Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Owl Boxes on Ivy Green

Recently we received a cash grant from Manchester City Council which has allowed us to purchase some bird and bat boxes for the Chorlton Ees and Ivy Green Local Nature Reserve. The credit for this must go to our Treasurer, John Agar who worked tirelessly to secure the grant.

We agreed that part of the grant should be spent on owl boxes. John researched this subject on the Internet and found a fascinating website called, ‘Gods Own Clay’ (www.godsownclay.com). The authors of this website live in the Weald of Kent and it covers the wildlife of this specific corner of the county, but with a particular focus on Tawny Owls. Among much other information the website contains a useful comparison of commercially available owl boxes. Those sold by a company in Burnley, called Valley Bird Boxes, were particularly highly recommended for the following reasons:

• Professional design and sturdy construction.

• Lots of room inside.

• A ledge for any chicks to perch on: apparently these chicks are rather prone to falling out of the nest and the ledge is an all-important safety feature.

• Ease of cleaning.

They seemed ideal for our purposes so John contacted Ian Waddington of Valley Bird Boxes and arranged to purchase two boxes. You can see a picture of one of these boxes in the top photograph above.

The boxes have to be mounted quite high up on the trunk of a sturdy tree and this is a specialised job requiring appropriate equipment and climbing skills.
John and I identified, what we believed to be, two suitable trees on Ivy Green and Ian and his son Sam came down and fixed a box to each of these trees. Sam did the climbing and the fixing and it looked like strenuous job requiring a good head for heights. You can see Sam working up a tree in the lower photograph.

All we have to do now is to wait for some owls to find the boxes.

For the record, a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is about the size of a pigeon. It has a rounded body and head, with a ring of dark feathers around its face surrounding the dark eyes. It is mainly reddish brown above and paler underneath. These birds usually start to nest from late February/early March onwards. They used to nest in rot holes in old trees but there are far fewer of these now than there used to be and modern arboricultural practices lead to far fewer rot holes in younger trees.

You might like to have a wander around Ivy Green to see if you can spot these boxes, then, having spotted them, you might also like to make a record if you see any owls using them. Please drop us an e-mail and let us know if you do see any.

Just a word of warning: I’ve read that owls can be aggressive if they’ve got chicks in the nest – although this should only be a problem if you do something silly like climbing the tree and trying to see inside the nest!

Dave Bishop
November 2010

No comments: