Thirty two years ago I installed a barn owl box in each of two of my gable ends. Sadly, I have had very few visits from the intended occupants ... until now.
One of the boxes has proved popular with hornets and afforded me a remarkable insight into the lives of these fascinating insects (see https://www.stephenpowles.co.uk/hornets). Stock doves too have made good use of it.
Last year a pair of tawny owls nested in the other box, going on to rear two chicks to fledging and on through to dispersal.
One evening in December last year, quietly working away on my computer, I heard what I took to be the male tawny back in the box "warbling" to the female which could be heard calling outside. I take this unusual tawny call to mean "come in and take a look - what do you think?" or similar. Male barn owls have been observed showing similar behaviour at a nest site. The following day I installed a CCTV camera, monitoring it closely ever since.
Apart from a wren that makes multiple daytime visits and a wood mouse that made nightly appearances for a month or so, all was quiet. Then the unexpected happened. The arrival of a pair of barn owls. They spent two weeks popping in and out of each of the two boxes, their hissing calls and stomping clearly audible to me in the room below. In the past barn owls have only put in a brief appearance and never for more than a day or two. Whilst the signs were promising that I might, at long last, have a pair of barn owls as house mates, would they stay?
It is said that the bigger and more aggressive tawny owl can deter a barn owl from staying in the same locality.
A week or so after the arrival of the barn owls, the male tawny retuned to the box. Once again, he entered alone and warbled. This time I had it on camera.
Ten days ago I glimpsed the ghostly white figure of a barn owl flying high over the oak tree in which the tawny female waited prior to dropping on to my feeding station. Ignoring the food on offer, she immediately set off in the direction of the barn owl which, soon afterwards, could be heard hissing loudly. It is now a week since the barn owls last showed up.
I fear that the tawny pair have lived up to their reputation and driven off the barn owls.
I hope to be proved wrong ....