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11 June 2012

Another extraordinary Barn Owl nest

While surveying dense woodland in Duhallow for Long-eared Owls on Saturday night last, the sound of 'snoring' Barn Owl chicks was certainly not expected. Barn Owls are typically birds of open country, foraging over field edges and rough grassland, yet there was no denying that somewhere within that dense, dark forest there was the continuous 'snoring' of Barn Owl chicks. It took a bit of time to pinpoint the sound, but it was eventually tracked to a cavity in the trunk of huge Cypress, with a Barn Owl nest containing certainly two, perhaps three young, probably about 25-30 days old, being fed by the parents. Here's a photo of the tree, taken the following afternoon.

Barn Owl nest entrance (circled) in dense woodland in Duhallow (M.O'Clery).

From below, there were no visible signs of the nest – no pellets, feathers or droppings – and the entrance is hidden by ivy. One of the most difficult nests to find, and really only detectable by the calling chicks. The nest entrance is about 20 feet from the ground, so it may be possible to ring the chicks in the coming weeks.

This is the third Barn Owl tree nest to be found in this 10 km Survey square. It brings to five the number of known nests in the square, the highest of any 10 km square in Ireland. It is also the only 10 km square in Ireland with more than one tree nest, and the only nest so far discovered in Ireland that is within dense woodland. 

More on this nest soon…