The Dorset Owl & bird box Society
  March 2021 news    

Dan Newman of Manor Farm, Cattistock, taking delivery of a tawny owl box and a barn owl box, both made by Phil Evans, from Merrily Harpur.


March 2021

Stop press - there is a new barn owl box in the village! It was both made and installed by Simon Goodall in his barn at West Norden Farm – behind Wallis Farm. Great kudos and respect to Simon who – in the midst of building his own house – found time to build one for the barn owls too. It will no doubt be a dream residence for a pair next spring, if not this one.

Not only that, but two new man-made housemartin nests have gone up in Duck Street - one under the eaves of Nunwell, Richard Winterflood's house, and one next door at Maria Bailey's. The installation was most kindly undertaken by Eric and Bradley Damen with their long ladders – and strong knees and nerves.

These nests join Richard's existing one, the Nelsons' original two at Vine Cottage, and the two at Markers over the road - all of which had notable success last year. It was heart-warming during the first dismal lockdown to find that the street, at least, was alive with the merry chirps of four or five pairs of housemartins feeding their broods.

Housemartins are some of the most mysterious of our summer migrants; they spend their winters in Africa but no-one knows where. All we know is that they arrive in April to build their nests of mud under the deep eaves of houses – collecting it, tiny beakful by tiny beakful, from the edges of puddles and pools. They smear it on the wall of a house until it sticks and then build up the dome shape from there, making a smooth hole at the top for entry. They use up a lot of strength on their long flight from Africa, so it saves them much time and energy to find nests ready-made, or partially so. Nevertheless they like to customise the ready-made nest with mud improvements, and this is visible on one of Richard’s nests – if you squint up at his eaves you can see the smooth woodcrete adorned with extra mud at the top.

We have temporarily stuffed up the holes with paper to stop the sparrows colonising them (as they have already done at Markers, alas!) before the housemartins get here. The very second the housemartins arrive Bradley has volunteered to go up the ladder again and un-stuff them!

Some of these man-made nests were provided by the Dorset Owl and Bird Box Society. This is a non-profit group of volunteers based in and around Cattistock; it aims to help declining or endangered bird species in our area by providing them with nesting and roosting places.

If anyone has nice deep eaves on their house, or a V-shaped gable end, and would like housemartin nests of their own, please get in touch with me, Merrily on 01300 320064/ 077993 77661 or email  Or would you be prepared to host a sparrow terrace? This is a row of three or four little boxes, and would provide an alternative to their having to use the housemartin nests!

Likewise do contact us if you have tall trees and would like owl boxes, or nests for tree-hole nesting species, such as woodpecker or treecreeper. Or if you don’t have a suitable house or trees but would like to help fund a box elsewhere, that would be much appreciated!

Bradley Damen affixing nest to soffit of Nunwell       ... and Maria's

Above, left, Bradley fixing a housemartin nest to the wall under the eaves at Numwell and, right, another to Maria's soffit.


Owl box news from 2018-19

David Orr, our conservation liaison officer, arranged a visit by the conservationist Danny Alder and his wife Heather, to put up three tawny owl boxes - two in Cattistock and one in Chilfrome.

One is in the churchyard hornbeams (on the Ellerslie side), one is in John and Sue Willows’ front garden up Kennel Lane, and one is in the Tosswill’s meadow in Chilfrome, the far side of their pond. 

Dan Newman has already installed their barn owl box in their new barn at Manor Farm, Cattistock, and aims to put up his tawny box on one of the big trees at the base of Castle Hill very soon.

Harriet and Geoff, of Benville Manor, have also had a new Phil Evans barn owl box installed in their barn. We await results!

Tawny owls have been heard frequently all winter (December 2020) in Cattistock, reports from Cathy and Phil Evans who live west of the church, and from Duck Street and Kennel Lane.

 Please let me know if you see or hear any others, and I will post the info up here. Include whereabouts it seemed to be, and when you heard it. My email is and my phone numbers are 01300 320064 or mobile 077993 77661

More news - especially about our hirundines - and photos soon. Meanwhile, ears and eyes peeled everyone!


    Above: Three tawny owl boxes in Phil Evans's workshop at Wallis Farm, awaiting distribution, Above: One of Phil's beautiful barn owl boxes, destined for Dan Newman's barn at Manor Farm, Cattistock.  
    Above, left and right: Dan Alder putting up one of his own tawny owl nest boxes in the churchyard hornbeams.  
    Above: David Orr with one the RSPB's tawny boxes at Chilfrome.         Right: Dan Alder risking life and limb to put it up.  
    Above and right: Dan Alder putting one of Phil Evans's boxes in the Willows' front garden.
    Above: Dan Alder's photo of two the prospective inhabitants of the boxes  Above: Sue Willows with her beautiful stuffed barn owl Hilde. John found it dead by a road and Sue had it immortalised.  
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    We welcome new members - anyone willing to host a nest box, make one, donate one, research one, or help put one up.
If this could be you, please contact our secretary:  Merrily Harpur, 7Duck Street, Cattistock, DT2 0JJJ   01300 320064 / 077993 77661
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