Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Its now the breeding season and I'm very busy!

Today saw the start of the nest site monitoring season, and Tawny Owls were the first birds to be checked. We set off early this morning for county Dorset, and a magical woodland so full of colour in the spring like weather. Actually, the wind was quite cold, this until we started climbing steep hill after steep hill, we could have have been on the equator after that.

As no doubt many of you know, especially those who have heard me moaning about the affects of climate change on various species, and also few of you close to me would have heard me curse the last 2 summers for being disastrous for Owl species (except Little Owls). I will now digress, this only because the Blackbirds in my garden last spring and summer produced in all 4 clutches of young and without much predation and plenty of food had an amazing success rate. Whilst this year all but 1 of the first brood of 4 is dead! So whats the difference? Well for those who have forgotten, the last 2 summers have been wash outs which is great for Blackbirds and Mallard Ducks, awful for Owls and Blue Tits, Swallows, House Martins etc, etc, etc, etc. But now the Spring of 09 is dry, but its sting is the fact that I would not say its been warm. Now my garden looks more like a desert than the lake of last year. All this means very few Worms, slugs and alike. So this explains why the Blackbirds are having a bad time, but what about the Owls.

Well for Tawny Owls things could not get any worse. So today we have checked 30 Tawny Owl nesting boxes in two Dorset woodlands, my early predictions of a better year for Tawnies is based on the silence of Tawny Owls during the Long-eared Owl surveys of Mendip and Quantock during February/March, were as in bad productivity years they keep calling.

These 2 in the picture above don't look much like Tawny Owls, more like they are keeping an eye out for any Tawny Owls, in case they become part of the menu.

Was this going to be another false start to the season? First ten boxes checked and no Owls!
We continued our mission around these incredible woodlands. The smell of Garlic was everywhere and there almost seemed to be a great battle of the woodland plants being played out before us.

On one side the Garlic now in flower, battling against the Bluebell for space and ultimately supremacy across the woodland floor.

Within these woods there was just so many flora sights, and many different Bird species singing, I was almost being overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of it all.

Spotted Orchid

So to conclude, was I right or not? Well out of 30 Tawny Owl boxes checked 9 had nothing in them at all. Jackdaws occupied 5, with 7 being used by Grey Squirrels, 3 were occupied by Stock Doves and Great Tits had taken over just 1, and wait for it.... Tawny Owl's much improved on last year were found in 5 boxes. This is a great success so far and only the beginning of course, however if this result pans out across Somerset and North Somerset the night air of summer will be filled once again with the sounds of many Tawny Owlets

So here's the pictures you are all waiting to see!

Three of the Owl pairs were still on eggs, whilst the other 2 had both 2 young each. If these 2 woodlands set the standard then these nests are earlier than last year, but 2/3 weeks later on my records of 10 years ago. The most important thing to come out of this is that this is still going to be a much better Tawny year than we have seen for sometime, and boy do they need it! There are many more Tawny Owl nests now to monitor and this timing comes with the news that some barn Owls have began egg laying very early, this means its going to get very busy. I have also checked calling Little Owls near to home, however this was back in late March and again the news is not just good but its very good, as I left off last Autumn saying that they were back calling in areas they had not been heard for around 10 years. So that has continued, pairs in March were recorded calling in all but 2 of the historical sites. However how there success pans out during this dry spell will be interesting.


For those of you now waiting for boxes to be checked you will tell from this blog entry, we need to set dates for Tawnies quickly!

For those of you interested in using these results as a climate change barometer then stay tuned, there will be some interesting results being published soon.

BFN and see some of you really soon, oh and if you can't get hold of me, then I just might really be up a tree!


Callen Diaries said...

Hi there Chris,
Ian Callen here. How are you? Your blog is great. I have been keeping tabs on your projects. Sounds like you are flat out. I am chuffed that you have found five tawny nests out of thirty. Great photo of the squirrels by the way. Any news on the nest sites at Eastville Park, Bristol?
I went out for a ciggie about midnight last night and I am not kidding it was like a jungle! Tawnys were hooting like mad, Scops Owls were bleeping, nightingales were singing and a few boars were squealing like they were being murdered. Amazing what goes on whilst we sleep.
It has been very wet here over the last 12 months, so I wonder what effect this is having on the fauna here in Provence.
The Hoopoes are in town, yeah my favourite bird oh yeah and the cuckoo right at dawn, like a clock.
I enjoyed the article with John Craven and the long earred owls. At last it seems you are starting to get the recognition for all the hard workyou have put in, well done Chris. Love to the family Ian

Chris Sperring said...

Ian. Great to hear from you!
I'm still game for coming over to France, when is the best time? Don't say now, as I'm to eyes with all my breeding commitments:)
Send me an e mail mate!

Jenny Holden said...

Hey Chris,
Good to read that things are happening and that the Tawny population s looking good this year.
It feels rather odd not being out checking any boxes myself, but I'm certainly not without things to do! Beavers go out at the end of May. June and July are the most intensive months for monitoring, but I'll be out every week for the next 5 years so it's up to you when you want to come. You will get roped into working if you come up over the summer! Love to Em and co xx

Chris Sperring said...

Hi Jen. Will try and get up to Scotland in June, and look forward to helping out with Beaver monitoring. Tell Chris to find me some Shorties, looks like Norway was fun.