A Diary of Two Owl Boxes – David Knight

December 2012

In the WVBS Newsletter of January 2013, Ray Gribble announced the setting-up of the Churchyard Nest Box Project and asked for interested members to nominate their churchyard for inclusion in the Project. Member and local resident, David Knight, requested his village churchyard at Worthing be allocated one Tit box, one Open-fronted box, and one Little Owl box.

The Year 2013

So, on the 4th January 2013, the three boxes were installed in suitable places in the churchyard by Alec Waller (who also made all the boxes), Ray and Richard Norris. A task this team repeated in the other eleven or so churchyards in the Project. Some months later, much to everyone’s delight, a number of eggs were recorded for the first time in an interim check, but eventually only two chicks hatched and on 25th June, Ray only had one to ring as the other had died.

The Year 2014

After cleaning out the Little Owl box and laying fresh sawdust in the early spring of 2014, we awaited the arrival of the adult Little Owls. Great news again when eggs were discovered some weeks later and on 29th May 2014 three chicks were ringed and fledged.

The Year 2015

Not a good year: Although two young hatched, one died.

The Year 2016

Another mixed year with three eggs laid but all failed to produce a live fledgling.

The box was later taken over by a swarm of bees on 3rd.July and our local bee- keepers were called in to retrieve them. Some were in the owl box as well as over it so after the main swam was secured the box was taken off. Once the queen bee is secured the rest of the swarm will gather around her so the box and basket are placed together for this to happen. There was some damage to the box when it had to be forcibly removed from the tree and although refixed in place it was decided to order a new box.

The Year 2017

When it came to replace the old box it proved impossible to shift so, the new box was positioned on top of the old one ( The first two-storey owl box!). In the box this year four eggs were laid, but only two chicks fledged.

The Year 2018 

2 eggs laid, 2 young hatched, 1 fledged. No record of which box was used.

The Year 2019

Great news with 4 eggs laid, three young hatched and 2 fledged. It is understood the birds laid their eggs in the old, dilapidated box. Regular observations of the nest site throughout the summer months revealed a lot of activity by both adults and chicks.

The Year 2020

Before we were all put into self- isolation with the dreaded Covid-19, I managed to spend some time refurbishing the three nest boxes in our churchyard. The two-tiered Little Owl boxes were very full of debris. No eggshells or animal parts, just gritty dirt and obviously both had been used frequently since the last clean. The older box needed the most attention and is now clean with fresh sawdust awaiting the returning adults and hopefully a fruitful nesting year.

Update – A Little Owl was seen in the new box 16th April 2020.

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