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Buried Alive!

Thursday, April 16th 2020

One of the large nest boxes at Foxglove is favoured by Barn Owls and last year four healthy chicks fledged from it. This year both the male and female adult Barn Owls had been seen flying in and out and there were fresh pellets on the ground below. However, earlier in the week, it was noticed that it looked a little different. Barn Owls do not “build” a nest as such but lay their eggs directly onto the previous years’ nest debris – a compacted layer of owl pellets.  The female might also make a scrape in the debris and break up a few recent pellets creating a soft layer for egg laying. The 'mess' on the ledge outside appeared to be the work of Jackdaws who use twigs and wool for their nests. On closer inspection, the Jackdaws had completely filled the wooden box with fresh material so much so that it was overflowing!

It was decided to remove the new material as sometimes Jackdaws can build their nests on top of a Barn Owl one. Bit by bit, the sticks and sheep wool were carefully teased out. To everyone's surprise there wasn't just an egg or two but a live Barn Owl! She had been completely buried and was trapped in her own home.

Hopefully, with the weather being warm and dry she will be able to fly out and find some food. We won't know until much later in the year if she has a successful breeding season. This is not uncommon and there are several videos on Youtube of footage taken in similar boxes when there has been a conflict between Jackdaws and Barn Owls. For more information about Barn Owls visit the Barn Owl Trust  and the Hawk and Owl Trust websites.

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