Sunday, October 18, 2009

Second barn owl box installed at Charingworth

The second barn owl box has now been installed about six metres up in a poplar tree overlooking the lower (1940s) orchard at Charingworth. Percy and Herbie can only stare up and dream of having such luxury accommodation. It took three evenings to get it done after a few complications...

The 'improved' design sporting a few modifications undertaken by my dad under the advice from the Barn Owl Trust website: 1) roofing felt for extra waterproofing; 2) a baton-to-baton attachment for increased strength (over the previous single bolt and keyhole attachment); 3) a small rim around the balcony to prevent young chicks falling off so easily. Should be interesting to compare the success of this box with the unmodified one in the other orchard...

Without the impressive upper body strength of my friend Angus, a new way of installing the box had to be thought up. Ideally you need three people and a long ladder. The basic method was:

1) attach a pulley into the tree above the height you want the box at, i.e. as high as feasibly possible,
2) attach a baton (with pre-drilled holes for bolts) horizontally (spirit level) onto tree at desired height,
3) build a net of rope (see photo above) and hoist the box up,
4) marry up the corresponding baton on back of box to the attached baton on tree, using pulley to hold the bulk of the weight of the box,
5) secure with bolts through both sets of holes, and
6) tea.

As you can see from the quality of this photo its probably best to give yourself lots of time to do this. We flirted dangerously with the twilight hours but it feels amazing to have got another box up.

The view from the box into the 1940s orchard. I had to do a fair amount of trimming to ensure the box entrance had a clean flightpath in. This is really important though- barn owls are very unlikely to use a box that they can't easily fly into because of obstructing branches.

I was also fantastically lucky yesterday. This is the ash pollard we have been keeping an eye on since I found pellets and feathers inside it. On a dog walk I decided to have another look up inside it and I saw a barn owl perched right at the top up against one of the hollow sides! I will give it some distance now as I don't want to disturb it. It doesn't look like there is enough of a platform in the tree for a pair of birds to breed in there so maybe it's only using this tree as a roost. Good news though.

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