Nature Diary with Wendy Levoi

Wendy LeVoi reports on the wild side of life down at the Boggles.

Picture by Jans Canon

Picture by Jans Canon

‘JACKDAWS have invaded the owl box!’

Brian emptied a bin bag full of twigs, branches, leaves, and wool into the brown bin! ‘We’ll have to block off the entrance.’

‘But what about Barney?’ Certainly there has been a barn owl visiting the box until recently, judging by the number of fresh owl pellets on the ground beneath it.

‘Apparently if you put baffles in the box, the jackdaws can’t get their nesting material in, so the owl should get his residency back.’

‘Who told you that?’

‘The Owl Preservation Society.’

But the jackdaws refused to be baffled by the baffles and had soon reinstated themselves. So it was back to the drawing board, or at least the Owl Preservation Society, whose next suggestion was to get rid of the accumulated debris in the box – namely years and years worth of owl dung!

‘It’ll be too low for the jackdaws to nest in now,’ my husband assured me, ‘and I’ve rearranged the baffles to make a tunnel, and then a sharp right hand turn; that should baffle them!’

The jackdaws were back within twenty four hours.

But where exactly has our itinerant barn owl gone, and why has he been ousted by the jackdaws? Has it taken exception to the giant scarecrow that has appeared on the near horizon, in one of its favourite hunting grounds, or to the huge drilling sites (part of the Nugen Moorside nuclear power station project) that have recently sprung up (and down), in another of his favourite haunts, The Boggles. How can a barn owl be one of our ‘protected’ species, if its known territory isn’t protected? A bird like a barn owl doesn’t just fly in and then fly out of a place, grabbing what it can before disappearing off to sunnier climes. No, a bird like a barn owl makes a home, and uses that home and the surrounding territory for year after year to breed and to rear generation after generation of baby barn owls whilst doing sterling pest control work. How often, in its simplicity, does nature gives us a clue about how to live our own lives!

Yesterday I took a walk down to St Bridget’s Church, just as dusk was falling. It was a lovely still evening, just the sort of evening that Barney would venture out into to hunt. Sure enough, on turning back towards home, I stood in awe as the ghostly white form of a barn owl came towards me, over the fields and hedges. Most likely one of last year’s brood, as it was quite small.

It veered sharply towards the church, disappearing into the cattle tunnel – a large black jackdaw (could have been a crow) hard on its heels.