I have always loved painting barn owls, they are stunning birds with such beautiful colouration in their feathers – particularly on their wings. They are perhaps one of our most easily recognised birds of prey in the UK. Fortunately they are now on the green conservation list which means they are in the least critical category. However, there are still only around 4000 breeding pairs, so anything that can be done to boost their numbers is always a very welcome addition to the British countryside. Many of their former nests sites have disappeared as barns are redeveloped. However, they don’t just live in old barns, all they want is somewhere safe and sheltered and they will be quite happy.
We are fortunate where we live to have barn owls quite close by, if we are lucky we will see one fly up over the back fields and off on a hunting mission. At other times we may seem them around a nearby barn in which we check for nests as part of our volunteering work for the British Trust for Ornithology.
We thought it was time to make a barn owl box ourselves and perhaps increase the population around our village even more. Having obtained permission from the owner of a local barn I set to work in the garage with some excellent plans from The Barn Owl Trust.
A few hours later, I had managed to construct my own box, complete with a handy hinged door for clearing the box out……should we be lucky enough to get anything in it!
By the time I had finished it was a pretty heavy bit of kit! The barn is fortunately not far away and we could get right into it with the car. We wouldn’t have fancied carrying it too far!! Now for the next fun bit, deciding where best to site it. We were faced with a massive barn with various entrances and therefore many options for locating the box.
The box needed to be at least 3 meters off the ground, that bit was easy. The barn is in regular use, but owls will easily adapt to this as long as their box keeps them well hidden. I had read that when an owl flies into a building looking for a nesting site, he or she will be trying to find a suitable hole not a box. So we wanted to make sure that the hole was also visible for an owl from the outside of the building too.
This was the chosen location and so the work of getting the box up near the roof began! Contrary to what it looks like, I was not stood on some handy placed tower scaffold, I’m actually up a narrow, rather wobbly ladder! I had previously constructed some sturdy stilts to sit the box on, rather than try and hold the box at height and somehow attach it to the wall. Now, it would have been quite amusing to have photos of how we got the box up here, but all hands had to be on deck instead!! Jo wasn’t spare to take photos as she had to hold the ladder whilst the barn owner, Darren, stood on the nearby trailer and lifted the box to me up the ladder. Good job there were no health and safety boffins around. 😉
The clearing out hatch (open above) was also handy for emptying in a bit of a base layer. Barn owls do not build nests, however they lay rather round eggs, so the base layer will hopefully prevent the eggs from rolling around too much.
We will have to wait and see whether we successfully encourage an owl to use our box, it will be interesting to see. Barn owls are a Schedule 1 bird, which means that we will need to apply for a special licence if we wish to actively monitor a barn owl nest….but we suspect we won’t be applying for that any day soon – the best we will probably get is a stock dove! We will of course keep you posted.
In the meantime, our grateful thanks to Darren for his help in siting the box and in allowing us to place it in his barn.
Until the next time, I’ll settle to painting a barn owl while I wait for one to take out a rental on our deluxe residence! Paul 🤓🖌🎨