Friday, 15 June 2012

What's in the Box?

Had a busy day planned today checking nest boxes at Manor Farm and then doing some dormouse monitoring at Titchfield Haven, and so a 5:30 start was the order of the day.

There are eight owl boxes at Manor Farm, which are situated in a variety of locations, and many have been used over the last few years. We started down near the farm museum and were instantly rewarded with a brood of six Common Kestrels. The chicks were very well advanced and had almost fully grown wings, but we still managed to ring them.

Juvenile Kestrel

The weights of the different birds ranged from 189 to 210 grams so they were all healthy, the parents must have worked so hard to rear six chicks.

A Cosy Brood of Kestrels

The next box that we checked is located in the farmland in the middle of the park and last year there was evidence of a roosting Barn Owl but no sign of breeding. However during the early spring, when in search of Woodcocks, we had heard Barn Owls calling, so I was quietly hopeful that we would be in luck. Sure enough as I looked in the box there were two chicks nestled in the bottom. The larger chick weighed 380 grams and was beginning to grow its feathers but the smaller one weighed only 300 grams, but it did have a very full stomach. It must be so difficult for Barn Owls to provide enough food when we have weather as bad as we've been having in the UK recently. I will go back and check on them in a couple of weeks to see how they are doing.

Barn Owl Chicks

The next box we checked had been occupied by Grey Squirrels in previous years, but this year there was another brood of Kestrels. Well when I say a brood, one chick, one long dead chick and an addled egg. So a much smaller brood than in the other box, but success all the same! This chick was smaller than the smallest chick in the other brood, but only just, weighing 182 grams.

Juvenile Kestrel

The next two boxes were empty, but then success again, this time a brood of two Stock Doves. These birds were just starting to grow their primary feathers but one was still quite downy, and weight wise they were very similar at 238 and 242 grams. I have not ringed this species at the park before so it was a nice addition to the ringing list.

Stock Dove Chicks

The final box was also occupied by Stock Doves, but the eggs had not hatched yet. Before leaving we popped into the stables to check on the resident Barn Swallows. Five chicks were in the nest but they were too small to ring so we will have to go back next week. 

My next stop was a visit Titchfield Haven for some dormouse monitoring. I have been helping out with the monitoring for a couple of years now whilst also training the rangers towards a Natural England licence. We started at a site to the west of the main reserve where 30 boxes are up, and had several other rodent species, Yellow-necked and Wood Mouse and Bank Vole, before we found our first dormouse. The nest was classic, stripped bark on the inside with very fresh, green leaves around the outside, it was so clean and tidy we felt bad disturbing it .

Dormouse Nest
The animal inside was a female and she was a good size, weighing 18.5 grams, and seemed to be quite unperturbed by the handling experience.

Female Dormouse

In fact, she was so relaxed that she seemed to find it a struggle to stay awake.......bless!

Sleepy Female Dormouse

Our final stop was Titchfield Haven and the boxes around the bird ringing area. There is a mix of nest tubes and boxes here, but only around 20 in total. We found a couple of nests which had been made this year, but no animals other than another Bank Vole, a nest with young Bank Voles in and another Yellow-necked Mouse.

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