By all accounts Barn Owls appear to be having a better year.
2013 was a very poor breeding season for the Barn Owl caused by the poor spring weather and dearth of voles. Preliminary reports for 2014 from the British Trust for Ornithology quote high site occupancy rates, some egg laying 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, large clutch sizes and large broods. The most important element this year is the extremely high numbers of voles, confirmed by large food caches being reported in nest boxes by bird ringers and nest recorders.
From the BBC Cambridgeshire....
“Conservationists are celebrating after Barn Owls nesting at a Cambridgeshire farm hatched twice as many chicks as this time last spring. Three pairs of birds at Lark Rise farm have produced 17 chicks in total and may have a second brood this summer. The UK Barn Owl population was hit badly last year after a late spring. Vince Lea, from The Countryside Restoration Trust which runs the farm, said the brood was “the biggest ever” in the 12 years since the owls arrived.
“These record-breaking numbers of Barn Owl chicks are a direct result of the trust’s wildlife-friendly farming methods.” The increase was “astonishing evidence of a comeback”, he added.
Meadows, grass margins and hedgerows had “helped create an ideal barn owl habitat”, Mr Lea said, as well as encouraging other wildlife including water voles – “their favourite snack” to the area.
Dead voles had been found stored in one of the three nesting boxes on the 450-acre (182 hectares) arable farm near Cambridge, which Mr Lea said was proof of an abundance of that species on the farm.
“We had no owls in this area for a long time, then eventually they started to nest and generally we’d have about three chicks per pair each year,” he said. Colin Shawyer, from the Barn Owl Conservation Network, which monitors the species, said 2013 had been “an exceptionally poor breeding year”.
“Lark Rise’s brood is most definitely a sign that 2014 is going to be a good one for Barn Owls. Two of the females have not gone into moult yet, which is a good sign they will attempt a second brood,” he said.”
The British Trust for Ornithology estimates there are about 4,000 breeding pairs of Barn Owls in the UK, and lists their conservation status as “amber” indicating the species is, or has recently been, in decline.
At the moment here in coastal Lancashire our local Barn Owls seem very active, as regular readers of Another Bird Blog will know. I saw two more Barn Owls this morning, a pair of birds little more than a hundred yards apart, goings-on which suggest they have young in the nest.
One flew across the road in front of me and then headed over the fields and out of sight before I spotted the second one on a roadside “For Sale” sign. I wondered if the owl was looking for a new place to live so intent was it on studying the sign and the ground below.
There wasn’t a lot doing at Conder Green on yet another sunny, warm morning, but it was great to be out in the free and fresh air.
Very noticeable was the number of Reed Buntings about with one in song at the bridge plus several juveniles along the hedgerow which abuts the pool. Three Pied Wagtail on the edges of the pool and in the hawthorn hedgerow, a single Greenfinch and 2 Tree Sparrows, while more than 60 Swifts hawked the midges stemming from the hedgerow.
A Blackcap and Sedge Warbler sang near The Stork car park. Another Sedge Warbler was in song near the pool viewpoint from where I counted the wildfowl and waders as 50+ Redshank, 24 Lapwing, 15 Oystercatcher, 2 Wigeon, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Little Egret.
Yes, owls are definitely ace but all birds are just wonderful aren’t they?
Call in to Another Bird Blog soon and see more first-rate birds. Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.