Barn owl chicks at Charlecote Park

In recent weeks our owlet have had a lot of love and attention from our online communities. Their photo has been shared on our national and regional accounts and helps to highlight some of the work we do that isn’t seen.

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Here’s more info from our press office..

FIVE BARN OWL chicks were snapped by a National Trust volunteer during a recent survey in the Warwickshire parkland where William Shakespeare was supposedly caught poaching deer.

It is believed that the brood of two female and three male chicks were between 41 and 53 days old when they were checked earlier this autumn by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

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Report: Nest boxes at Charlecote Park

88 nest boxes were monitored at Charlecote Park in 2013. The scheme was originally started by Dave Oldham and Denis Harris who began erecting boxes in April 2003.  Since then the scheme has been expanded and now includes:

  • 3 boxes specifically designed for barn owls
  • 2 boxes for kestrels
  • 2 boxes for little owls
  • 21 large boxes for jackdaws, stock doves and tawny owls
  • 55 small boxes for blue tits and great tits
  • 5 open fronted boxes for robins and spotted flycatchers.

Natural cavities are examined as and when found.  Swallows that use the low stores in the yard area are also monitored.

One of our licensed volunteer ornithologists checks barn owl chicks

One of our licensed volunteer ornithologists checks barn owl chicks

Over the seven year period that the boxes have been closely monitored ten species have now used them – Mandarin duck, kestrel, stock dove, barn owl, tawny owl, jackdaw, blue tit, great tit, coal tit and robin.  Little owl and treecreeper have used natural cavities.

Since 2007  1163 young have been ringed and records kept of all nest visits.  Electronically compiled Nest Record Cards are sent to the British Trust for Ornithology; 64 were completed in 2013 (67 in 2012, 65 in 2011, 51 in 2010, 40 in 2009, 49 in 2008 and 41 in 2007).

With persistent easterly and north-easterly winds, temperatures between March and June 2013 were up to four degrees below average, resulting in a very late spring. The cold spring resulted in many species starting the breeding cycle later, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) reported that Blue Tit and Great Tit both delayed egg production by 12 days. For some species, mean first egg dates in 2013 were comparable with those exhibited in the 1960s.  Nationally Blue Tit and Great Tit also fledged significantly fewer chicks in 2013, with numbers per nest falling by 7% and 12% respectively relative to the five-year mean. Low spring temperatures are generally beneficial for these species as they delay caterpillar emergence and development, increasing food availability during the nestling period; in recent warm years, there has been a tendency for invertebrate numbers to peak while birds are still on eggs. The poor breeding performance in 2013 was largely due to a reduction in clutch sizes, however, which suggests that the cold weather prior to laying may have had a negative impact on female condition and therefore on the average number of eggs laid.

Floods at Charlecote

Floods at Charlecote

Extensive floods in the early part of 2013, a spell of snow and cold weather in late March, with continuing low temperatures mentioned above, coupled with low vole numbers resulted in a poor breeding season for birds of prey.  The BTO reported that in late March, when barn owls should be thinking of breeding, they had seen an exceptional rise in the number of dead ringed birds reported, the cause of death in most cases was starvation, a sure sign that food resources were very low.  Snow, wind and flooding hinders the ability for birds of prey to find rodents and small mammals and if female birds of prey are unable to get into breeding condition many pairs may decide not to breed.  Colin Shawyer of the Barn Owl Conservation Network reported that “2013 appears to have been the poorest breeding season for barn owls in Britain since 1958” and initial results from the BTO’s nest record scheme points to low fledging success in kestrel, barn owl and tawny owl for the second year running.  The number of nest record card submissions in 2013 for barn owl and tawny owl stands at about 25% of the normal total .

A summary of the nests found and monitored in Charlecote Park over the seven year period can be found below.

Our thanks to our trained specialists, Dave Oldham, Denis Harris, Keith Ashfield and Roger Juckes for this report.

Are you a keen twitcher? Blogger ‘Black Country Birder’ wrote a post following their visit. Why not find out what they spotted?

Have a look at our website for more info on the wildlife that calls Charlecote ‘home’.

Rangers to owl rescue!

Last week our park team were sent to the rescue of a little fluffy owl who fell out of its nest box! We sought permission from our British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) officer before going too near and attempting to help the bird.

Pentax Digital Camera

The very brave Katherine and Simon rescued it and put it back. They were able to check the ring on the bird to pass on to our BTO officer. He was then able to tell us more about what is likely to have happened…

Thanks for dealing with the young barn owl yesterday.

 GJ14228 was the middle one of the brood of 5 and from the measurements we took when it was ringed it would have been 47 days old yesterday (16 Oct 2013). It is generally thought that they can fly clumsily at 54 days; fly quite well at 57 days and leave the site permanently at 67 days.  I assume that it was probably exercising its wings on the shelf and lost balance or was accidently pushed off by one its siblings.”

Pentax Digital Camera

You can find out more about the wildlife at Charlecote on our website here.

If you’re visiting us with your family this half-term, you may not spot the owls in the park, (well you might if you follow the tips here) but look who is hiding in the house… I’m told there are more hiding in the rooms but I only found this one! How many will you find?!

Pentax Digital Camera