Eerie Calls in the Night
I have been out on the prowl, over the last few nights trying to track down breeding Barn Owls. With most of the countries breeding population monitored at this point in the season, I am simply seeking some of the remaining outliers, to create a fuller picture of breeding status of this Red-Listed Species. Several of these sites have proven active and even seem to have bred, which is a positive in what has been an all round bad breeding season for many species.
Last night I visited a large ruined mansion not far from Banagher. The fact that the building wasn’t far from a road which gets a moderate level of usage allowed me some leeway in terms of my approach. I needn’t have worries though as I could hear calling Barn Owls has soon as the chunky thud of my diesel motor subsided. I could hear four birds in total, but it can be hard to be precise on the number of birds present as they may simply be moving about. I definitely saw three owls. My best guess was that there were two fledgling Barn Owls who were flying about along with their parents. The parents were calling back and forth to one another, a behaviour more typical of earlier in the season. This renewed courtship could result in a second breeding attempt by the parents, but given the bad season it is unlikely that it will amount to much. Barn Owls can have a second brood in a year but this is quite unusual in Ireland. In fact a brood as late as October has been recorded by BirdWatch Ireland staff.
Although of course a nocturnal species, day time visits to likely buildings can be very informative also. Should you hear the stereotypical snoring begging call during the day it is most often a sign that the chicks are still quite young. Pellets and white wash, are, though the main daytime signs to watch out for. Above is a picture of Barn Owl white wash, note the thin white line almost like a dribble of white paint, which identifies it as Barn Owl white wash. Once birds are seen to be present, through day or nighttime observations, the building is revisited to ring the occupants, pictured below.