Barn Owl Ringing the easy way: Friday, 12th August 2022

Although I have cancelled my bird ringing session for this weekend, because it is just too hot, and I think the birds don’t need any additional interference in their lives whilst dealing with this weather. Some are still rearing their last broods and / or fattening up for / starting their migration and I am happy to let them get on with it.

As the forecast is for it to be cooling down from Tuesday, getting some rain from Sunday, I am hoping for a session on Wednesday.

However, it was nice to get a call out of the blue from a local farmer and asked to go and ring the Barn Owl chicks in his box. I didn’t know him but he managed to find me through the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and their “What’s On” pages. Thanks to Robin Griffiths, volunteer warden and wildlife surveyor par excellence, for putting him in touch with me.

I had a chat and we agreed to meet up on Friday at 8:30, before it got too hot. I turned up to be met by the farmer, his wife and son and his farmhand. Due to my recent operation I am not allowed to carry anything heavy for another three to four weeks. We had agreed that they would carry the ladder to the barn, which they did, but it turned out that they had a tractor with a cherry-picker front, so that made the whole procedure much easier. Apparently some people are more scared of working from that than from the top of a ladder!

The farmer has a camera on the nest and thought he had four chicks, but it turns out he had five. I love it when you open the box to be met with a chorus of hissing. For one thing, it shows they are of a good size to ring. All were in good condition, all still downy but have just started growing their primary feathers and the oldest two had their head feathers showing well. It seemed only right to get the farmer and his farmhand to hold the birds for me to ring them: which I know they enjoyed immensely.

The adults haven’t been seen in the daytime yet, which would often be a sign of a lack of prey, so, hopefully, stocks of short-tailed voles, field mice, etc are holding up well despite the weather.

Despite my having been out of action for the last 4 weeks, this takes this year’s total of juvenile Barn Owls ringed to 21, compared with last year’s total of 26 juveniles and one adult. Hopefully by the end of September we will have matched last year’s total: I do know I still have a number of other boxes to check and they could well be on second broods now.

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