People from around the world logged on more than 1.5million times to follow the progress of Somerset’s most famous barn owl family Boris, Brenda, and their six owlets. Now, a new pair has set up nest in Somerset Wildlife Trust’s webcam nest box a sign of hope for a species that could have seen up to an 85 per cent population crash in 2013.
This week (Wednesday, Oct 22) a female owl joined a male owl that had been alone in the nest box since July. Whilst speculation is rife that the pair is Boris and Brenda it’s deemed inconclusive by barn owl experts.
“There has not been a second brood which suggests that the female, Brenda, disappeared,” said Eve Tigwell, Chair of Somerset Wildlife Trust. “If a breeding pair is in a good territory like this one, with lots of food, they are likely to produce a second brood. This didn’t happen which leads us to think that the current female is a different owl. The current male owl could be Boris but because of moulting it’s very difficult to identify an owl by its feather patterns so we can’t be sure.”
Watched by the world, the barn owl couple successfully fledged six owlets in June, an unusually large brood, and a pattern that has been mirrored in nest sites monitored so far this year.
According to Chris Sperring, MBE, Conservation Officer with the Hawk and Owl Trust and Vice President of Somerset Wildlife Trust the results are encouraging following two years of extremely poor breeding seasons and high adult mortality. “In 2013 only 15 per cent of our traditional nesting sites contained successful nesting pairs, but in 2014 it is up to 67 per cent. Brood sizes are larger than normal too, with an average of more than four owlets. Many of the owlets produced this year will undoubtedly end up in our new boxes by next year, and we are already seeing this happen. If the winter is kind, next year should be a boom year!”
The webcam nest box is part of the Somerset Community Barn Owl project which successfully concluded this month drawing to a close the Trust’s most successful community conservation initiative in its 50-year history. The project was funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company; a charity that distributes money from the Landfill Communities Fund and is collaboration with the Hawk and Owl Trust, a national charity dedicated to conserving birds of prey and owls and their habitats.
Chris added: “Each and every of the county’s 335 parishes is now hosting a barn owl nest box alongside the rough grassland hunting habitat needed to support breeding owls and their owlets. Following the ups and downs of the last three years, the support of local people in creating a place for barn owls within our communities has never been more important.”
This autumn Somerset Wildlife Trust launched its ‘Rediscover Somerset’ campaign and is asking residents to share what wildlife they have seen by tweeting @SomersetWT using #rediscoversomerset. At this time of year the county is home to an array of bird-life including 'honeymooning couples', like the barn owls in the nest box, 'staycationer' species who stay in the county all year round, and it is also a destination for 'jetsetters' who stop off on migration.
To view the webcam visit www.somersetwildlife.org/webcam