Last week volunteers joined us for two days of monitoring barn owl nest boxes. I’ve been involved with the Wokingham Borough scheme for over a decade, which was established in 2002 to support the threatened population of barn owls through installation of nest boxes. The nationwide network of nest boxes is thought to cater for around 0ne-third of the national population. These protected raptors need a license accreditation to inspect the boxes, which I’ve gained through the kind support Andy Glencross (Countryside Officer -Biodiversity, for Wokingham Borough Council) and Colin Shawyer (Barn Owl Conservation Network Co-ordinator for UK & Ireland.)
Last year was a bumper year for barn owl breeding, whilst this year we only found owls or kestrels in 3 of the 17 nest boxes. This fits the early indications observed by Colin that “only one-third of those barn owls which bred last year (about 9,000 pairs) [in the nest boxes] will successfully breed once again this year”. Barn owls are vulnerable to the cyclic dips in the population of their vole prey and also the weather, as they can’t hunt in the rain. The poor breeding this year is not a concern since the adults are still roosting in the boxes, and like in previous years I expect them to bounce back again.
As well as surveying the barn owl and kestrel chicks, we also carried out running repairs on some of the older worn boxes, setting up impromptu wood shops in fields to construct new roofs and doors. Thank you to everyone for all your hard work.