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14 December 2012

One final Barn Owl nest found 2012

Thanks to an interested member of the public contacting us, one more Barn Owl nest has been located in Duhallow, perhaps the last for 2012. The birds have nested successfully in the chimney of an abandoned cottage for at least the last three summers. This brings the total number of known Barn Owl sites in Duhallow to 36, of which 21 are nests and 15 are active roost sites. This represents one of the highest densities of Barn Owls in the country. 

Barn Owl nest, in the central chimney, Duhallow (M.O'Clery).

51 out of 113 nest sites nationally are in chimneys and 33 out of the 113 are in derelict farm houses/cottages, so this nest site is about as typical a Barn Owl nest site as they come, though this summer there were a series of less typical sites used for nesting, such as an old water tank, tree cavities and an unfinished new building.

11 November 2012

More sites for nest boxes

New nest box sites were identified throughout Duhallow during last summers' fieldwork, and after permission was granted from landowners, the boxes are now being put in place. They are all placed in trees, little-used buildings and/or barns. Winter is the perfect time to install them, as the territorial instinct in Kestrels and Barn Owls is low, and it will be late winter and early spring before their thoughts turn to nesting in the summer. Hopefully birds will discover the carefully placed boxes and move in to breed.

A Kestrel nest box is placed just inside an open-sided barn.

This old water tower on a private estate is a ready-made site for a Barn Owl box.

This Barn Owl nest box has been placed in the attic space of a derelict farm house. A Barn Owl was seen here last July, so the chances of the box being found by owls is high. FIngers crossed!

Another Kestrel nest box is placed on a Scots Pine in an area of open woodland and farmland.

30 October 2012

New nest boxes installed

As part of the Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project additional nest boxes for Kestrels and Barn Owls are now being installed at carefully selected sites throughout Duhallow. By putting them in place in late autumn, it is hoped that birds will see and investigate them over the winter months, and perhaps nest in them next spring.

Newly installed Kestrel nest box in Duhallow, October 2012.

Another Kestrel nest box now in place in Duhallow. 

Kestrel boxes are best placed in a reasonably prominent spot, where the birds have a clear flight path to the entrance. They also need to be at least 10 feet (3m) above ground, preferably higher, to lessen the risk of ground predators such as Pine Marten or cats from climbing up to them.

A new Barn Owl nest box installed in an upper floor of an old shed in Duhallow. Although placed inside a building, there are a number of important considerations to be met at each site. The site with the box should be free of disturbance, the box should be at least 9 feet (3m) from the ground) and there must be clear access into and out of the building. In this case, three open windows provide access and any owl arriving at the window would immediately see the box (all photos by Michael O'Clery).

For nest box designs and tips for installing them, see this page HERE

2 October 2012

Duhallow chick found dead

Mortality of young Barn Owls, like all bird species, is highest in the first few months of life. Unfortunately, we received news of the demise of one of three chicks, ringed at a tree nest site near Newmarket this summer. The young female was found dead near Kanturk yesterday, only about 10km from where she was born. The cause of death is unknown, but she had been dead for some time.

 Young Barn Owl, after being ringed at the Newmarket site in July this year (M.O'Clery).

In studies in England, young Barn Owls rarely move more than a few tens of kilometres from their birthplace, but in Ireland we are only beginning to learn about their movements. We have already seen an unprecedented 80 km movement of a ringed, mature female in Duhallow (see this post HERE), and there has been a series of other unusual movements recorded so far in the national ringing scheme, so we have much to learn about how fledgling Barn Owls disperse from their nest sites in Ireland. The death of this bird will add a little more to out knowledge about their lives, and hopefully about how best to protect them into the future.

7 September 2012

NestCam Barn Owl in trouble

Many viewers of the popular Barn Owl nest box camera, based near Tralee, (see this post HERE) were dismayed to see the female chick returning to the nest box covered in oil on Tuesday night. It seems she dived into an oil container in which a rat had been struggling, though luckily for her, she was able to fly just enough to return to the box, otherwise she might not have been seen to be in trouble. She was rescued the next day, and it is hoped, will make a full recovery.

The wing and tail feathers cleaned up fairly well with the liberal application of warm water and detergent, however, the body feathers in particular were badly matted, and will need further cleaning. It is hoped the bird will recover sufficiently in the coming days to be returned to the nest box. You can read the full story on the RTE website, HERE.

UPDATE - Unfortunately the owl died, on 7th September, from ingestion of oil.

1 September 2012

Difficult time for young Barn Owls

Over the past few years, around this time of year, a number of young Barn Owls have been reported to us, seemingly injured or otherwise in distress. It seems that a small number of owlets leave the nest a little too soon, and are sometimes unable to return to the nest to be fed. In other cases, young birds have been found in difficulty some distance from the nest. Either way, each September, one or two owl chicks are reported which, rather than being injured, are actually undernourished and often critically underweight. This seems to be related to the birds being unable to feed themselves, or of poor weather occurring just at the point when they have left the nest to become independent. Three examples are shown below.

To see a Barn Owl in daylight in Ireland is remarkable, but this bird also shows large areas of downy white feathers still on the body. It is barely able to fly and it seems was blown off its high chimney nest and was unable to return. It would certainly have died without human intervention, but was successfully returned to the nest the following morning. Co. Kerry, 2009 (Photo: Eric Dempsey).

 Another owl in daylight, this time near Kilflyn in Co. Kerry in autumn 2010. The bird being out in daylight, wings drooped, a slightly disheveled look, and being so tame, would all indicate that this bird is in serious trouble. It is possible it could have been poisoned, though most likely it is a young bird which was unable to find food. Its fate is unknown (Photo: with kind permission, Karen Davison).

This unfortunate young owl was only out of the nest two weeks or so when it was handed in, in a seriously weakened condition after being been picked up from the ground just 50 m from the nest in a chimney of a two-story farmhouse. This was after a period of prolonged, heavy rain over three days in early September, which probably meant it couldn't hunt. It weighed only 220 grammes instead of a more typical 280, and despite much attention, died the following morning (Photo: M.O'Clery).

If you do come across an owl in a weakened condition, do let us know. It takes considerable care and expertise to nurse a badly undernourished bird back to health. Unfortunately, a few birds succumb each year, and with the wet weather continuing, it is possible that you might see or hear of one.

31 August 2012

The Barn Owl's secret weapon

Below, an unusual picture of a Barn Owl's ear, photographed during the Duhallow Barn Owl Survey this summer. The ear opening is much larger than on comparably sized birds, and the openings are slightly asymmetric on each side of the head, allowing more precise location of sounds.

Barn Owl ear (M.O'Clery).

The heart-shaped facial disc which is so prominent on Barn Owls, is composed of slightly stiffer feathers, and it is believed that these further channel sound toward the ears, further enhancing an already exceptional hearing ability.

28 August 2012

Last Barn Owl nest?

As the summer slowly slides into autumn, and the breeding season draws to a close, there are only a few Barn Owl nests still containing young. About half of all Barn Owl nests failed to produce any young this summer, due mainly to the extremely wet weather, and at the majority of those sites which produced young, the fledglings have departed to find their own way in the world. 
However, we received a phone call recently from an interested farmer in Duhallow, who reported three young Barn Owls on the roof of a derelict cottage. Upon investigation, they bred in the chimney of the old house, and fledged about mid-August. One was still present a week ago, but last night, all were gone, though one of the parents still arrived at the nest at dusk to have a look around.
Perhaps this will be the last nest discovered during this summer's survey?

A rare photograph of two young Barn Owls on the chimney of a derelict house just outside Duhallow, in late August 2009. At this age they are fully developed and are indistinguishable from adults, though their exaggerated head-bobbing behaviour and loud 'snoring' calls showed them to be fledglings (Photo: N. Sheehan).

26 August 2012

Kestrel ringing recovery

A Kestrel, which was ringed on 4th June this year as one of a brood of five chicks near Ardfert in Co. Kerry, was found injured on the outskirts of Athlone a few days ago. The bird had most likely been struck by a car and had a damaged leg. It is now with an experienced falconer in Co. Monaghan and should make a full recovery. Concerned locals had found the bird and were finally able to place it in the appropriate care, with the help of local vets and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

One of these five chicks crossed half of Ireland before being struck by a car (You can click on the image for a closer view). It will hopefully make a full recovery (Photo: John Lusby).

20 August 2012

Late Long-eared Owl nest

As the Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project moves into the second half of August, all the young Kestrels have fledged, while all Barn Owl chicks have hatched and quite a few have fledged. The few Long-eared Owl chicks that made it to fledgling stage were mostly well-developed and mobile by late June, and have already dispersed away from their nest sites. 

There might still be late Long-eared Owl nests out there... (M.O'Clery).

The Duhallow Long-eared Owl Survey is on the last of four stages, and although slightly outside one of the three 10km squares of the study area, at least one more Long-eared Owl nest has hatched young, even at this late stage. They were heard and seen not too far from Newmarket on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

So if you are out and about at night in Duhallow and you hear the loud and persistent squeaking of young Long-eared Owl chicks, do let us know. You can hear the sounds on this page HERE.

14 August 2012

New Barn Owl site

The Duhallow Barn Owl Survey has revealed some unusual nest sites in summer 2012, including one in a water tank (see this post HERE), one in an unfinished new house (see this post HERE) and three in tree cavities (see this post HERE). 

Another new nest was found yesterday, though in many respects it is a fairly typical nest site in Ireland. It is in a secluded, abandoned two story farmhouse in Duhallow, with many slates missing and the inner floors collapsed. Two fully developed young, well able to fly, were in the upper section of the house, and there was much evidence of pellets and feathers indicating they were there for quite some time. Indeed, locals tell us they have seen owls at this site for many years.

One of the more typical Barn Owls sites in an abandoned farm house (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Like many Barn Owl sites in Duhallow, and elsewhere in Ireland, the young must now be on the verge of leaving, and it might even be the case that there were three or more chicks here, and that some have already left. These coming weeks are fraught with danger for the fledglings as they leave the relative safety of the nest site to find their own territories. Young Barn Owls appear to disperse in random directions, and can travel between 10km and 100 km or more, and once they leave, they won't be back. Hopefully they will survive the dangerous journey and find their own secure nest sites.

11 August 2012

Ballyferriter female pairs up

The female Barn Owl from Ballyferriter, which was recently re-trapped at a site in Duhallow, has paired up with a male. After previously nesting successfully in 2011 at Ballyferriter, near Dingle, she was still present yesterday evening at her new site in the chimney of a disused cottage in Duhallow. The pair were seen to indulge in courtship feeding and mating at the site. 

A female Barn Owl, originally from Ballyferriter, now paired up and apparently nesting in Duhallow (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Had this behaviour been observed in spring, you would conclude that the pair were at the stage of laying eggs, but as it approaches mid-August could the new pair be really considering nesting this late? It's certainly possible. Fledged young have been recorded still at the nest as late as early December at one or two Irish sites, but it would be unusual. If they are just about to lay eggs now, the young wouldn't fledge until mid-November. It would be a high-risk strategy, as the young would need to become fully independent before the worst of the winter weather kicks in, but if the autumn and early winter prove mild and dry (and surely it can't get any wetter than this summer?) then they might just make it. We will be watching this site with great interest in the coming weeks.

You can read about re-trapping the female on this page HERE

9 August 2012

How long before a nest box is used?

Despite the poor breeding season in 2012, one of the great positives during the project has been the uptake of a nest boxes by Barn Owls. A box put in place in a barn in Duhallow last November produced two young, and we have a female now resident in another which was only installed in early 2012. Another bird has been sighted at a third box.

As the Project heads toward autumn, thoughts are turning to where to place the next series of boxes, and we have already chosen a number of suitable sites. Five more boxes will be in place within the next two months, ready for any prospecting Barn Owls.

Careful siting of a nest box can greatly increase the chances of it being used. This one is in an old hay barn in Co. Kerry. A bird has been visiting it in each of the two previous winters. Will it pair up and breed there next summer? – let's hope so (M.O'Clery).

From our experience throughout Kerry and Duhallow, nest boxes might be taken up at any time after their installation. At one site, where the original nest was found to be suddenly unsuitable (slates had blown off from over the nest, allowing rain to fall directly into it), we placed a nest box close by, and the birds moved in within about five weeks and raised two young that summer. In two cases this summer, boxes which had been in place for over three years were finally used as nests by the owls. One of these had no owl activity around it for the three years, the other had birds occasionally visiting the site in winter and spring, but disappearing each summer.

Brin McDonald from the Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project holds one of two chicks which hatched from a Duhallow nest box this summer. Brin and John Lusby installed the box last winter. (M.O'Clery).

So if you are planning to instal a Barn Owl nest box on your farm or premises, there are a few important points to bear in mind, which you can read about on this page HERE.

Good luck, and remember, it can be a few years before the owls move in.

3 August 2012

Barn Owls make the news

News presenter Seán Mac an tSíthigh interviewing John Lusby at a Barn Owl site in Co. Kerry on Tuesday (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Short news features on Barn Owls featured both on RTE 1 main evening News and TG4 news programmes over the past two days. They were filmed in Co. Kerry over the past few weeks with the main clips filmed on Tuesday last.

The TG4 clip was aired on 1st August and can be seen on this website page HERE.
Search for "NUACHT TG4 - Episode:213"

The RTE clip was shown on the RTE1 main 9 O'Clock news today, 2nd August, and can be seen on RTE Player on this website page HERE (available until 10th August 2012). Search for "9pm NEWS 2nd August".

2 August 2012

What moult can tell us

We've seen in an earlier post (HERE) how the moulted feathers of adult birds at a nest site indicated that they had failed to breed this year. Another post (HERE) showed how we were able to age a one year old female. 

In this case, a known nest was visited in Co. Kerry two weeks ago where, unfortunately, no breeding had taken place in the nest box this summer. However, after checking the roost site in a blocked chimney in the same room of an old barn, this beautiful male was caught and ringed.

Male Barn Owl, Co. Kerry, mid-July (M.O'Clery).

The extended left wing of the same bird (M.O'Clery).

The left wing showing the numbered primary feathers (M.O'Clery).

Barn Owls have 11 primary flight feathers on each wing. Number 11 is tiny and is usually hidden under feathers near the leading edge of the wing. Primary number 10 is the first main flight feather, primary 9 the second and so on. In this photo, we can clearly see that primary 6 is just starting to grow. The original primary 6 would have dropped out, initiating the growth of a new one at the base of the wing. These primaries are replaced one by one so that at no point is the owl's ability to fly and hunt impaired.

Barn Owls leave the nest with a full set of fresh feathers, which they retain for a full year. After that, the wing feathers are replaced one by one, a few weeks apart, for the rest of their lives, so this bird is in his third year. Most Barn Owls don't survive in the wild more than 3 or 4 years, so this one can be regarded as something of a veteran. Let's hope he survives the winter and gets to breed again next year.

29 July 2012

Final phase of Long-eared Owl survey

The fourth and final phase of the 2012 Duhallow Long-eared Owl Survey will begin on 1st August.

The first phase in April was the tape-playback of the calls of adult Long-eared Owls, and all responses from adult birds were recorded in three 10 km squares in Duhallow (each 10 km square equals 100 square kilometres). This phase resulted in 6-7, 3 and 3-4 territories being located in each of the squares. However, not all Long-eared Owls will respond to the tape, so three follow-up visits were planned, in May-June, in July, and again in August.

Long-eared Owl chick (Photo: Eric Dempsey).

Since then, with two full re-surveys of the three squares, some additional territories were located by listening for young Long-eared Owls calling at night (you can hear what they sound like on this page HERE). The final phase which is about to start will be a final re-survey of the three squares in the hope of locating any late-nesting Long-eared Owls. Although most Long-eared Owls will have already finished breeding this year, and the young fledged and dispersed, there are still reports coming in from around the country of Long-eared Owl chicks calling, as recently as Friday last, so it is possible that one or two more may be found in the Duhallow squares.

Either way, it looks as though Long-eared Owls outnumber Barn Owls by about two to one in the three 10 km squares.

26 July 2012

More Duhallow Barn Owls ringed

Two more Barn Owl chicks have been ringed at a site in Duhallow which we saw in a slightly earlier post below ('Can NAMA help Barn Owls?').

There were three chicks in total, but it seemed that two had already fledged and moved out several days ago, though as it transpired, the two were roosting at the back of the house. When John Lusby visited the nest site on Tuesday, he was able to capture, weigh, measure and ring two of them, before returning them to the nest site.

Barn Owl chicks, Duhallow, 24th July 2012 (F.O'Sullivan. Chicks ringed under licence from NPWS).

Three is a very good brood size this year, with only a few other sites producing three chicks. Most have seen just 2, while several more nests have failed completely. The one positive aspect of the poor breeding summer for the owls is that at least none of our Duhallow sites have been completely abandoned. At all the failed sites, one or both the adults are still present. Should next spring and summer be even a little better than this one, there is every chance they will breed again.

25 July 2012

Barn Owl nest camera goes live

Ireland's first Barn Owl web cam went live this afternoon.

Screengrab from the Mooney Barn Owl Nest Camera. The adult male delivers a Bank Vole to the two chicks.

The camera can be accessed through the Derek Mooney page on the RTE website HERE. Click on the Barn Owl image on that page to see live footage of the owls, which are in a Co. Kerry nest box.

24 July 2012

John Lusby on Mooney radio show today

John Lusby, with Barn Owl, June 2012 (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Tune in to Derek Mooney's radio show today (Wednesday 24th July), from 3pm on RTE1, for an interview with John Lusby about Barn Owls. John is the Raptor Officer for BirdWatch Ireland, and is the leading expert on this species in Ireland.

Young Barn Owls disperse

The young owls, in the post below, seem to already have dispersed, just days after the discovery of the nest in an unfinished, new-build house. The chicks were almost adult-like on 19th July and by 23rd seemed to have already vacated the nest site, though one was now using the adult's roost site. Below, perhaps the last view of a chick at this nest this year. 

Barn Owl chick, Duhallow, 22nd July 2012 (Photos: F.O'Sullivan).

Where might this fledgling end up? Most will disperse to within 10 to 50 kilometres of their birthplace, but some might go further, and in theory, this young bird could turn up anywhere in Ireland. Barn Owls can breed at one year of age, but most will die before reaching that stage. Any number of possible threats await them, from collision with cars and overhead wires, to poisoning and starvation. It's a tough life out there, and only the hardiest (or luckiest) few will survive to breed next spring. Let's hope this one finds a good territory of his or her own and makes it through those difficult first months.

19 July 2012

Could NAMA help Barn Owls?

Why on earth have we posted a photo of the gable end of an unfinished house? 

Is this one of the many unfinished 'NAMA estates' or apartments that litter the Irish countryside after the property bubble burst so spectacularly? Well, this particular house in Duhallow has a slightly different history and remained incomplete following the untimely death of its owner about 2 years ago, but in the meantime, some unexpected tenants have moved in... 
Click on the photos for a closer look.

Adult Barn Owl, Duhallow, 18th July 2012 (Photo: F.O'Sullivan).

The Barn Owl in the photo is one of the adults of a pair which nested in the building this summer. The photo shows one at the roost site entrance yesterday morning at 6.00am. The nest entrance was on the opposite side of the same gable, in a similar hole, and contained at least 2 well-developed young, probably around 50-55 days old. They should be ready to take their first flight any day now, and we hope to ring the nestlings soon, before they depart.

While surveying for Barn Owls, there is of course a need to search disused and derelict buildings and ruins, but this is the first time a nest has been discovered in Ireland in a new, unfinished, building. Could there be other Barn Owl nests in some of the many houses and estates that lie idle throughout Ireland? We will obviously have to look harder at these types of building in the future.

17 July 2012

Screeching fledglings

The three chicks ringed at a tree site in Duhallow two weeks ago (see the post HERE) are doing well, despite the atrocious weather. A check on them a few nights ago at dusk saw all three flying competently around the nest site, and two eventually moved away into the trees, still snoring for food from their parents. One, perhaps the youngest, stayed close to the nest, calling frequently. Have a listen to the video. It's nearly dark, so the video can't pick up the birds in the foliage, but the snoring calls are distinct, and have developed into an occasional full-blooded screech. 

Three Barn Owl chicks near their nest, now at the flying stage, and no doubt soon ready to leave the area to find their own territories (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).

All three fledglings could leave the nest area at any time now. The dispersal of young Barn Owls generally occurs two to four weeks after they are able to fly, occasionally longer, but it could be in any direction. Who knows where they might end up once they leave? Many ringed birds have been re-found just 10-20 km from their birthplace, but others have crossed the country.

14 July 2012

No breeding at Duhallow Barn Owl site

Barn Owls moult their feathers gradually throughout their lives. However, there is some variation in the timing. For example, while the female is incubating eggs and tending young chicks, she is permanently at the nest for almost 2 months, during which time she is fed by the male. During this 'down time' she moults some of her feathers, when there is less pressure on her to hunt efficiently. At the same time, males suspend their moult while provisioning the female and young, and rather than have energy spent on replacing feathers, it is used to provide food for the female and young over the entire breeding period. Once the breeding season is over, both male and female resume the gradual moult of their feathers.

The video below was filmed last night at one of our Duhallow nest sites in a derelict cottage. We see very fresh pellets (indicating the adults are still present) and a series of newly moulted feathers, including a large flight feather (a primary). There were many fewer feathers on our last visit here about two weeks ago and during last nights' visit the cottage was utterly silent – no young chicks calling for food and no activity noted around the nest – the conclusion being that it is most likely that the adults have failed to breed, and as a result, have resumed their moult. Perhaps another effect of the extremely wet summer.

Video of fresh pellets and newly moulted feathers below a Duhallow nest site. Signs that breeding has not taken place (Filmed under licence from NPWS. M.O'Clery).

13 July 2012

Bad weather taking its toll

The wettest June on record at all but two weather stations in Ireland has taken a huge toll on the success of Kestrel, Long-eared Owl and Barn Owl nests, and July seems to faring no better. Although most Kestrel chicks will now have fledged, the average brood sizes throughout Ireland have been well down on last year, and they have been notably scarce in the Duhallow survey squares this summer. Long-eared Owls have also suffered and only a few of the nests located during the early phases of the survey still have young. Many potential territories which were located in the first survey phase in April seem to have gone utterly silent, implying that the adults either failed to breed, or didn't even attempt to nest this year. We know of one nest which was predated, but at another, although predation can't be entirely ruled out, the two young disappeared from the nest area after two days of heavy continuous rain in early June, a deluge during which the nearby Blackwater River overflowed and flooded adjacent farmland.

Barn Owl nests have also had poor productivity all over Ireland this summer, and the known nests in the Duhallow region have had mixed fortunes. Successful sites had 2, 3 and 3 young, and there is at least 1 chick at another inaccessible site. At another site in a rock crevice, the adults have disappeared and not bred, while at one of the tree nests, there is no indication of breeding, though the adults are still present. One traditional site in a chimney was deserted, though there were a few fresh signs of an owl or owls still present. Several other sites are still to be checked, but hopefully some will prove to have successful broods.

This tree in Duhallow has a Barn Owl nest (visible close to the top of the central trunk), and a pair were present here in late May. However, when checked in June, it was empty, though the adults were still present in the area. It is possible they may be nesting elsewhere nearby, though, as with many nests in Cork and Kerry this summer, the adults may not breed at all (M.O'Clery).

8 July 2012

Three tree chicks

As promised, details of another of the Duhallow Barn Owl tree nests (featured in a previous post HERE). The site was visited on Thursday last in the company of NPWS Ranger Barry O'Donoghue and Brin MacDonald to ring the chicks, and not a moment too soon. All three were almost ready to fledge, being about 65, 62 and 60 days old. Only one had some last traces of downy feathers, the other two were fully grown and ready to face the outside world. Had we visited this nest only a few days later, we might well have found an empty nest.

One of the chicks (M.O'Clery).

Video of the ringing of the chicks (Video: John Lusby & Michael O'Clery).

The nest was in a huge pine tree in the middle of a woodland, and as this was the first visit to the site, it was a bit of a surprise to find that the nest cavity was rather shallow. There was really just room for the three chicks to shelter from the elements and not much more. However, all three were in good health, showing that the parents had chosen their nest site well.

7 July 2012

Pot-bellied Barn Owl

While measuring and weighing three chicks at a nest box site in Co. Kerry last week, our attention is drawn to the fact that this brood have been particularly well fed...

Pot-bellied Barn Owl chick (Video: I.Kavanagh).

6 July 2012

First Duhallow Barn Owl nest box

Great excitement on Friday last when one of the Duhallow Barn Owl nest boxes was checked, and two chicks were found within (see video). This box was placed in a barn in Duhallow last November by Brin McDonald and John Lusby, as part of a pilot programme, funded by IRD Duhallow. It is the first confirmed successful nest in a nest box for this project. Let's hope there will be many more.

John Lusby looks inside the box - two chicks! (Video: John Lusby). (All visits to Barn Owl nests are carried out under licence from NPWS).

Brin holds the two chicks. They are about 40 days (left bird) and 45 days old (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Part of this year's Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project will involve placing five more Barn Owl nest boxes at suitable sites in the coming autumn. Many such sites have already been identified, so hopefully this will just be the beginning of many more successful Barn Owl nest boxes.

5 July 2012

Some Barn Owl sites lost

Although the Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project has located several new Barn Owl nest sites during survey work this summer, two tree nests seem to have failed. One had the female sitting tight inside the nest cavity about five weeks ago attended by the male and showing every signs of breeding but, upon inspection last week, proved to be empty.

The second, also a tree nest, was also empty and seems to have been used by Jackdaws this summer. However in both cases, adult birds are still being seen in the vicinity. It is possible they have nested elsewhere nearby, so while it will take further investigation to see if this is the case, at least we can say that for the moment, the sites themselves have not been abandoned.

With the assistance of Ranger, Tim O'Donoghue, John Lusby climbs to the cavity in the Beech tree. Unfortunately the call came down that it was empty (Video: M.O'Clery).

4 July 2012

Second day of filming

Duhallow Barn Owls once again featured in a documentary by Colin Stafford Johnson and his crew on Friday last, during his second day of filming in the region. Colin was particularly keen to film the chicks being ringed at a site which has featured here in previous posts – a hollow tree in a garden (see the earlier post about this site HERE). They were about 45 and 50 days old, and will be ready to start flying in less than a fortnight.

John holds the young Barn Owl, while being interviewed by Colin.

One of the Barn Owl chicks with an admiring audience.

3 July 2012

Time and effort

Many Barn Owl sites are fairly accessible, once you know where they are. Others are more difficult, occasionally involving multiple ladders and ropes to climb to the nest. Some nests have been monitored for many years, including this one in Co. Kerry, but the time and effort involved to reach them can be considerable. Have a look at this extraordinary place...

Screengrab of the derelict house (John Lusby).

It's hard to believe places like this exist, but when you are in the business of Barn Owl surveying, it becomes apparent just how many derelict buildings there are dotted around the Duhallow countryside.

Long-abandoned by people, now occupied by bats and Barn Owls (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Journey through the building as John Lusby investigates the Barn Owl nest (under licence from NPWS and kind permission from the owner). (Video: John Lusby).

To reach the Barn Owl nest at this site involves climbing up through the derelict house, past gaping holes in the floors, past crumbling masonry and long-forgotten items of furniture, past a room where bats hang from the ceiling, out an upper window, and onto a roof. From there, a ladder is lifted into place to climb the last bit of slate roof to reach the nest – a hole in the chimney, about 20 metres (50 ft) high. 

2 July 2012

Duhallow owls to feature in RTE documentary

 Documentary maker, Colin Stafford Johnson joined the Duhallow Raptor Conservation Project team for two days filming on Wednesday and Thursday last. Colin and his team, Dom on camera and Craig on sound, were able to film John Lusby as he ringed Barn Owl chicks at various locations around Cork and Kerry. It is hoped the programme will air in the autumn.

John Lusby retrieves one of two chick from the chimney of a derelict cottage in Co. Kerry...

... filmed by the crew from the 'Living the Wildlife' series.

Colin holds one of the chicks (Photos: M.O'Clery).

1 July 2012

A Dingle visitor to Duhallow

A 're-trap' is when a bird is already ringed, then once again trapped and released, sometimes at the same site, sometimes elsewhere. In the past six years, with an ever-growing number of Barn Owls being ringed throughout Ireland, the number of re-traps has also risen. They can give an extraordinary insight into a Barn Owls life, its movements and lifespan, and demonstrate the valuable information that can be learned from ringing birds.

When John Lusby inspected this site in Duhallow on Friday last, he found a Barn Owl in the chimney of the disused house. 
(You can click on any of the photos for a closer view)

John Lusby inspecting the chimney at a site in Duhallow (under licence). Barn Owls had bred here in 2010, but were absent in 2011 (M.O'Clery).

To his surprise, it was an adult bird and already ringed. From his database, he discovered the bird was a female and had been ringed as an adult near Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula last summer, 80 km to the west. Then, she had been trapped and ringed by John, along with the male and her four young, at their nest in a nest box. She was at the time one year old, so now would be two.

A two year-old female Barn Owl, originally ringed near Ballyferriter (M.O'Clery).

The ring on her right leg bearing her unique identifying serial number (M.O'Clery).

The nest box at Ballyferriter was predated in the past three weeks, the chicks most likely taken by a Pine Marten, so this raises the question, did she leave her nest in Ballyferriter after the young were taken? Or has she been in Duhallow for a while, and the Ballyferriter site taken over by another female? When examined by John, she had a brood patch on her stomach (an area of bare skin for transferring body warmth onto her eggs) and was, at 480 grammes, very heavy for an adult bird. It is possible she was full of eggs and about to lay at the Duhallow site.

She was returned safely to the chimney, leaving us puzzling how little we know about the movements and habits of Barn Owls in Duhallow, but grateful for this small but detailed insight into this wandering female's life. We will check back at this site to see what happens.