As part of our owl conservation project we check a number of breeding sites. The relatively dry summer we’ve experienced in South East England has suppressed vole numbers and this in turn has meant many of the areas’s Barn Owls have not bred. Further west and north, the wetter season has supported healthy vole numbers and the owls are doing well this year.
Yesterday we checked a number of sites and found no owl chicks. We did find a box with an adult Barn Owl. We’d ringed it in 2017 as a chick, so it’s heartwarming to see it has survived. Barn Owls don’t moult all their flight feather like passerines but instead stagger their replacement over multiple years replacing a different group of them after each breeding season. This individual is regrowing three flight feather which I’ve marked (see diagram).
On the same farm, we found two Little Owl chicks. These animals don’t have a vole-based diet and are doing better this season, than Barn Owls.