Having joined forces with the Thornham Owl Project to form the East Anglian Nest Box Project, supporters of the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has been instrumental in funding the development of a network of roosting sites for the local population of Barn Owls and other wild birds of prey.
A Great Year for Barn Owls
Project leader, Roger Buxton reports that 2017 has been a record year, with 152 Barn Owl pulli ringed. This surpasses the previous high of 2014 when 147 were ringed - a successful outcome which brings the grand total of Barn Owl youngsters ringed over the last ten years to 715.
In 2017, nest box checking began as usual in the first week of June and it quickly became evident, by the amount of debris found in some Barn Owl boxes, that young had already been fledged. This was due to a very warm spell of weather in late March of last year, which it is thought encouraged some early breeding.
When weather conditions took a turn for the worse, breeding was delayed again. As a consequence young were still being ringed in late September and well into early October.
Barn Owl brood sizes were as follows: 10 broods consisted of 1 chick, 13 consisted of 2 chicks, 17 boxes contained 4 chicks and 3 contained 5 youngsters, giving an average brood size of 2.81 - a very productive year, though falling just short of the exceptional average brood size of 2014.
Barn Owl boxes also proved to be a target for a variety of “squatters”! These included stock doves (50), hornets (2), jackdaws (34) and a solitary squirrel.
2017 was also another success story for kestrel nestboxes with 20 of the 46 boxes being used and a record 88 youngsters being ringed. Brood size also attained a new record of 4.4, an increase on the previous high in 2012 of 4.0
This is a particularly satisfying result for the project since the British Trust for Ornithology have raised the conservation status of the kestrel to “amber”.
The Amber classification denotes “….species which have an unfavourable status in Europe, whose population or range has declined moderately in recent years, or those whose population has declined historically but made a substantial recent recovery.”
Kestrel boxes also showed evidence of other unusual occupants such as squirrels and jackdaws.
Roger and his colleagues reported a reasonable year for the project’s Tawny Owl boxes; 8 of the 47 boxes had been used and two nest sites within the boxes produced 19 pulli.
These figures seem to reflect the worrying national trend for the gradual but consistent decline of this bird over the last few years, which saw it’s conservation status elevated from green to amber in November 2017.
As Roger explains, “There is an urgent need to expand our knowledge of this species so that we are in the best possible position to provide advice on issues that may impact them; whether they are changes in planning policy, alterations to agri-environment schemes, the management of our woodland estates or climate change.”
The BTO is currently undertaking a survey to investigate the demise of this bird more closely and are launching a programme designed to bring more people into contact with Tawny Owls, improve their knowledge of the bird’s condition and support monitoring work undertaken by local groups.
Hopefully, this proactive initiative will kick-start long-term projects and ultimately increase the breeding success of Tawny Owls.
The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary and its supporters are indebted to Roger and his colleague, Kevin who have continue to devote many, many hours to the nest box scheme; the building, erecting and maintaining boxes and weighing, measuring and ringing of pulli to support and encourage positive outcomes for our local owl populations.
You can help! Please Sponsor a Nest Box ...
If you would like to sponsor an owl nest box, in your own name or on behalf of a relative or friend, please call our admin. team on 0345 680 7897. Sponsors will receive a certificate of thanks, supporters’ enamel lapel badge, S.O.S. newsletter and wooden fob bearing the identification number of their sponsored box.