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31 August 2013

Barn Owl chick makes it

John Lusby holds the Barn Owl chick after ringing, Co. Kerry, 2nd August 2013 (Photo: Jill Crosher).

Ringing and measuring the Barn Owl chick, Co. Kerry, 2nd August 2013 (Photo: Jill Crosher).

At last, some good news form one of our Barn Owl nests in Co. Kerry, one of the few which produced young this summer. The single chick was healthy and well when we ringed, weighed and measured it on 2nd August. A check on the site two days ago revealed that the chick is doing well and has almost fledged. It will probably be leaving the nest site in the very near future.

29 August 2013

Another traditional Barn Owl site fails

A visit by the team in early August. two adults were seen at the house (M.O'Clery).

Barn Owls have bred here for many years (M.O'Clery).

This site in Duhallow has had Barn Owls nesting for many years, according to the locals who witnessed the young in each of the last number of summers. An adult pair was detected here in early August and although no young were seen it was decided to do a watch at dusk to see what was going on. Unfortunately, at dusk two days ago, both adults emerged, one from the chimney and one from the roof space, and without calling headed off to hunt. They didn't return within an hour and there was no snoring calls heard that would reveal the presence of young. Another failed site. Like so many other sites this year adults are still present and, if they survive the winter, will no doubt try again next year.

26 August 2013

A wander through the castle

Have a look at this extraordinary site in Co. Kerry, a traditional Barn Owl site where they have nested for many years at the top of the highest tower.

Barn Owl site in an abandoned castle, Co. Kerry, August 2013 (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).

24 August 2013

A view inside a secure Barn Owl nest

A final check was made on one site in Duhallow where breeding hadn't taken place this summer, just in case of any late nesting attempts. A camera was sent up into the nest area in the small attic space to see what was going on. 

The old cottage has had breeding owls in both of the previous seasons, since its discovery in 2011. They had two young in each of those years (M.O'Clery).

Barn Owl nest site, Duhallow, 22nd August 2013 (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).

Unfortunately, no chicks. Although you can't see it in the video, one of the adults is actually tucked away at the very back of the attic space. Access is through a single missing slate on the roof, and you can see how dry, secluded and secure this nest site is. At least the adults are still present here and hopefully they will survive the winter to breed again next summer.

23 August 2013

A single feather reveals a new Barn Owl site

Derelict cottage in East Kerry (M.O'Clery).

Have a look at the video below of this derelict cottage in east Kerry, taken yesterday…

This single white feather raised suspicions and led to the discovery of a probable Barn Owl nest site. The signs of an occupied Barn Owl site can be subtle enough, but although it might be missed on the outside, the signs of the presence of Barn Owls were easily visible inside.

A single barn owl feather on the chimney led to the discovery (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Inside, below the chimney, there were many Barn Owl feathers and pellets. We attached a camera to a long extendable tripod and looked closer at the chimney. Near the top of the chimney shaft is a small alcove, and behind it you can just see an opening into an attic space – an absolutely ideal and secure nest site, with Barn Owl feathers and pellets much in evidence. We will investigate this new site further in the coming days. 

21 August 2013

Another site falls silent

There are one or two late Barn Owl nests still active, and some sites, such as in the post below, have very young chicks which may not fledge until autumn. This has prompted us to re-check sites where pairs were present this summer, but didn't breed. It is hoped that some might attempt to raise young even this late in the year.

Barn Owl site in Co. Kerry. Nesting has been successful at this site in each of the last three years, but the pair did not breed this year (Photo: M.O'Clery).

At the site above, an old mansion in Co. Kerry, a pair has been very active of late, calling and being very attentive toward each other. However a watch of the site this evening showed that they have finally given up on breeding for this year. There was no calling between the birds and no obvious courtship behaviour. The two just preened and went their separate ways to hunt for the night.

15 August 2013

Late Barn Owl chicks raise hopes

The nest site in the wall cavity, centre of picture (Photo: M.O'Clery).

The discovery of at least two very late Barn Owl chicks at a site in Co. Kerry has raised hopes that other pairs which have seemingly given up on breeding for this year might yet be attempting to nest.

Two very young chicks were heard a few days ago at the nest site in a cavity in a wall (centre of photo), and estimated to be only 10 to 15 days old. This would mean that they might not be able to fly until early October, and might not leave the nest until late October. This is a great gamble for the adult birds. If the autumn is wet and stormy, they will be unable to provide food for the growing chicks, but if it remains mild and largely dry, they might just manage to raise the young successfully. 

The pair present at this site were displaying vigorously all through spring (see, eg, this post HERE), but by late June and early July, they were largely silent, there were no sounds of chicks, and the breeding attempt seemed to have fizzled out for the year. Perhaps the  exceptional weather in July allowed them to hunt well enough to try again.

There are several Barn Owl sites in Duhallow at which the adults have seemingly given up on breeding for this season so we will make a point of returning to each of those again for a careful check to make sure we detect any more which might be breeding this late. 

The appearance of chicks late in the year is not without precedent in Ireland and well developed young have been found at a nest in Wexford in December, though as ever, the weather will play the most important role in the outcome of any late nests.

8 August 2013

Barn Owl of a certain age

Below, some video of an adult Barn Owl, trapped for ringing at a site in Duhallow. A pair was present,  and had laid eggs, though these were subsequently abandoned. John Lusby, Raptor Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, after ringing the bird, describes how the owl moults (replaces) wing feathers and how you can work out the age of the bird. In this case, it is a bird in its third year.

Three year old Barn Owl, Duhallow, August 2013 (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).

6 August 2013

Empty nests

 We have been finding that many Barn Owl nests all over Duhallow, and elsewhere in the country have failed this summer, mainly due to the exceptionally cold spring. Here are two such sites, first a quarry in Duhallow, and below, an unusual nest in ivy roots inside a barn in Kerry.

The nest entrance in the limestone quarry face can be seen in the centre of the photo. The entrance hole leads to a chamber about a metre long and 40cm wide (photographed under licence: M.O'Clery).

Inside the nest chamber, only moulted Barn Owl feathers and pellets. Fresh signs of adults, but no chicks (photographed under licence: M.O'Clery).

An unusual nest site in the tangled roots of ivy which have grown down through a long-abandoned barn. Adult Barn Owls were present here, but we found four eggs, abandoned. The female was able to lay the eggs sometime in the spring but then didn't get sufficient food from the male to allow her to incubate them, thus had to leave to hunt for herself. The eggs would have chilled and failed to hatch (photographed under licence: M.O'Clery).

5 August 2013

Tree + Tree = Three

Two tree nests in Duhallow were visited recently, one proved to be empty, the other had three young chicks present. These were removed gently from the nest for ringing, weighing and measuring before being carefully returned. The eldest is about 25 days old, the youngest about a week younger. It has proved to be one of the few productive nests found anywhere in Duhallow this season.

Two tree Barn Owl nests in Duhallow, with three chicks at one (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).

This site also produced three young last year. You can see the video on this page HERE.

4 August 2013

New Long-eared Owl site discovered

During the course of Barn Owl survey work in Duhallow on Sunday night last, a distinctive distant call was tracked down to a patch of woodland almost a kilometre distant. It was a rare sound indeed this summer – a calling Long-eared Owl chick. From the volume, it sounds fully grown, and it was quite mobile, moving from tree to tree. 

The calls of a young Long-eared Owl chick could be heard almost a kilometre away (M.O'Clery).

Only a handful of Long-eared Owl sites have produced young this year (see this post HERE for details), so it is great to see that some at least have succeeded in raising some young.

A beautiful portrait of a well grown Long-eared Owl chick, Co. Kerry (Alan Landers).

2 August 2013

More Barn Owl ringing, more empty nests

Another six Barn Owl nest sites were visited today in Duhallow and east Kerry. The results were again very poor, with no chicks found. A summary of the sites is as follows:

• Old cottage in NE Kerry – 4 abandoned eggs, no adults present.
• Nest box in barn in NE Kerry – 2 adults present, 4 abandoned eggs in nest box.
• Nest in water tank in derelict farmhouse – 1 adult present nearby, no chicks.
• Derelict mansion, E kerry – 2 adults present, breeding status uncertain, needs further investigation.
• Nest box in derelict house, E Kerry – Adult male present, no chicks.
• Nest in ivy roots in barn in central Kerry – 1 adult present, no chicks.

This is turning out to be a dreadfully poor breeding season for Barn Owls. 5 chicks from a total of 17 nest sites visited  in the past 2 days – by far the lowest breeding numbers recorded since survey work began on the species in 2006. There are still a number of other sites to be visited, so hopefully some at least will have produced young.

This handsome adult male Barn Owl was caught and ringed at a nest site in E Kerry today. He was alone at the nest box in which three young fledged last year (Photo: M.O'Clery).

This poor year for Barn Owls is reflected in recent findings from the UK which is also experiencing a crash in breeding numbers. See this article in the Guardian Newspaper from yesterday HERE...

Barn Owl Ringing update - many pairs did not breed

A long and intense day of ringing at the Duhallow Barn Owl sites was tough going, not least because of the appalling weather, but also because most sites had no chicks. of 12 nest sites visited, only 2 had chicks, 5 chicks in total. A summary of the sites visited is shown below. The stark realisation is that it looks like they are having their worst breeding season to date. 

• Tree nest near Newmarket – no signs at the nest, though birds have been seen nearby recently.
• Old cottage, NW Duhallow – Recent signs of owls, no chicks.
• Large derelict farmhouse, NW Duhallow – no signs, nest abandoned.
• Two story derelict farmhouse, NW Duhallow – 2 adults present, young possibly present, needs further investigation.
• Cottage near Newmarket, 2 adults present, 4 abandoned eggs found, no chicks.
• Tree nest near Newmarket – Three young.
• Old cottage near Rathmore – Recent signs of owls, no chicks.
• Quarry, Duhallow – at least 1 adult present, no chicks.
• Disused Cottage near Ballydesmond – recent signs of owls present at nest, no chicks.
• Derleict cottage near Ballydesmond – female present, no chicks.
• Nest box near Ballydesmond – Adult pair present, no chicks.
• Nest box near Ballydesmond – 2 chicks.

More on these sites soon.

2 of a brood of 3 chicks ringed today at a tree nest site in Duhallow today. The eldest chick on the left shows a considerable age difference to its youngest sibling, perhaps as much as 10-12 days. The lateness of this brood is also noteworthy – these youngsters won't be leaving the nest until late September, perhaps even October. (Photographed under licence: M.O'Clery).