Click on any of the main images for a larger view

18 May 2012

Barn Owl mystery site

Below, a photograph of a small cliff within a woodland in Duhallow, with an obvious area of 'whitewash' (the chalk-like liquid droppings, distinctive to raptors). 

The obvious 'whitewash' of a raptor. But which one, and why there? (M.O'Clery)

Discovered during the Duhallow Raptor Project, on first glance it seemed like a good spot for a roost, most likely for a Kestrel, but as it was approached, a Barn Owl flew out. A watch at dusk later that day from a discreet distance revealed little - no sights or sounds of Barn Owls, which poses the following questions…

1) Was that an unpaired owl roosting? Not all Barn Owls will breed in their first year of life, and some don't immediately 'pair up' if they can't find a mate. 

2) Was it a male who is now roosting away from a nearby active nest? Males roost away from the nest once the eggs are laid, returning each evening to feed the female and chicks.

3) At this time of year, when breeding should be well under way, and with no activity around the site at dusk, it seems likely it is only a roost. Might there be a large enough cavity or chamber tucked in under the tree roots that might prove to be a future nest? We'll have to get the ladders out to answer that one.