In June 2013 I moved back to my home in Wales after having spent what seemed like an eternity in London. I'm not sure if it's something that tends to happen in your late 40s but I have found myself becoming for want of a better word an eco-warrior. Albeit not so much of a warrior and more of an eco-mediator, so there was a better word! So just after I arrived back I thought I would install a Barn Owl nesting box. So I did my research and found, on one of the many sites for Owls, some drawings on how to make your own. I had most of the materials and so, I was going to make the 'Rolls Royce' of nesting boxes! So after a couple of days I managed to complete my first Barn Owl nesting box and, OH, how proud of it was I!
I used some Tung oil to weather-proof it. It had brass hinges, and the cladding (which I already had in the garage) was 18mm Siberian Larch which would weather down nicely.
It wasn't only a little too heavy, It, was immensely too heavy, weighing in at around 40-45Kgs. So for the best part of a year it sat proudly, in my garage, although in my heart I knew it would never be used.
The long and stormy winter came and eventually went, and so I thought, it must be nearly breeding season and I had heard a Barn Owl in the garden the night before. So off I went down to the local hardware store and bought as it turns out twice as much 4mm ply than I actually needed but having cut it down in size to get it in the car, could not return any of it! This time I'd do it right. It would lightweight and functional, the Barn Owls would love it. So back to work I went and 48hrs later the latest incarnation was complete.
I was delighted and felt certain the Barn Owls would be too. Now the tricky bit, getting it up the tree! Fortunately I have several trees that are suitable, but of course when you have a fear of heights it might only be 15' off the ground, but it might as well be 150', I'd feel a little dizzy, scared and cry like I did when I was two! SO. Ladder up against the tree, and yes I was right this version was much lighter. Of course having to climb the ladder with barely a single handed grip to a height of about 15'. Nah Ah, it's not happening! Even though I nearly made it to the target height, there was NO way I was letting go, to then hold this huge box above my head and then drill and bolt it to the tree. So down the ladder I went trembling at my stupidity in thinking I could do it to start with.
Roy to the rescue! Good old Roy, my neighbour who has every tool known to mankind and a few that aren't! On this occasion he also had scaffolding. Okay, I can do this, can't I? An hour later scaffold up and secured to the tree, okay I hadn't gone as high as originally wanted but hey ho, TUFF. The Owls would have to live a little lower than they'd originally planned. Suck it up Mr Owl.
So now after nearly 10 months, two nesting boxes, and now an INCREDIBLE headache after having to get the damn thing up there, It's done! So now the wait in anticipation for its new residents.
Now for the science, yes science. There has been a huge reduction in the numbers of Barn Owls since 1936, and apparently we are now down to as little as 1000 breeding pairs when the number should be nearer 4000. The last four years of extreme weather have also been disastrous for this most beautiful of Britain's native birds. Along with the weather, other causes are the poisoning of their staple diet, mice and rats, which in turn kills the bird which feeds on it. On the Ham Lands on the edge of Richmond in London, each year they harvest the wild grasses on what is supposed to be a nature reserve. By doing this it automatically removes a perfect winter hunting environment for the Barn Owl. They are no longer Scarce but are now classed as rare!
So for those who can, I implore you to install your own Barn Owl nesting box, as many of the traditional barns have been destroyed and for the princely sum of about £20 you can make your own. IF I can, you can too! To improve your knowledge of this magnificent bird please visit the Barn Owl Trust web site, http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/
This has been a terrible year for Barn Owls. As an endangered species they need your help. Please support our conservation work by giving us 20p a day. Donate here.