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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Destruction !! - mid October, 2013

On Thursday 17th October, I was out with my pal Titus on one of our owling/birding forays together. No owls were seen at the first two sites we passed, but as we approached my latest Little Owl site (No.41) we were met by a very disappointing sight.


The dark patch in the pale scar where half the trunk has split away is all that remains of the nest cavity. The entrance was through a 45 degree hole to the top left of this cavity.

Our first priority was to try and get a nest box in place to provide alternative accommodation for the owls (which bred this year). The farmer told us that this destruction had happened in high winds about five days previously, so we were concerned that they might have already departed.

We'd not got any owl boxes to hand, but we did have a redundant one that was erected in a building last year in the hope of rehousing a pair of breeding owls that had been evicted. These owls hung around the building for a few months but have not now been seen for about seven months. We made arrangements to get access to the building on Saturday afternoon and, having removed the box (we found that it had never been used), we spent time making modifications, ready to erect it on Sunday.

The box was made to a proven Paul Riddle design but with a basic difference - the people that kindly built the box had made it with a fixed front, rather than a removable one! The only removable bit was the door which was fixed by four screws. This made it extremely difficult to erect. I had the box at home, and managed to get a length of thick floorboard fixed to the back of the box. The box already had a bit of 2x2 attached to the bottom but, to aid erection, we used another bit of 2x2 to fix to the tree without the box attached, so that we could then rest the box on this whilst doing the other fixings. Titus fabricated a veranda to fit below the hole in the box, in an effort to make it look more attractive to the owl. We also drove part of an old broom handle into the tree to give a perch.

The task of erection was rather more difficult than we imagined. For a start, there was an area of thick soft mud mixed with cow manure all round the underside of the tree. The main problem, however, was that the surface of the break which looked relatively flat was anything but flat. In fact it was concave by a depth of about four inches. That doesn't sound a lot, but it presents quite a problem when you're trying to fix battens, with very little scope as to where to put the fixings. We had to resort to use of a saw, and a hammer and chisel. Three and a half hours later we got the job all but done. The light was fading and the rain starting - and we heard a Little Owl calling from the far side of the field!

We had to return again today (Thursday) to fit a packing piece to hold the top-right side of the box to the tree (I'm sure it would have been fine without, but we didn't want to take any chances). The owl was not seen or heard this time, and we can only keep our fingers crossed. It will not help, however, that building work to develop a derelict building, just a hundred metres or so from the tree, has started in earnest this week.



Newly erected Little Owl box - my Site No.41

18 comments:

  1. A great rescue story though not looking/sounding good Richard. But positive thinking will help and I really hope all turns out well for the Little Owls and your attempts to put things right for them.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Pete. I suspect that Titus and I will be making up a few more boxes over the winter, and will hold one back in readiness for any future occasions like this.

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  2. Well done Richard,love the new home,won't be long when the lodgers move in.
    John.

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    1. Thank you John. I wish I had your confidence!

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  3. What a shame, I hope the LO's are still nearby and return to the site.

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  4. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the owl appreciates all your work and returns.

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  5. HI Richard So sorry to see the trees destruction and the Owls nest destroyed but you can up with a great solution. well done adn I hope the Owl will come back soon.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Margaret.

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  6. That is sad, I hope they like the new box and the effort you have gone to. Have a good weekend Diane

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    1. Thank you, Diane. My best wishes for the weekend to you too!

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  7. Welcome to the world of box erecting Richard! As you have already found out there is no such thing as a perfectly flat surface on a tree for mounting a box and improvising has to come to the forefront. Cow poo around the tree is quite a common obstacle that we too come across on a regular basis, there are lots of other difficult situations that you obviously haven't encountered yet (or at least you didn't mention them) but I don't want to put you off just yet!! Well done to you both, keep up the good work and you will get your "silver owl box badge" when you reach 10 erected boxes and a "gold badge" when the first owl takes up residence in a box, but be warned that is when the addiction really kicks in!! Top post mate........

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    1. Thank you for all your good advice and encouragement, Paul. Titus and I have started talking about embarking on a box-building programme over the winter.

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  8. That must have been heart-breaking to see! Good show on getting a box up so quickly. Hope it will be successful.

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    1. Thank you, Wally. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

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  9. Oh dear....
    That is really sad, I hope the pair will adopt that artificial nest-box next year...
    Looking forward to good news!
    Congrats for your reactivity!
    Cheers Richard!

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    1. Thank you for your kind wirds, Noushka. Still keeping my fingers crossed, but it's not looking too good at the moment.

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