no intention of waiting 30 years+ to retire so I suppose I'll have to make do - and hope for a lottery win! That £120m Euromillions jackpot next Friday would keep me going for a while...

1 comment:

  1. According to BTO stats, Barn Owl sightings are at their lowest March and April. One explanation would be that the female is tucked away on the nest and the male still does the majority of hunting under cover of darkness. I am therefore filled with fresh optimism and will defer any further negativity until June!