About the Barn Owl
Nestcam Diary 2013
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20th - a Barn Owl is still using the barn and nestbox for roosting on a daily basis this month. Incidentally, the office will be closed from Tuesday 24th December to Thursday 2nd January inclusive so no one will be able to respond to any queries during this time. However, normal service will be resumed as soon after the 2nd January as our Christmas Pud-laden tummies will allow.
Many thanks to all those who supported us during some difficult times this year. A peaceful Solstice, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all of the staff here at the Barn Owl Trust to all of you.
10th - a (male?) Barn Owl is at roost in the nestbox this morning.
5th - more canoodling has been reported overnight.
30th - the/a pair of Barn Owls was seen canoodling on the tray on the evening of the 30th.
25th - the unringed bird is still roosting in the nestbox this morning.
18th - reports have been received over the weekend of an owl roosting in the nestbox. Indeed, one is at roost there this morning.
11th - an unringed individual is roosting in the nestbox this morning.
6th - a Barn Owl on the back beam of the barn this morning looks unringed (although admittedly it's difficult to tell). In fact, video taken overnight shows two owls in the barn. Whether these are our adults or new birds is a matter of conjecture.
31st - a Barn Owl was present in the barn at the month's end, but we're not sure whether this was one of our owlets, a different youngster or one of the adults.
22nd - apologies for lack of transmission, the output computer has broken and is due to be fixed at the end of the week.
9th - after an absence of a couple of days, a bird is visible via Barncam today.
7th - reports received over the weekend indicate the remaining 'owlet' was present in the barn on Saturday and Sunday but does not appear to be visible today.
4th - still one 'owlet' about, at least it was first thing.
1st - still just the one bird remaining on the beam behind the nestbox today.
30th - still only one Barn Owl at roost in the barn this morning.
27th - only one bird in the barn again today.
26th - despite both the nestbox and the barn being empty first thing this morning, one bird did eventually turn up and was at roost during the day in the barn. Has the other finally dispersed?
23rd - only one bird was visible in the barn on Saturday but both now appear to be back in the nestbox this morning.
16th - despite one of the youngsters being on the floor of the barn over the weekend, both were at roost back in the nestbox this morning. Thanks for the lovely photo Isabel.
12th - neither owlet was around yesterday evening, either in the nestbox or barn, as far as we could see. However, both are back in the nestbox again this morning.
10th - both 'owlets' are still in the nestbox this morning with a cached Field Vole. We've yet to receive reports that either bird has actually left the confines of the barn but it can only be a matter of time.
5th - reports received overnight indicate that neither bird was visible on camera for a time last night, suggesting that both have fledged successfully. However, they are back in the nestbox this morning safe and sound.
3rd - both owlets are still in the nestbox much of the time but are becoming increasingly brave as they develop. One of the birds, probably the elder, was observed flying around the barn last night whilst the presumed younger seemed a little more reticent about joining its sibling. It's only a matter of time though.
30th - both owlets now seem quite capable of exiting the nestbox and can be seen on the box tray and lid after dark waiting for the adults to return with food.
28th - thanks to all who have been keeping us updated on the owlets progress! Both are now exploring outside the box on a regular basis, and are doing well. Plenty of wing stretches happening inside the box in preparation for the next step!
25th - both owlets seen outside the box tonight. Back inside now and Natalie reports two food deliveries so far, one each.
6th - 16:45 GMT - the small mammal delivered early this morning is still there! Running around and going right up to the owlets! Also, we now believe it to be a mouse as opposed to a Field Vole- Our Senior Conservation Officer spotted a long tail!
6th - thanks to those who reported a surprise this morning in the form of a live Field Vole running around the nestbox, much to the bemusement of the owlets. The vole was last seen running up towards the camera at about 8.30am but is presumably still about somewhere... Thanks to Scylla for this video.
30th - as the month draws to a close, the two owlets still appear to be doing okay. Only one adult now roosts in the barn, and even she(?) seems to be able to find somewhere else to go on occasion. This is fairly typical behaviour at this stage of the nesting cycle and there's no suggestion that the male is not still provisioning after dark.
22nd- David Ramsden our Head of Conservation, visited the nest to ring and weigh the young owlets. He says the two are a good weight, were full of food and are in a good condition. Well done to the parents!
21st - the smallest owlet was seen to take a small mammal and eat it whole over the weekend, which is great news.
17th - apologies for the lack of updates, we're currently up to our necks in annual monitoring visits.
We are experiencing something of a heatwave in the UK at the moment, with temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius (don't laugh some of you, it's a heatwave for us!). This is why the owlets are lying down a lot, so please don't worry about them.
5th - confirmation today of what we had feared since Wednesday 3rd - that we are down to only 2 owlets. This initially came as a bit of a surprise as there have been cached food items in the nestbox virtually all week. However, this may be an inexperienced female trying to breed in extremely difficult conditions so in retrospect perhaps isn't too unexpected. Fingers crossed for the two remaining owlets.
30th - Egg 4 hatched some time between 2pm and 9.30pm, so we now have 3 owlets. There also appears to have been a few prey deliveries recently, which is great news.
28th - at 8.30am, the female stood up to reveal 2 little squigglers so Egg 3 has hatched, right on cue. Thanks to all those who reported food deliveries last night, which is great news. There's also a Field Vole cached on the right hand side (middle) of the nestbox as I type.
27th - although difficult to make out, it looks like 2 small mammals are still cached in the nestbox this afternoon, directly under the access hole. This must mean that the female isn't hungry, due to sufficient prey being delivered overnight.
25th - there is some confusion this morning concerning what's going on with our nesting Barn Owls. Technical issues are making viewing challenging but it looks like Egg 2 has hatched. However, it also appears that Chick 1 has already succumbed.
In general it looks like an appalling small mammal year. Recent checks of traditional sites in the north of Devon are revealing very little breeding. Nesting occupancy at these sites usually runs at about 50% but so far it's as low as 12%, with those pairs that have survived still not breeding, presumably due to being underweight. We're lucky that the Nestcam birds have attempted to breed at all so we can only hope for a positive outcome under these difficult circumstances.
23rd - Bang on time! Egg number one hatched late on the 23rd. Hopefully the remaining eggs will also hatch successfully.
10th - a cached small mammal in the nestbox yesterday was a good sign, but a few more a little more regularly would be nice.
7th - despite the heat, our female is steadfastly incubating the eggs, standing for only short periods before resuming. Still no sign of a food cache in the nestbox, unless you know different . . .
3rd - so, the clutch of four eggs now appears to be complete, with no additions over the weekend. Not a bad effort considering the situation nationally. Working on a 32 day average incubation period (range 31-33 days), herewith, some important dates for your diary....
Egg 1; laid 22/05/13, due approximately 23/06/13
Egg 2; laid 25/05/13, due approximately 26/06/13
Egg 3; laid 27/05/13, due approximately 28/06/13
Egg 4; laid 30/05/13, due approximately 01/07/13
30th - reports received in the early hours indicate we have a fourth egg!!! Great news.
29th - rather frustratingly, we're experiencing technical problems this morning. We've rebooted both the computer and the router, which initially fixed the problem, but the stream has since dropped out again and we're not sure why. Please be patient whilst we endeavour to get the cameras back up and running.
28th - many thanks to all those who responded to our request for prey delivery observations. Clearly the male has been able to bring in enough food for the female to continue laying, as our 2nd and 3rd eggs arrived some time on the 25th and 27th respectively. We'll be lucky to get any more this year but would like to be pleasantly surprised. If we're lucky, the next egg is due tomorrow or Thursday.
24th - just a quick posting to say that the cams are down at the moment (4.45pm) so if you can't see them, that's why. We'll do our best to keep them up and running over the Bank Holiday but there may be periods when this isn't possible so please be patient and do pop back regualrly. Apologies for any inconvenience.
23rd - more good news this morning, as the female was seen to tuck into a large cached Field Vole for breakfast at about 8.20am.
22nd - 14:30 - we have an egg!! Laid at some stage early afternoon, whilst the conservation team were receiving training. We arrived back in the office and as she stood up to re-arrange herself at about half 4, we spotted her first egg. Of course we hope she will lay again in another 2-3 days time, however keeping in mind the situation this year (discussed below) we will be unlikely to get anywhere near as many eggs this year compared with the 7 we had last year.
22nd - thanks to all those who responded to the last diary entry. To put our birds into context, the female at Heligan laid a clutch of three eggs, finishing the last of these on the 12th May. Average clutch size is between 5 and 6 eggs, so this is well short of what might have been hoped for. Another female in Wiltshire laid a single egg on the 12th May but did not incubate, perhaps as a result of falling out of breeding condition due to lack of food. Another pair in the north of Devon appear to be have been copulating for a few weeks now but no sign of any laying.
We'd be interested to receive any reports of observed food deliveries for our female, so please do feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll let you know what's going on by posting events on the diary. Thank you.
21st - here's an update for those wondering what's happening with our owls at the moment.
The late winter period typically sees a peak in adult Barn Owl mortality. This is generally associated with the lowest point of the small mammal cycle, with many owls starving at this time and is an entirely natural phenomenon. However, late March this year saw an exceptional increase in adult mortality, and this seems to have extended into April. It was at this time that we apparently lost the resident female at this site, probably to starvation. For those Barn Owls that have survived, life has been tough. Average first egg lay date for the south west in recent years is the middle of April so eggs should have been laid and in the process of hatching by now. However, we currently know of only one confirmed nesting attempt in the south west. There will be others of course, but for the majority food appears to be in limited supply; they haven't started laying because the females are probably underweight and not yet in breeding condition.
Small mammal densities should start to increase from now through into the autumn so we're optimistic that at some point we'll get a breeding attempt. That's assuming the weather behaves itself this year of course and the small mammal cycle picks up.
14th - our female is still in and around the nestbox but sadly no sign of any eggs. The change in the weather probably hasn't helped - it's tipping it down here at the moment and looks cold and unsettled for the next week or so. Let's hope we get a period of decent, warm, sunny weather in the foreseeable future. It's definitely not too late for a nesting attempt just yet.
9th - apologies for the technical difficulties recently, an IP problem was the cause (whatever that is), finally sorted yesterday by our IT guru Alan (thanks Alan). We're delighted that in the down time our male has managed to secure himself a rather handsome, dark, well-marked new female. He also managed to feed her and himself last night, and cache at least 3 small mammals in the box for her breakfast this morning, of which 2 had been consumed by 8.45am.
7th - whilst trying to get to the bottom of our streaming problems, remote access gave us some great news: two birds back in the box! Seen preening, copulating and generally being rather attentive. Very encouraging!
30th - no reports of a second bird have been received to date so suspect we're down to one. However, with sufficient food Barn Owls can lay at almost any time so it's not too late just yet.
26th - with only one bird visible daily in the barn, it's unclear how many birds are actually at the site at the moment. At least, there's no hint of nesting behaviour if there are two birds, although, having said that, we've yet to receive a confirmed report of Barn Owls on eggs from anywhere, so it may just be a late year. Unfortunately, what we are still getting is reports of Barn Owls being found dead or emaciated so fingers crossed we'll get a nesting attempt when the weather improves. Please do let us know if you see two birds together in the barn at any point. Thank you.
22nd - little sign of any change, with only one bird in and around the barn in recent weeks. It's unclear whether we only have the one bird or whether the female is not yet in breeding condition but with the levels of mortality widely reported around the country, we may be down to one bird.
8th - still no sign of two birds roosting together, a prerequisite even for a short time prior to a breeding attempt. One of the pair is at roost in the nestbox this morning, not sure if male or female.
4th - interesting to note that by this time last year the female had already laid 3 of her 7 eggs yet the pair isn't even regularly roosting together as I write.
21st - coincidence or not, it's interesting how the presence of the birds in the nestbox seems to coincide with better weather. Last week during a notable dry, calm spell (yes, we did have one, honest!), both birds were roosting in the nestbox but since turning colder and more unsettled again they have been roosting on the beams beside the nestbox in the barn.
14th - after a couple of days of only one bird in the barn, the pair has been reunited, with further canoodling in the nestbox this morning.
11th - the first canoodling of the year occurred a couple of times today; for an extended period mid-morning and again briefly mid-afternoon - a sign that spring is on its way (although it certainly doesn't feel like it if you've ventured outside into the biting gale force north easterly that's set in today).
4th - great news! A flurry of emails over the weekend reported that a second bird had been seen in the barn. The earliest report was from Saturday night, but two owls were around yesterday too and this morning both are currently at roost in the nestbox as I write. Now all we need is to get good views of the birds' left ankles; if they're sporting metal rings then it's most likely they're the same birds as last year, but if unringed (or ringed on the right ankle) then they're new. Either way, it's great to have a pair back. The rings are not easy to see so good views are required to be sure.
1st - more prolonged views of the remaining bird in the nestbox seem to confirm that it is male, though without seeing whether it is ringed or not makes it impossble to say whether it's the same male as last summer.
27th - the one bird that's still about was in the nestbox mid-afternoon and looked very pale so is thought to be the male. However, it was not possible to see if it was ringed (which would be on its left leg if so), so please do let us know if you are able to see a ring on this individual.
15th - still only one bird in the barn today for the twelfth consecutive day suggests that one of the pair may have succumbed.
7th - only one bird is in the barn again today for the third consecutive day.
4th - neither bird seemed to be in the barn/nestbox first thing this morning, the first time in several weeks that the site had been unoccupied. However, by mid-morning a bird had appeared, roosting on the beams.
31st - as the month draws to a close, both birds are sitting on the tray this morning, viewable via Barncam.
28th - both birds were reported in the barn on Saturday and Sunday, and are visible this morning via Barncam.
25th - by 11.00am, the one bird that had been in the barn first thing had disappeared.
22nd - only one bird was visible first thing by 9.30am, but a second had appeared by 10.30am. Where was it? Was it simply out of view, or did it fly in?
21st - the pair is again together in the nestbox today.
18th - normal service has been resumed today, with both birds back in the barn/nestbox. We have had some snow this morning, but fortunately this is due to be washed away this afternoon when the rain sets in. However, for those barn owners with resident Barn Owls in areas facing the possibility of prolonged snow cover, please see our leaflet on supplementary feeding >>>>>
17th - for the first time in weeks, neither bird is in the barn this morning.
11th - the pair was in the nestbox this morning where more mutual preening occurred, just after 9.00am
10th - both birds are again viewable, one in the nestbox via Nestcam (possibly the male), the other on the beams via Barncam.
7th - the pair is at roost on the beams, viewable via Barncam.
4th - both birds were at roost in the nestbox this morning, where some mutual preening took place.
3rd - one of the pair was at roost in the nestbox first thing this morning but had moved to join its mate outside on the back beam by lunchtime. Interestingly, both birds still seem to be spending almost all of their time in this building at the moment. Will they stay to nest here this Spring, that's the question?