The sight of a barn owl in flight is a very special privilege
Pupils at Horrington school with the nest boxes they made
Somerset Wildlife Trust is launching the Community Barn Owl Project to get a barn owl nest box in each of the county’s 335 parishes and give breeding barn owl numbers a boost.
You can visit the project hub at www.somersetwildlife.org/barnowl
An owl box for every Somerset parish
Once common sights, these icons of the open countryside declined by 70 per cent in just 50 years, due to loss of habitat. With up to 80 per cent of barn owls now nesting in man-made boxes, Somerset Wildlife Trust is teaming up with local communities to get a barn owl box in every parish. As well as tackling loss of traditional nesting sites, the project will create more of the rough grassland hunting habitat barn owls need.
The three-year project will be launched on Friday, March 30 at an event in Bruton, east Somerset. It is funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company; a charity that distributes money from the Landfill Communities Fund, and is a collaboration with the Hawk and Owl Trust; a national charity dedicated to conserving wild birds of prey and owls and their habitats.
Simon Nash, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive said: “The sight of a barn owl is one of those wildlife experiences that leave you with a great sense of privilege. By providing a free barn owl box for every parish in Somerset we will be helping ensure they remain part of the Somerset countryside for generations to come.”
Host an owl box
The Trust is looking for landowners, across the county, who may be able to host a nest box and manage some of their land for wildlife. Volunteer barn owl surveys will be taking place and residents are being asked to report their barn owl sightings online. Along with family events and free public talks, the Trust is visiting 60 primary schools where children will be building nest boxes.
Chris Sperring, MBE, Conservation Officer for the Hawk and Owl Trust and Vice President of Somerset Wildlife Trust said: “This is a very exciting project, and I have every belief that we will ultimately be increasing Somerset’s barn owl population, as well as helping other wildlife along the way. The Hawk and Owl Trust believes very strongly in working with other organisations and local communities to safeguard the future of owls and other wild birds of prey.”
Lisa Nelson, General Manager of Viridor Credits said: “A key aim of Viridor Credits is the promotion of biodiversity. I am delighted to be able to help Somerset Wildlife Trust meet this aim via the Community Barn Owl Project with monies from the Landfill Communities Fund”.
Addressing the decline
A national barn owl survey published by the Hawk and Owl Trust in 1987, recorded a 70 per cent drop in the number of pairs since the 1930s. In 1932 there was an estimated 12,000 pairs in England and Wales but by the mid-80s numbers had dropped to less than 3,800 pairs, with just 200 in Somerset.
The Somerset Community Barn Owl Project will address two key causes of decline: Loss of traditional nesting sites within farm buildings and tree cavities and; loss of long, rough, grassland hunting habitat, due to intensification of agriculture.
Visit the project hub
For more information about the project go to www.somersetwildlife.org/barnowl
Barn Owl photo © Brain Phipps