Tuesday, 1 December 2015

BBOG 2015 Annual Report

The BBOG 2015 Annual Report is available by clicking on the link below:

BBOG Annual Report 2015

14-year-old Barn Owl

We've received feedback from the BTO on a ringed Barn Owl found in one of our boxes this year showing it to be 14 years and 33 days old.

As currently the oldest Barn Owl recorded on the BTO ringing database is 15 years 3 months old, this bird is quite a survivor.

And if it can survive another breeding season it could well become the oldest recorded
wild British Barn Owl !

Thursday, 16 July 2015

2015 Barn Owl box checking - Round 2

barn owl (female)
This week we completed our second round of barn owl box checking.

Of the 20 boxes revisited where nesting had been attempted, 8 nests (or 40%) were found to have failed due to the adults being unable to provide enough food for their young.

The remaining 12 active nests contained a total of 24 chicks of which 21 were old enough to be ringed.
The spread of brood sizes was:
  • 4 nests with 1 chick
  • 5 nests with 2 chicks
  • 2 nests with 3 chicks
  • 1 nest  with 4 chicks
The reduced vole population this year is clearly having a marked impact on barn owl breeding productivity - particularly compared to last year's bumper year.

A further 5 boxes were found to contain females that had not yet reached breeding condition. Hopefully if there is an upturn in the vole population over the summer some of these birds will go on to breed.

In our other boxes, both pairs of little owls raised 2 chicks each, as did one of the two pairs of kestrels.  

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Kestrel chicks ringed

Kestrel chick

We returned this week to one of our two occupied kestrel boxes to ring the chicks.

The two surviving chicks were about 25 days old, and still about a week off fledging.

Hopefully the other kestrel nest will be successful too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

2015 Barn Owl box checking - Round 1 summary

Adult female barn owl
This week we completed our first round of barn owl box checking, finding a total of 21 active barn owl nests. Half of the nests are in boxes that have not been used before, including one only put up in April of this year.

Fourteen of the nests contain chicks, all but one of which are under two weeks old, with seven nests still at the egg stage. Brood sizes are smaller than last year, with no nest having more than three chicks. A further four boxes contained females that have not yet started to lay eggs.

So far this year we have ringed 15 adult barn owls and a single chick, which was 45 days old. Two adults were found that had been ringed as chicks last year, having dispersed about 6km from where they fledged.

In addition to the barn owls we also have two kestrel and two little owl nests.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Barn Owl nests

Barn Owl (female) found with 3 eggs
Last week's checking took the number of active barn owl nests in our boxes to seven, only two of which contained hatched chicks.

Some of the clutches were not yet complete, and one other box contained a pair that had not yet started egg laying.

Several of the nests are in boxes being used for the first time by birds that only hatched last year. Perhaps these nests partly explain the later nesting season this year.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Tawny Owl chick ringed

Last Thursday we returned to ring the tawny owl brood found earlier in the month.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when food is short, only one of the two chicks has survived this far.

The growth over the three weeks since we last saw this chick at just a few days old is remarkable - as seen in these two photos.

Within another week or so this chick will be ready to leave the nest. 

Tawny Owl chick at three weeks old
Tawny Owl chicks just a few days old

Monday, 18 May 2015

Homefield Wood Tawny Owl boxes

We were out today installing two tawny owl boxes at Homefield Wood near Marlow.

Although it is too late for the boxes to be used this year, we have high hopes for next year as tawny owls are often heard calling here, even during the daytime.

Thanks go to Steve Carter and Jo Mason of the Chilterns Forestry Commission for arranging the necessary permissions.

Tawny Owl box MC24
Tawny Owl box MC23

BBOWT Barn Owl

Barn Owl (female)

Last weekend this female barn owl was found to be
incubating a clutch of 5 eggs in a box on a BBOWT reserve.

Barn owls are capable of breeding in their first year after hatching, which is the case with this female who has nested in a box that hasn't been used before. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Tawny Owls in 2015

Checking our tawny owl boxes has so far revealed just one active nest with a female brooding two young chicks, and one failed nest where a single egg had been predated.

None of the four boxes used successfully last year has been re-used this year, with one of them being taken over by nesting jackdaws.

Adult female Tawny Owl
Pair of Tawny Owl chicks, with eyes not yet open

Thursday, 30 April 2015

2015 Barn Owl season underway!

The first barn owl egg was laid on 24th April in one of our nest boxes fitted with a camera. A similar date to last year.

Here's hoping it's the first of many barn owl nests in our boxes this year.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Owl boxes for BBOWT reserves

Yoesden Bank - barn owl box

Taking advantage of today's warm sunshine, Bob and Paul spent a busy day putting up owl boxes on BBOWT's Yoesden Bank and Swains Wood reserves.

Yoesden Bank - little owl box
With great support from Debbie Lewis, BBOWT Reserves Ecology Manager, and Mark Vallance, BBOWT Reserves Manager (Bucks),  we were able to assist the BBOWT "Help to save local Barn Owls" initiative.

  In total we managed to install 2 x barn owl, 2 x tawny owl, 1 little owl and 1 kestrel box.

Swains Wood - barn owl box
Yoesden Bank - tawny owl box


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Owl box transporter

Box transporter

When installing a barn owl box at Widbrook Common near Cookham today, we made use of this handy sack-trolley to transport the box across the fields.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Modified Schwegler Little Owl box

Modified Schwegler box 1CGA
Based on feedback from around the country, it appears that the Schwegler 1CGA nest box is not suitable for little owls - even though it is marketed as such.
The most obvious design flaw is the lack of an entrance tunnel, considered essential by many UK little owl experts.
To overcome this flaw, we have modified our boxes using a length of 69mm diameter plastic pipe to create an internal entrance tunnel .

Hopefully this modified box will prove more successful.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Cookham Little Owl project

LO12: refurbished little owl box
Following our recent survey of the Cookham little owl boxes installed by Brian Clews over ten years ago, we are in the process of re-siting those that were recovered for repair.

The expectation is that by the end of March there will again be over 25 boxes available for little owls to use.

Berkshire College of Agriculture [BCA] - Part 2

BCA04: kestrel box
Yesterday, Bob and Paul returned to the BCA to complete the owl box installs there for this year - with barn owl, little owl and kestrel boxes added.

It was very encouraging to hear a little owl calling while we were installing a box for them near to the animal enclosures.

BCA06: little owl box

Our thanks go to Viccy Hatton, Lecturer and Course Manager in Animal Studies at BCA, for her great support of the owl box programme.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Fifield and Touchen End boxes

barn owl box - new design
On a return visit to Fifield and Touchen End yesterday we were able to put up 2 kestrel, 1 little owl, 1 tawny owl and 1 barn owl box.
The tawny owl box is a replacement for one that had a nest in 2013 but which blew down last year.
The barn owl box is the first of our new design boxes - see photo.
This design has a larger floor space than the triangle box, and the entrance hole has been positioned higher, to prevent the chicks from leaving before they are ready to fledge.

Friday, 13 February 2015

100th Barn Owl box

HV13: barn owl box at Fawley
Today's barn owl box installation at Fawley makes it a century of barn owl boxes to be monitored by BBOG in 2015 !

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Owl boxes for Holtspur Bank Reserve

HW16: tawny owl box
With help from John Shaw of the Chiltern Rangers, today saw us putting up barn owl,  tawny owl, and kestrel boxes at Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve near Beaconsfield.
The boxes have been constructed by Les Davies, Chairman of the "Friends of Holtspur Bank", a local volunteer group.

Let's hope for some takers come the spring.

HW17: barn owl box
HW18: kestrel box

Friday, 6 February 2015

Owl boxes for Hughenden Park

HW12: kestrel box
Thanks to the kind support of Andrew Kauffman and Paul Frost of Quadron Services, we were able to install a barn owl, kestrel and tawny owl box at Hughenden Park, High Wycombe today.

With all the surrounding good habitat we are hopeful of takers for these boxes.

HW11: tawny owl box
HW10: barn owl box
HW13: internal barn owl box

We then went on to install a home-made barn owl box inside a barn nearby in the Hughenden Valley.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tawny Owl boxes at Pullingshill Wood, Marlow

Box MC20: Pullingshill Wood
Today we installed two tawny owl boxes on Woodland Trust land at Pullingshill Wood, Marlow.
This site is contiguous with Marlow Common, managed by the Chiltern Society, where we have another four tawny owl boxes - one of which contained three chicks in 2014.
We will now be able to monitor a high proportion of the tawny owl population in this area.

Bracknell owl boxes

Bee-hive in little owl box
Another cold day yesterday saw Bob and Paul joined by Dan Carpenter, Biodiversity Officer for Bracknell Forest District Council, installing owl boxes north of Bracknell.
First a new barn owl box was put up at Pope's Meadow, where inspection of a little owl box revealed its change-of-use to a bee-hive!
Then two barn owl boxes at Easthampstead Park were cleared of squirrels and lowered to a more accessible height.
Next a dilapidated barn owl box at Moss End Farm that had been used by little owls for some years was replaced.
Finally a further barn owl box at Winkfield Row was cleared of squirrel drey, jackdaw and stock dove nests.
Our thanks go to Dan for his support of our Barn Owl Group.


Owl boxes west of Windsor

Barn owl box at Fifield
Last Saturday Carl, Karl and Paul spent a chilly but productive day putting up a barn owl and three little owl boxes west of Windsor: at Fifield; Holyport; and Touchen End.

We also inspected two existing barn owl boxes, one of which had held first a kestrel nest followed by a barn owl nest; the other was being used as a barn owl roost site.

A follow-up visit is planned to install further boxes in this area.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Cookham Little Owl boxes

A frosty start today saw us inspecting little owl boxes at White Place Farm, Cookham. The boxes were installed about 10 years ago by Brian Clews as part of a project to reverse the decline in the local little owl population. Unsurprisingly some of the original 50 or so boxes in the area around Cookham are now in need of repair.
We found a little owl roosting in a box here last November, and another one was seen today - an encouraging sign ahead of this year's nesting season.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Berkshire College of Agriculture [BCA]

Barn Owl box at BCA
Making the most of yesterday's sunshine, we put up a new barn owl box at the BCA in an area where barn owls have been seen regularly. Whilst there, we also re-sited a kestrel box and inspected a tawny owl box, but which showed no signs of occupancy as yet.
Our thanks go to Nick Shelley, Animal Welfare instructor at the BCA, for his support.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Roosting Barn Owls

Despite the squally rain yesterday, we installed a barn owl box at Fingest; and one each of barn owl, tawny owl, and kestrel boxes near to Ibstone. We also repaired the leaking roof of an old box that has been used for several years, and which contained a pair of roosting barn owls, one of which was photographed.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

2014 Nest Summary

Barn Owl:
Ten barn owl nests were located, at three of which we were able to ring the chicks.
The greatest concentration of nests was in the Hambleden Valley, where there is plenty of ideal vole habitat.

Tawny Owl:
Four tawny owl boxes were used for nesting, each containing young that we ringed.
Roosting adults were located at two further boxes.

None of the kestrel boxes was used in 2014.

Little Owl:
There were only four little owl boxes monitored this year.
One of these was found to contain two unhatched eggs, with a little owl roosting nearby.

In 2015 we will be monitoring over 250 raptor boxes made up of over 105 barn owl boxes; 65 tawny owl boxes; 45 little owl boxes and 30 kestrel boxes.