Nesting season preparations at Blue House Farm

Photo courtesy of John Lilley

We're in the process of improving the nesting opportunities for Barn Owls at Blue House Farm as we eagerly await the breeding season.

New Barn Owl Boxes

Before the nesting season is upon us, we’ve started building and will soon be putting up two new Barn owl boxes at Blue House Farm. One will replace an existing box which is in deteriorating condition, and the other will be going in a brand new location. By providing nest boxes, we are helping support the breeding success of Barn owls by ensuring they have suitable spaces to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.

Last week, we had a great session with our volunteers building the first new box and starting on the second. After lots of careful measuring, remeasuring, and some brilliant teamwork all round, we’re really pleased with our first new box!

Nesting Barn Owls

As their name suggests, Barn owls will look for appropriate nest sites in outbuildings such as barns, and also in veteran trees with natural cavities that meet their needs. Nest boxes provide a clear entrance hole that these birds will search for, as well as a spacious cavity. The cavity is below the entrance hole to ensure chicks that can’t yet fly don’t fall out of the box, and large enough to accommodate the parents, followed by the rapidly growing chicks!

Barn Owl with prey on Blue House Farm nest box

Photo courtesy of John Lilley

How You Can Help

If you are a landowner interested in helping to support Barn owls on your own land, or are looking for other ways you might be able to help Barn owls, please click here to find out more about the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project.

As well as nesting habitat, Blue House Farm provides Barn owls with plenty of hunting habitat, and we often see them flying over ungrazed and lightly grazed areas of the reserve in search of the small mammals which live there. As Barn owls are not territorial, the availability of food and nest sites are important limitations to their population size in an area.

It’s very rewarding to watch these almost ghostly, beautiful birds working their way over the fields in search of prey. After spotting a small mammal dart into a clump of grass on a recent morning, approaching the exact spot where it went to hide yielded absolutely zero visible or audible signs to mere human eyes and ears. It’s incredible that Barn owls do an infinitely better job at finding them even whilst flying high overhead!

Webcam-Watch

There are signs (pellets, feathers and some sightings) that last year’s birds have been continuing to use the barn, and there are a couple of pellets inside the nest box (livestream still available here) which shows us that there have been visits to the box itself since it was cleaned up after last year’s nesting season.

According to the community chat on the livestream page, two owls made an appearance in the box on Christmas Day!

Two Barn owls inside a nest box

Screenshot from Blue House Farm Barn owl webcam Christmas Day 2019 - shared by "Sandra B"

There have been some sightings this month around the barn and in the box, so we’ll be looking out for this year’s nesting activity on the webcam soon!