Autumn days

The adult barn owl not only took up residence in the barn owl box but also found a mate. Recently the two owls were flying to and forth to the box. So much so, there was the possibility that the pair of owls might have a brood. It would have been rather late in the year, as the young are usually ready to leave the nest by August. Indeed in the last week the activity has ceased although the owls can still be heard in late evening and one of the owls was recently seen going into the box in the early morning.

The swallows are still here, although they are starting to gather in readiness for their migration south. So it will probably not be too much longer before they take to the wing. Their gatherings are attracting the attention of the Hobby which swoops out of the sky at great speed sending the swallows scattering. On its last sortie, witnessed by one of our caravan guests, it was unsuccessful. The seed and peanuts in the bird feeders are being emptied quickly by the multitude of finches and tits, many more of their offspring seem to have survived this year, despite the inclement summer. The squirrels also raid the peanuts, despite our best efforts to prevent them, although we have also have also seen great spotted woodpeckers and nuthatches taking the peanuts. The young pheasants are being released into the maize strips which have been grown to provide cover and protect them from predators. Although come October 1st and the start of the shooting season, a far greater threat awaits them.

Our ewes returned two weeks ago from their visit to the breeder’s rams. Somewhat later than expected as one of the ewes gave the rams the run around, so rather than having their lambs over a 7 day period prior to Christmas, the lambs are expected over a month from 15 December through to 17 January. We have asked our vet to scan the ewes in the second week of October to confirm that the ewes are in lamb and to identify whether they are carrying singles or twins. We need to wait until October, as the scan will not be able to pick up the embryonic lambs until they are between 5 and 8 weeks. The ewes certainly look large enough to be carrying lambs, but the scan will confirm. Also if one of the ewes proves to be barren, it gives us the opportunity to put the ewe with the ram again before winter and still have spring lambs as their gestation is around 5 months.

Unfortunately the ex-battery hens have been rather slow to lay, with only one or two eggs per day. Soon after arriving, and settling in they started to moult. During the moult, which normally lasts between 2 and 3 months, most hens stop laying as their resources go into producing new feathers rather than eggs. Then over the winter period the hens’ egg production declines as the daylight hours shorten. Unlike commercial growers we do not have artificial lights, and so we are unlikely to have eggs for sale until the spring and the return of the longer days of daylight. Although they are not laying, the ex-battery hens seem happy in their new abode and are eating well.