On Sunday, 26th April, Norman Shepherd, who has been installing our owl and raptor nesting boxes, came with a colleague, Lynne Lambert, to inspect the boxes that have been put up around the Commons. He looked first at the one in Cholesbury Camp. Last year this was chosen by a Tawny Owl to raise one fledgling, so it was hoped that the bird might have returned to raise another brood. Young birds tend to produce only one egg, so if the nest had been taken up again, we might have had more eggs this time. However, Norman found that there were four Jackdaw eggs inside the box.
On the Common, the Kestrel box remains unused, as does a Barn Owl box. As we approached another box, a Jackdaw flew out of it, so there was no need for Norman to investigate further. The second Tawny Owl box had two nests in it, with three small pure white eggs, possibly laid by Great Tits. Needless to say, this is a little disappointing, but there is no reason to think that they will not be used in future by the species for which they were intended. Even so, all species have a place in the ecology of an area, so we should not regard this as a failure.
One or two people who expressed an interest in taking part in the project have had boxes installed on their land or in their gardens. While Norman was visiting Christine Stott, they had exciting encounters with two Barn Owls flying out of one box – not conclusive proof that they will use it for breeding, but a good indication that they will. How wonderful to know that these birds are living nearby. Kestrels also appeared to be sitting on top of another box and may well be using it for breeding.
The project is progressing gradually, so that the number of boxes does not exceed the population density of the birds. Also, Bucks Owl and Raptor Group (BORG) are all volunteers, so the project has to be manageable for them. If you have not heard from the group, that does not mean that you have been forgotten, but it for these two reasons it is impractical to progress any faster. It is a long-term project and its success depends on sensible spacing of the boxes both in time and location.
Norman and Lynne are trained to inspect the boxes and if they find that the target species are rearing young, they will return to ring the fledglings so that they can add to scientific data about future breeding and distribution of individual birds. Eventually, it is hoped that certain interested people in the villages will be trained to do this work.