Welcome to the LDV NNR ringing blog, this blog is designed to share the experiences, findings and tales from a group of dedicated ringers. We specialise in conservation orientated research projects, largely focusing on wildfowl, waders, owls and birds of conservation concern, in and around the Vale of York NNR's.

NB - Whilst the purpose of this blog was initially designed to cover our nationally important wildfowl ringing activities, regular readers may have noticed the increase in posts detailing wildlife found across the valley (ranging from plants, fungi, butterflies, dragonflies & other invertebrates). Ringing posts will hopefully resume over the winter months, and will run alongside wildlife and work posts.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

09/07/14 - Barn Owl Bonanza!

Prior to 2013/14 the previous two winters were very cold, with deep snow and freezing temperatures down to -10 for days on end, with some days not getting above freezing. This took its toll on the resident Barn Owl population with unfortunately c20-30 birds reported dead in barns and boxes around the valley.

 North Duffield Carrs floods and freezes - 21/01/13

During the early months of 2013 birds were seen throughout the valley but sightings dried up in late March/April. Initially we thought this may have been with the onset of breeding, but the prolonged cold weather and temperatures below average lingered from early March into June which seemed to prevent females getting into breeding condition.

One of only a few Barn Owls seen during 2013 - 05/02

We did manage find some adults present in the boxes and other breeding sites, but they appeared to just be using them as day time roosting sites with no evidence of breeding. Subsequently, without broods to feed the adults were seen less, not being forced to hunt during the day time. Due to the lack of breeding and newly fledged young (which would normally be seen by the end of summer as they disperse around the area), numbers of sightings plummeted and comments of the population crash were aired. The YWT even launched a campaign to save the Yorkshire Barn Owl.

However, after a year off and following a relatively mild winter and early spring, coinciding with a peak in the vole cycle, 2014 has proved to be a bumper year.

Family of four Barn Owl chicks - 19/06/14

As of last week 157 Barn Owl chicks have been ringed this year, with another 16 known to have fledged – and 4 pairs are already sitting on 21 eggs of second clutches with many more likely to do so. Brood sizes have been good and ranged between 4-6 chicks, and have been early – some of the eggs must have been laid in early March, and with birds fledging from mid-June they have a long time to gain experience hunting before the colder weather of late autumn/winter returns. Plenty of spare food (often three or four field voles) are being found in most of the boxes as well, again showing that it’s been a bumper year for them as well. At the end of the season we’ll post full details of how many chicks have been ringed and how many adults were caught from previous years.

So great news all round and we look forward to plenty of young owls on the wing as they start to disperse around the area.

Barn Owl chick not far off from fledging - 19/06

If you’re hoping to see Barn Owls hunting around the valley then Bank Island, North Duffield Carrs and the Pocklington Canal corridor (especially around Melbourne) are the best areas to try and observe hunting birds, especially on nice evenings towards dusk.

Listed below are the ringing totals for the recent previous years and the all time total number ringed in the valley.

                            2011     2012     2013     2014     Total

Barn Owl                38        107          4          157     1085

Thanks go to all the people who have helped us check boxes this year in the valley and those who have helped us make and put up boxes in previous years - and those who've done it without us and then informed us of successful pairs breeding on their land and allowing us to come and ring them. All these people, sadly some who are now absent friends still help to produce Barn Owl chicks and contribute to the good population that we now have in Yorkshire.

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