Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A raptorous way to beat jetlag…

In an attempt to avoid succumbing to jetlag, I joined Jim on Monday morning to visit the remaining unchecked owl and raptor boxes in the Newark and Vale of Belvoir areas. The first box we checked in Syerston contained three large, healthy Jackdaw chicks, a new species for me. Next, we headed to Screveton to check a Kestrel box. On route, Jim spied a Little Owl hurtling away from an oak tree. A quick hole inspection later and Jim emerged holding two tiny Little Owl chicks. Two new species for me! On to the Kestrel box and we found five downy chicks, only two of which were big enough to ring.

The next two owl boxes we visited in Caunton each contained two large Jackdaw chicks. A short hop to Norwell Woodhouse saw us visiting a Little Owl box, accompanied by the excited home owners whose land the box was on. Just as we reached the box the heavens opened and Jim and I found ourselves ringing three small Little Owl chicks with our backs to the rain. The owners were delighted to see the chicks and were even more ecstatic when Jim returned the chicks to the box only to pull out a fourth chick that must have been hiding when he had collected the first three. Despite the downpour, it was a great way to end the morning and maintained Jim’s 100% success rate – six boxes checked, six boxes occupied. The box also contained a long dead, ringed barn owl that, according to Jim’s records, had been one of the 2010 brood.

After a quick lunch at Jim’s (thank you Elaine) Matt joined us for the afternoon session and we headed off to Shelford to check four boxes on a farm there. As I held the blocker up to the hole of the pole mounted Barn Owl box, I could feel something trying its best to push its way out and was hopeful of an adult bird. I wasn’t disappointed as Jim came down the ladder with both adult birds. One bird was un-ringed and was judged to be a young bird whilst the other was a re-trap thought to be about five years old and recorded as an age 8. The wing feathers clearly showed at least three generations of flight feathers. The remaining boxes were less productive. The Kestrel box contained Kestrel pellets but no birds, the Little Owl box contained only one cold egg and the owl box in the barn contained pigeon eggs.

Onwards we went towards Cotham and to a Kestrel box. As we approached, the female flew out of the box and on inspection, five chipping eggs were found. We made a hasty retreat and moved on to ring a brood of eight Blue Tits in a box in woodland. Despite our best efforts, the second box we knew to be on a tree someone nearby, eluded us and as time was of the essence for Jim, we gave up searching and instead made our way to Barkestone-Le-Vale to check a Barn Owl box. To our surprise, the box contained three beautiful, large Barn Owl chicks that weren’t too far off fledging. Almost fully grown Barn Owls but without the attitude – what a privilege!

As the heavens opened once more, we checked out a couple of trees near Redmile rumoured to be home to a Kestrel and a Little Owl. As we approached, a Kestrel flushed from one tree and a clutch of warm eggs was found. Unfortunately, no Little Owl nest was located, but given the state of the tree, it is entirely possible that there was one hiding in one of the many nooks and crannies.

Overall, a very productive and successful day’s ringing in good company.


 Barn Owl wing - aged as an 8 due to there being 3 generations of feathers in the wing (RW)

 Large Barn Owl chicks (RW)

 Barn Owl - aged as a 5 as all feathers are of the same generation (RW)

 Jackdaw chick (RW)

 Jim replacing adult Barn Owl (RW)

 Kestrel chicks (RW)

 Little Owl chicks (RW)

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