Following on from our first site visit of the year on January 16, here is a summary of some further recent site visits that the team have undertaken.
Site visit 6. MG delivered and installed 4 new outdoor boxes to Guiting Power. This completes the suite of boxes at this site. Many thanks to the management and staff at this site whose interest, co-operation and support are outstanding. Monitoring of boxes will begin in May. Several Buzzards two Red Kites and a Kestrel were observed whilst installing the boxes.
Site visit 7. In the afternoon MG visited a new site above Winchcombe and surveyed the area with the site manager. Four potential sites were identified for boxes, with plenty of feeding habitat present. Report to be prepared for landowner.
Site Visit 5. MG delivered 6 new indoor boxes to Guiting Power for placement over next week. (Boxes in position by 20/02/2015 see photographs).
Site visit 4. MG and RH visited a farm near to Guiting Power to advise on nest box positioning. This is a fantastic farm which already has breeding barn owls, being monitored by the programme, but there is plenty of suitable feeding habitat, and evidence in outbuildings and barns of visits by barn owls. Five indoor sites and two outdoor sites were identified as potential nest places, so boxes were ordered.
Site visit 3. MG and WB to Grange Farm Dymock to put up two boxes. One an indoor box on a beam, in a barn, where pellets were found on floor and signs of roosting on beam. The other an outdoor box positioned on an old shattered oak to replace a natural nesting site that had gone when part of the tree fell down. An old box on the site needs repairing, but a Tawny owl was using this box as a roost site.
Site visit 2. Again with Vince to one of the Cotswold study sites. A new box was put up in a field where there is much barn owl activity, and pellets found at base of old shattered and dead oak. This oak also has a lot of splash on it and is the current roost site. However the tree will not last much longer, so the new box will hopefully be adopted by the owls. Also evidence of little owls on the site, and a kestrel seen feeding in the field.
Barn Owl GR00719 is a chick that was ringed back in 2011 in Dymock. Going against previous years, it hatched in a natural nest site as opposed to an owl box – in this particular year, the box had been occupied by Kestrels, so the Barn Owls chose a hollow in a fallen tree. Three years later in 2014, Barn Owls experience a record breaking breeding season, and GR00719 contributed to it – she was found breeding in Chesire, 132 miles away and 1074 days later. Mervyn’s full account of the story of Barn Owl GR00719 has been added to the documents page, or can be downloaded via this link.
The first site visit of the year, and the first for GBOMP. It was carried out with Vince from the “Barn Owl Centre” at one of his Cotswold study sites. Barn Owl pellets were found in one box, and collected for analysis. Some routine maintenance was carried out, and a new position for a box was identified, as there is sufficient rough grassland to eventually support two pairs of breeding owls. Whilst on site a Sparrowhawk was observed trying his luck with a flock of Jackdaws, three Buzzards were in the air at the same time, and a Red Kite put in a brief appearance.
It is looking as if the 2014 Barn Owl breeding season, nationally, was perhaps the best ever recorded (following an atrocious year in 2013, which was the worst since 1958). The breeding success of Barn Owls is very closely linked to vole abundance, and vole populations are cyclical, fluctuating widely over a 3-4 year period. The reasons for this fluctuation are something of an enigma (further reading). It has been estimated that in a bumper year, a hectare of suitable habitat can hold as many as 20,000 voles; in poor years the same area may support literally a handful. Barn Owls are stimulated into breeding condition by prey availability – the more prey there is, the earlier they lay their eggs, and this provides the opportunity for second clutches in good vole years, as was seen in Gloucestershire for the first time last year. Early indications are that 2015 may also be a good vole year..
When it comes to submitting records to the group, it’s not only dedicated nest-watchers and passionate birdwatchers that can make a difference to the conservation of Barn Owls in Gloucestershire. In fact, it’s the sightings that the casual observer might have on their drive home from work, or on an evening stroll, that are perhaps the most likely to help in identifying previously unknown birds. Once birds are known about, it then becomes possible to engage with landowners, monitor numbers and ultimately to protect the species and its habitats. We’re grateful for all sightings, whether they be chance encounters or concerted studies, so please do help us to build on the group’s existing knowledge by submitting your sightings.
Barn Owl (c) Les Waring
Welcome to Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme’s (GBOMP) new website. We hope that it will prove to be a useful resource not only for us as a monitoring group, but also for anyone with an interest in Gloucestershire’s Barn Owls. We will strive to make available news, reports and useful information whenever we can, and we are welcoming of any contributions our visitors may wish to make. The most obvious way in which you can help to further the knowledge of the group is to submit all your barn owl sightings. This will not only help us to build an accurate picture of the populations of species in the county, but will also contribute towards the protection of them and their habitats. In addition to your sightings, please feel free to get in touch with any news, thoughts or suggestions. Finally, if you have taken a photo that you’d like to share, we’d love to see it, and maybe even add it to the gallery. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter!
2014 was an exciting year for Barn Owls in Gloucestershire. For the first time ever, a second brood of Barn Owl chicks in the same breeding season were recorded in the county. The first brood consisted of five eggs, all of which hatched and all five chicks were ringed on 18th June. The second clutch also consisted of five eggs. The male soon disappeared, leaving the female to feed all the chicks, three of which survived and were ringed 8th October.