In 2013 Steve and I were informed by Mike Carr of some little owl boxes that had been put up a few years back but not regularly checked. So, this seemed like a great opportunity for a nest box scheme. It just so happens that the boxes are only a few minutes from Steve’s house near Stocksfield in Northumberland.
In order to check the boxes we first had to find them. We were told there were about six, so with rough directions we set out to find them and after a little while we did. Fortunately these ones were all on level ground not like the Dipton boxes. All boxes were in good condition and we could tell they had been used in the past. The boxes are all situated in field boundary trees.
When the breeding season finally came and with the permission of the land owners it was time to check for occupancy. We found two boxes occupied out of the six. In both boxes were an adult and three eggs. The adults were ringed on the day and we returned a few weeks later to ring the four young; two from each box. I’ll never forget opening the box for the first time and seeing a little owl on eggs. I was very excited and I’m sure Steve was excited too when I heard a loud “yes” from the bottom of the ladder. This was also a ringing tick for me.
In 2014 we had the same two boxes occupied. Adults from both boxes were retrapped and two young from one box ringed. The other chick fledged before ringing. We also had tits (probably great tits) nesting in an owl box, for which the box was a little on the large side!
2015 was not a great year for our little owls. Again the adults were retrapped, one box failed at the egg stage and one box also had a complete bees honeycomb attached to the lid. The other box had two eggs, with only one young hatching. Paul Galloway came along this time hoping for his first little owl, but when we got back to the box it was empty. It was impossible for it to have fledged. Predation I guess. In a nearby box there was also a dead adult and the tit nested once again.
In 2016 we are planning on putting up another three boxes in old barns. So let’s hope for a better year. In the three years of doing these boxes we have ringed two adults and six young.