Barn Owls and Kestrals

We were full of anticipation the other day when the Hawk Conservancy arrived to check out the nest boxes on the farm.  You will remember last year we were able to proudly announce, like all surrogate parents, the successful hatching of a Barn Owl and what a bruiser he was too.
Now this year, we waited with bated breath as Matt Stevens, Conservation Officer at the Hawk Conservancy, Andover went off the inspect the nest boxes.  Imagine our surprise when he came back with more good news than we were expecting.
Not only are there two chicks already hatched and doing really well in the Barn Owl box, but there are four more eggs all ready to hatch.  A bumper year.
Background: Barn Owl (Tyto alba) can lay between 4-7 eggs per clutch at 2-3 day intervals.  Clutch size and breeding success depends very much on the availability of their main prey species (short-tailed voles and other field rodents).  The fact that there are likely to be 6 offspring means, so says Matt, that this is a good year.
However, this was not the only piece of good news that Matt conveyed. On the ledge in front of the Owl box, a Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) has taken up residence.  The chick will not win any beauty contests but we are sure his parents think he’s glorious
Then there is the Kestral box.  Last year although the Kestral showed interest in the nest box, but Jackdaws wanted to share and she deserted.  This year however, is another matter entirely.  The beautiful Kestral (Falco tinnunculus) has this time laid 4 glorious eggs which we hope will successfully hatch this year.
Background: Kestrals defend only a small territory, with the home territory often shared with other Kestrals.  the area can be between a 1km – 10km radius.  Kestrals often don’t secure a mate until their second year even though they are considered mature at a year old.  According to the RSPB, “The timing of egg laying is dependent on the weather, but the female normally lays her clutch of 3-6 eggs in late April or early May. She is only able to produce eggs if she can get enough food. In years when vole numbers are low, many Kestrels fail to nest at all.”
We can’t wait for the next visit by Matt and his team to ascertain how many more Barn Owl chicks have hatched and whether the Kestrals have been successful this year.  Fingers crossed.  We’ll be pleased to keep you updated.