Building homes for raptors !

Building homes for raptors !

Having been a huge fan of shows such as Springwatch and seeing the nests be monitored by cameras, I have always wanted to monitor my own. This time though I wanted to build nest boxes for something slightly bigger than the bluets in the garden. My job at the time meant that there was plenty of scrap wood to be had and also meant a lot of lugging timber on the bus ride home after work. My colleges did have some strange looks on their faces as they saw me take home all manner of scraps. But to me I knew what they could be so it made the late bus journeys home with armfuls of wood all the worth while !

The main aim was to build nesting boxes for some local farmland. From my bedroom window as well as some sightings out in the field I had heard and seen Tawny and Little owls. I though ‘wow, this would be awesome’ if I could attract either one of these species to investigate my nestboxes. I had plenty of materials and armed with the experience from watching my Dad build a previous Little owl box I got to work. Now I’m not sure whether my mum was too impressed with the noise of power tools at midnight in the garage, I can tell you she wasn’t, but my creative juices were flowing and soon enough the first nest box came together, a Tawny owl box.

Now as I mentioned Tawny owls were not my owl target species to build a home for. With the great fun I had building my previous Little owl box with my Dad I wanted to build a few more. Using my knowledge that they prefer a tunnel system into the main nesting chamber I built this into my design. On the first box I created a longer box with a narrow entrance hole. This side on profile would act as a hollow inside of a tree limb and would help when mounting the nesting box . The slim design is slightly different to most Little owl box designs but as a few very good sources have told me ‘ most owl boxes are just boxes with holes in them’. 

I can’t say health and safety would have been too impressed with my box installation techniques but eventually I got the nest boxes in position. In the end I managed to put together a total of four nest boxes, two for Tawny owls and two for Little owls. Having seen Little owls in the field with the landowner I had high hopes. In order for me to monitor activities I installed trail cameras to watch the boxes for any hopeful residents. This was done outside the breeding season so there was minimal disturbance to the nest sites. 

With the trail cameras in place it was just a case of waiting a few weeks before heading back to see whether any local owls had taken a look at the new homes available. Anyone who has used trail cameras will often refer to it like waking up on Christmas morning to see what you got, well it was no different for me. Lunging the ladder across the fields I was eager to see what my cameras had filmed. As I scrolled through the videos I was pleased to see a Tawny owl had come to visit and inspect the tall nest box I had built. This was great and made it worth all the late night bus rides home, arms filled with scraps of wood. 

After seeing the Tawny owl on the trail camera I didn’t think it could get any better, until I scrolled to the very last clip that had been recorded. Not a Tawny owl, not a Little owl but a Barn owl ! This is a species which I had dreamt would become a resident on the local land but I had never seen one in the local area or heard of any sightings. I quickly phoned the land owner who was equally enthusiastic to hear that  a Barn owl is about on her land !