Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Summer update from Chris & Beau

The Somerset Community Barn Owl project aims to get a nest box in each of the county's 335 parishes and boost the numbers of breeding barn owls. 

Nest boxes & landowner visits

The visits to landowners are a great opportunity to provide advice to people who really want to help barn owls and who, with a little guidance, can really make a difference.

 Four healthy barn owlets

On one visit to a farm in Ditcheat the farmer reported that they used to have barn owls on their farm, but not any longer. They already had a box and wanted advice as to how to get barn owls back to their farm. On arrival the farmers showed us their box and asked why the owls had left. On closer inspection there were fresh owl pellets around the box and inside where 4 healthy barn owlets. The farmer had no idea and was really pleased to know the owls were back on his land.

Bringing barn owls back

Another excellent visit was to a farm at Over Stowey where barn owls had not been recorded for a long time, but the farmer and his wife desperately wanted them back. The farm itself is a 400 acre farm mainly managed as pasture for beef cattle, as well as some arable crops. As we toured the farm holding the main reason there are no barn owls was clear, as there is not currently enough rough grassland. When we discussed this the farmer was immediately bursting with ideas of how and where he could create rough grassland margins around the farm. I have no doubt they will do whatever it takes to encourage barn owls back and it will be very interesting to follow the progress of this site.

Why refuse a parish box!?

Other landowners are keen to build their own boxes including an owner of a timber yard who refused the parish box, leaving it available for someone else, and said he would build his own. A farmer on Exmoor has been so inspired by the project that he has said he would build 10 boxes and put them up on his and the neighbouring farmers land who he has encouraged to take part in the project.

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Chris Sperring, MBE, Conservation Officer Hawk and Owl Trust and Vice President of Somerset Wildlife Trust with Beau

Taunton Surveysml

15 volunteers took part in a survey of Longrun Meadow in Taunton on July 23 where a nest box will be going up

Create your own habitat for owls

Creating more rough grassland hunting habitat is key to the success of our project so we've produced a factsheet with advice on managing your land (or garden!) for barn owls - it's the quality of habitat not quantity that counts.  Download our factsheet

Don't forget!

If you’ve seen a barn owl let us know by filling in this simple form. We’re working with Somerset Environmental Records Centre to map your sightings and we need you to be our eyes and ears in every corner of the county.
 

School and youth group visits

We have worked with Inaura School, who provide special residential education for young people unable to attend mainstream school. The workshop was a great success and the children really got a lot out of it.

Milverton school hosted an eco-day for other local primary schools and helped construct boxes for the project. The children were keen to help barn owls at their school and were hoping to create a plan for their grounds to incorporate some long rough grassland.

Wells Scout Group have been fund raising all year and have raised enough to buy three additional boxes for the project to be put up around Wells. They then hope to be involved in monitoring and ringing the owlets in these boxes over the next year.

The West Mendip Wildlife Watch Club have been actively involved in the project and have helped carry out a survey around one of our nature reserves. They would also like to be involved in ringing the owlets when the time is right.

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Our Trustee Eve Tigwell photographed three barn owls fledging from the nest box she's had at her home for some time and is delighted her habitat management is paying off

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Chris ringed five young from Eve's nest box and at least three of them survived to flying stage, despite the dire weather which has badly affected barn owls' ability to hunt and feed and their chicks

Upcoming events

1. Free public talk ­ - Wed, Sep 12, 7-9pm

Join Chris for an illustrated talk about the natural history of barn owls and learn more about our Community Barn Owl Project. The talk is at West Somerset Community College, Minehead, 7 to 9pm and is free of charge. Booking essential on 01823 652400 or email enquiries@somersetwildlife.org.

2. Family Fancy Dress Halloween Owl Prowl - Wed, Oct 31, 4-6pm

Join Chris for a spooky Halloween owl prowl on the Somerset Levels. Discover the different calls, how they hunt and how to identify different owl species. Come dressed in your scariest Halloween costume. A great event for all the family. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet at Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve car park. The event is free but booking essential on 01823 652400 enquiries@somersetwildlife.org.

3. Owls on the Somerset Levels ­- a guided walk aimed at adults on Wed, Oct 31, 7-9pm

Join Chris for a wander through the Trust’s Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve to discover all about the owls on the Somerset Levels. With barn owls and tawny owls in the area, we hope to see and hear a variety of species. This event is aimed at adults and is preceded by the family walk. Meet at Westhay Moor car park. The event is free but booking essential on 01823 651400 enquiries@somersetwildlife.org.