Well as my last blog went down so well, thought I'd better tell you about my day watching Barn Owl chicks being 'Ringed'. Better late than never!
On Sunday 3rd July I went back to where I work to watch Barn Owl chicks being 'Ringed'. Now before any smarty pants says oh that's cruel (no I don't mean it was strangled), all this essentially means is putting an identity ring around the little birds leg.
A few weeks ago, I was unlucky in not seeing the Kestrels being 'Ringed' as it was torrential rain and felt quite sad about it. I was really pleased to hear that there were Barn Owl chicks and that the people who did the Kestrels would be coming back to 'Ring' the young owl chicks. I got a second extra special chance.
Anyway, got there at 9:45am to find lots of people in the bar waiting to go and see the birds. It was a lovely hot day and we had a little talk first with a kind of Q&A session. Things like.... what do they eat? Wood Mice, Voles and Shrews. What attacks or eats them? Buzzards. If the baby birds strays away from his nest the parents will not feed them, the little bird has to go back to the nest before they will feed it. In a natural nest the faeces of the chicks will be taken away by the parent, but this isn't the case when it comes bird boxes. The little birds sit in a very very thick layer of their own manure. It is amazing they are still pristine white! When they are removed from the box to do the 'ringing' their box thankfully gets emptied and a new layer of bedding put back in for them, bless 'em!
Well after the talk we all made our way up to the oak tree in the field. All eagerly awaiting the sighting of our first Barn Owl chick. Now the process was to 'Ring' the bird with a ring that doesn't rust apparently. It is put in a small bag and weighed. Is sexed and then measured. The gentleman who did all of this seemed a might confused as I think I'm right in saying the females are heavier than the males and are a certain wait. Well all the birds seemed to be more the weight of a female than a male, but some of them looked like males when he checked their sex. Maybe it isn't very easy! Anyway one of the birds turned out to be heavier than an adult bird so the parents were definitely doing well in feeding their children.
There were 5 eggs in the box the last time they checked and to their delight all the eggs had hatched. What amazed me was the difference of each chick. All eggs are layed at so many days intervals. The difference between the smallest white fluffy chick and the near adult sized chick was 2 weeks (see photo). The oldest was 6 weeks old, and at 11 weeks they'll be flying around their tree and getting used to being adult birds.
Once the gentleman had finished doing all his measurements etc he then, to my amazement, handed the chick to a lady in the group. We all got to take lots of pictures as you will see from mine :0) Well these poor young owls all got handed about to different people and I started to wonder might I get the chance to hold one, and lo and behold I did. Well I could have died and gone to heaven, it was the best thing to happen to me. I know, I'm a softy but I had this little soft and warm life in my hands and it just lay their quitely still apart from its head which seemed to be on a swivel as it focussed on something, you would move its body but its head stay in the same position. You could see how they might work in hunting!
Well after lots of photos and cuddles, they all were put back in the big bag, carried up the ladder and put in the back entrance of the box, which has a platform on it, so I guess it was a bit safer for them.