Neil Fletcher takes a regular look at the everyday wildlife at Woods Mill, headquarters of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, and at his home in nearby Henfield.
The thing is, the microphone had packed up, and I was half way through before I realised and switched mikes, so I filled the space with a track of my wife singing in a choir at Arundel Cathedral – I think it works OK.
It was time to check out the barn owl chicks in our barn owl box at Woods Mill. You need Top Level Security One clearance to get anywhere near a barn owl, so Barrie Watson, top barn owl man, came along to supervise things with good friends and licenced experts from the Sussex Ornithological Society, British Trust for Ornithology and Sussex Wildlife Trust. Barn owl boxes have helped change the fortunes for these birds in recent years, in fact more barn owls nest in boxes than not, and along with all the fabulous research thanks to ringing and measuring and weighing and what not, their future is a bit brighter, though the odds are still stacked against them. Lots get knocked down by traffic, and some farming practices mean that there might not be enough field voles at the right times of year
Anyway, the box contained four well-grown chicks, all boys and very cute, and six inches depth of poo and pellets, very smelly.
These boxes are not like your regular blue tit boxes, and if you want one (you’ll need a few acres of the right stuff) it’s best to talk to the SOS or the Hawk and Owl Trust, as they need to be sighted very carefully if they’re not to do more harm than good.
Sussex Wildlife Trust is running a Barn Owl Evening on July 5th, when you should be able to watch the adult birds bringing food back to the chicks, which may be sitting outside the box.