I have been keen to get some owl boxes up at Gwyllt Hollow. Tawny owls nest very early and you really need to get the boxes up in Nov or earlier as they start checking out nesting sites at the end of the year. I am rather later than I had hoped, but it's up now and it's just a matter of waiting now.
I decided to go for recycled plastic nestbox. It is light and has an internal chamber. It is from The Nestbox Company and I felt that I could customise it and it would be light enough for me to put up in a tree myself. It also means there is very little maintenance involved and the box will last for many years.
'The box consists of a weatherproof outer shell made from UV stabilised 100% recycled plastic with a design life of 20+ years. Inside the outer shell is a wooden nest chamber to provide the ideal environment for owls to nest in. The outer shell has been precision cut and uses an ingenious system of tabs to hold it together. This further extends the lifespan ensuring that there are no fixings holding the weatherproof shell together that could rust or degrade over time. Internally there is a removable wooden nesting chamber with drainage holes for the birds to nest in. This is constructed from FSC Certified Oriented Strand Board, which is made from flakes of wood waste or from saplings thinned from forests to make space for larger trees. If you need to check or clean the box it is simply a case of twisting the fastening at the bottom and the wooden nesting chamber slides out.
The Eco Tawny Owl Nest Box is designed and manufactured in the UK. The outer shell is made from recycled board which is itself made from discarded bale wrap, fertiliser bags and other plastic waste, gathered mostly from farms across the UK.' (from Nestbox Company website)
I like the basic design and structure of this box, but personally, there are lots of things I would want to add, to make it more attractive to owls.
I have adapted the Yew View owl box over the years, as I have watched the owls breed there and I have come to understand them and their needs. The first is somewhere to land to check out the box. If you managed to mount the box in a tree with branches right in front of the entrance, then that might do the job, but I wanted to add to the box, so I created a platform and some branches for perching. When working with nest boxes, I like to try to imagine what I would want as an owl. I think the landing space near or on a box is important, especially in the early days when they are checking out a box.
If I am lucky enough to have them breed, then the owlets need somewhere to branch out on to and I have found that having branches to grip onto, whilst they are waiting for food deliveries, makes them less likely to fall from the box. A platform, with natural branches attached, can provide this.
I am also wanting to film here, and I like the box to look as naturalised as possible, so I set to work.....
The plastic is easy to screw into , so I added a platform and natural perches. I lined the internal chamber with bark and also lined the inside of the entrance with wood. The camera was mounted on the back wall, so it could look out at the entrance, but also rotate down to look inside the nest box. I added sensored lights that would gently illuminate the interior during the day, but go out at night.
I then added some moss, fern and other natural materials, to soften the edges and make it blend in with the tree.
Choosing a tree was the next task. I have plenty of trees, but I am limited to being within reach of the network switch that would allow me to cable the camera back to this and to my PC monitoring set-up. Owls like a clear flight in as well and I wanted to ensure there were plenty of suitable branches for possible owlets to branch out onto. Eventually, I desided on a tree on the edge of my property. When in leaf, it would shade the box, yet it looks out over a field and then the nature reserve that borders my property. There are wooded copses all around and I have heard tawnies calling here.
The box is light, so I knew I would be able to easily carry it up the ladder. Strapping the ladder securely to the tree, I secured a batton on which to rest and screw the box to, rather than using the rear attachment holes. This meant I could angle the box in a 'V' in the tree, with a branch taking the weight.
I had checked all the camera angles and views whilst in my office. I have learnt the hard way that it is important to get everything right BEFORE the box goes up as everything is so much harder when you are balancing on a ladder trying to make adjustments!
I headed back to my office to ensure everything was working and that the camera was set to record. Now it is just a waiting game!
The first visitor was a squirrel and I was not surprised to be honest. It does gove me a chace to check the camera angles and image though....
The next visitors confimed that I need to get all my tit boxes up too! I bought all the camera nest boxes from Lichfield with me, so I will get those up in the coming weeks, ready for Spring.
I am pleased with how the box is looking and every morning, the first thing I will do, is check the night's footage, with everything crossed that I will eventually see an owl checking it out.
Now to customise the next box and get that up too!.........