It all began some eight years ago. The large building next to our house was always called by the previous owners the atelier, so Amelia and I have kept that name. It is more than a barn. It stores all our garden furniture, the ride-on mower, the wood for the fire place, and a variety of objects that Amelia keeps asking me to throw away but I tell her that they might come handy someday!
Most years we have had a variety of birds nesting inside it, including wrens, redstarts, and house martins. But some years ago I noticed a barn owl flying in and out late in the evenings. I love barn owls and decided to find out how I might be able to give it a home. Many sites including the Barn Owl Trust in the UK have advice on how to build and erect a barn owl nest.
I looked for a simple way to erect a nest, and eventually I found an old trunk in the local charity depot called Trois Francs Six Sous. This totally volunteer run organisation operates locally but is similar to the Emmaus charity stores. Emmaus is an international solidarity movement founded in Paris after the war by the Catholic priest and Capuchin friar Abbé Pierre to combat poverty and homelessness. The expression Trois Francs Six Sous refers to something that costs ‘next to nothing’ or as we might say in England ‘tuppence’.
The old chest itself proved an interesting item for me. In it I found a little booklet about 5 cm long with one side the face of someone unhappy and the other a happy face.
It was a small saints day calendar with the first page indicating the year of its publication.
I have no idea of the exact age of the trunk, but I would guess that it is easily over a hundred years old. It was beautifully made with two bands of material on the outside. I was pleased that I could give it a new life.
I cut a square hole at one end of this chest and one third along the chest I placed a partition going three quarter up from the side. By the time I had finished making the nest it was quite heavy and although Amelia was willing to help, I had to lift it and climb up the ladder to fix the trunk nearly four metres high inside the atelier along the wall. It was not an easy task! I just hoped that one day the owl might fancy using it
The top of the atelier is open to the outside so the birds can easily enter and leave at their pleasure. After nearly two years of patience, recently I have seen plenty of evidence of the presence of the barn owl with his pellets (not so bad), as well as large white splashes (not so good) in the atelier.
Eventually yesterday I decided to do something that I rarely like to do which is to try to investigate if any bird had actually visited the old chest. So I put up the ladder and stuck my camera just on the inside at the edge of the partition, and took two quick photos. The quality of the photos are not so good as I was obliged to use my old Canon Powershot.
Just beyond the partition, I saw the evidence that I had hoped for: a single barn owl (tyto alba) or as they call it here effraie des clochers.
I understand that it is quite difficult to determine the sex of barn owls, although I hope I will be corrected on that. This bird has been visiting us for a number of years and I am not sure if he is a confirmed bachelor or not. I just hope that he is happy in his home and that this year he will find a mate.