Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Stocktake in the owl box

I regularly hear tawny owls calling in the garden each autumn.  Thinking that it would be good to encourage them, I made an owl box and put it up at the end of 2014, probably a bit late for that season.

I monitored the box with a trail camera in an adjacent tree but there was no activity in spring 2015.  I set up the camera again in autumn that year and on one night did see a tawny owl checking out the box.

It isn't easy to be sure it's an owl from the still photo but towards the end of this video clip it takes its head out of the box and turns towards the camera so you can see what it is.

Despite visiting that one time the owls didn't return.  I presume they already had a nest site somewhere and only visit the garden as it is in their territory.  In spring 2016 there was interest from an American grey squirrel (an invasive alien species) so I had to close up the box for a while.

I put the camera up again last autumn and winter and again this spring but, apart from the occasional great tit standing on the platform, there was no activity.  So after three years I decided to give up and recycle the box into sparrow boxes. I climbed up the ladder this afternoon, planning to remove the box, but as I did so a stock dove flew out.  When I peeped inside I could see a chick.  I took one quick photo with the phone and beat a hasty retreat.  Looking at the photo there is a half size chick and an unhatched egg.

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) website says that stock doves nest from March to October and have up to five broods in a year so this is not particularly late.  I expect the unhatched egg is a dud as the chick appears at least half grown.  I'll have to decide now whether to leave the box or take it down this winter.  I doubt that owls will take any further interest in it.  I am happy for stock doves to use it but I don't want to encourage the grey squirrels.

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