We recently ventured out and across the East Park at Compton Verney, on a long-awaited mission to place our new barn owl boxes into position. We’ve opted for two boxes at present, the location chosen carefully to offer protection from the worst of the winter weather, along with ease of access for barn owls. Additionally, the location is far enough away from main woodland areas to avoid occupation by squirrels, and from roads to avoid owl collision with vehicles – we hope.
The installation was a team effort, although I have to admit it was Adam who drew the short straw, venturing up the ladder to locate and fix the boxes. Volunteer Dick and I stayed firmly on the ground, one securing the ladder whilst one hoisted the box into the tree with a rope – a simple system that seemed to work well enough.
We’ve learned that whilst boxes are more protected when placed higher up a tree, they’re actually harder to access for future surveying and cleaning. For this reason we placed our boxes between 3 and 4 meters up their respective trees, attaching them securely, allowing plenty of space for the tree to continue its expansion. A balance has also been sought to allow some protection to the box from the elements, whilst allowing a relatively easy flight path to the front entrance.
We’ve become aware that barn owl’s like to forage over parkland that holds a good amount of thatch, or dense matted grass near the ground. This thatch encourages voles and mice, so with our newly re-established parkland, with little thatch build up at present, we’re not expecting much on the barn owl front soon. We had therefore to walk away from the new boxes for now, and hope for the best, knowing that we’ve at least started the ball rolling so to speak.
Our Barn Owl boxes and heaps of useful advice came via Maureen Basford, who represents the South Midlands Barn Owl Conservation Group. Maureen has been really supportive in our first barn owl venture and kindly visited site, entertaining us with stories of her barn owl exploits. We owe a huge debt of thanks to Maureen who even provided the owl boxes which enabled us to move so quickly at this stage. I also have to mention our neighbouring farmer Mr.Wells, who ‘loaned’ us a one of his trees, which was ideally sited for the second box.
We’ll keep an eye out for progress, and will let you know as soon as we spot any sort of barn owl activity. In lieu of no resident owls at the moment, I can at least offer a couple of images of one which visited Compton Verney last June as part of the Grounds Weekend – cheating it may be, but a handsome bird I hope you’ll agree. You can see how thrilled we’d be to have a family of these move into one of our boxes!
You can find out more about bird life at Compton Verney, from a previous blog post – click here
Barn Owls – British Trust for Ornithology
Barn Owls – RSPB