6 eggs

A surprise extra egg arrived last night, taking the clutch to 6 (one more than we had last year) and possibly a sign that the food supply is good at the moment. However, it does mean more mouths to feed when they hatch (though they won’t all hatch and those that do won’t all survive good food supply or not, such is nature).

Swan Lake

A juvenile mute swan arrived today, quite bold and hungry, currently hoovering up the water crowfoot (which is a shame as it’s just started to flower). Lovely addition to the pond though.

Still a little brown = a juvenile
10pm. Looks like he’s staying the night.

5 eggs

Every hour or so the female gets up, turns around and moves back, has a good stretch then checks on her eggs before carefully sitting back down on them. Today she reveals a fifth addition to the clutch.

The male is spending most days roosting in the other nest box (about three hundred feet away) but usually flies over and joins her at some point during the day. He does tend to sit right down in the middle of the nest box taking up all the space: not sure she appreciates this!

Quiet family afternoon in

The male joined the female earlier today and they settled down for a quiet afternoon together. It wasn’t all rest for the female though: her flight feathers needed some maintenance, the male needed to be preened (whether he liked it or not) and of course the eggs needed checking. Only then could she have a nap.

Good hunting

Now the female is sitting on her eggs the male has to do all the hunting, but it’s going well so far (much better than last year). Here he is returning with a big fat field mouse.

Eggs!

The female has been a bit shy recently but today moved enough to reveal two lovely new eggs. The video shows how careful she is, delicately moving around while checking the eggs beneath her with her claws.

Slo-mo owl

Yesterday something spooked the male, who launched himself out of the nest box without touching the ledge.

Here he is slowed down x 10.

We know this is the male because he then flew into the other nest box where the female was and mated with her. So clearly it is the female who is ringed, not the male.

Ringed

We hadn’t noticed before but one of the owls is ringed. Two nights ago, one of the cameras on the other nest box recorded the male (we think) sitting on the ledge, clearly showing a ring on his right leg.

We’ll contact the Shropshire Barn Owl Group to let them know, as it may be an owl ringed by them. It would be fascinating to find out where he’s come from.

Spring has arrived

Cuckoo flowers have appeared in the meadow: small clusters of pink flowers amongst the raggedy early growth of grasses. A sure sign that spring has finally arrived, though a little later than last year and for some reason that flowers a lot pinker than usual.

The ground is getting very dry now and the clay soil turning to rock. We’re probably going to have to start watering all the new saplings that we planted this winter as their new roots will be desperately searching for moisture. Not something we usually have to do in April.

Don’t talk with your mouth full

The barn owls are hunting well during the recent cold dry nights, coming back with a mix of field voles, field mice and other small mammals (and probably a frog or two). In this clip the male comes out and flies off, followed by the female who tries to call for him but can’t make much of a noise because her mouth is full. She then does what barn owls do very well: she swallows her meal whole. Oh yum.

Settling in

Both the female and the male are resting in the nest box today, after a night of hunting and ‘making eggs’. Predictions are for an increase in the number of field voles this year (‘Barn Owls in 2020: an update from Colin Shawyer’) so hopefully plenty of food, and no need for us to hand feed the hootlets this year, we hope.

The new pair taking in their new realm at dawn before going in to sleep.

Settling in for a day’s rest in their new home.

They’re back!

At last, and not too late for breeding this year, a pair of barn owls have appeared. They arrived last night with a lot of fussing and mutual preening on the ledge of the old nest box. The female has settled in to the box for the day and the male is probably roosting somewhere nearby. Fingers crossed for hootlets this year.

We need to evict a squirrel from the other nest box to allow the owls to use it as a roost for when the old nest box gets too crowded (we hope).

Smooth operator

Smooth (common) newt, female (probably)

Now the frogs and toads have had their fun it’s time for the newts. There are a lot of them this year, both smooth and great crested but now the water has become so clear they are easy to spot and the visiting hungry heron quite likes them for breakfast. Today only the smoothest of newts wanted to be photographed.

Update

Lesser Celandine emerges from the meadow.

The recent cold spell has tried to pause life here at Tipton’s Croft but spring can never really be stopped. The hedgerows are full of white blackthorn blossom and the bright green of hawthorn leaf is beginning to show through. The growth of grass has slowed down in the meadow but wildflowers are beginning to emerge, with traces of lesser celandine the first to appear.

The ponds are full of life with frog and toad spawn hatching into masses of black wriggly tadpoles and great crested newts seeking each other out. There are pairs of mallard ducks tentatively eyeing up the new island and a not entirely welcome heron visiting to sit in the shallows ready to pounce on anything that moves.

The owl boxes are sadly empty of owls, and proving rather too tempting to the local jackdaws and stock doves, so we may need to block off the entrances to keep the boxes prepared for any passing barn owl that is looking for a nest.