Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Project update from Chris & Beau

We're delighted to say we're well on the way to achieving our ambitious aim to get a barn owl box in each of Somerset’s 335 parishes and help increase the counties breeding barn owl population. 

After a hectic few months here's an update on our work with landowners, volunteers and schools.

With nest boxes well under way we really need your help with reporting sightings of  barn owls or maybe you could come to our next organised survey in Taunton.

Don't forget - you can see if your parish has a nest box up yet by clicking here.

 

 

 

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

Nest boxes & landowner visits

We’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response we’ve received, with offers to host boxes pouring in from all over Somerset -­ over 400 to date. Each person has to be visited to see if they have, or can create, the rough grass hunting habitat so vital to the success of the project. With such an amazing response it's taking a little while to visit everyone who has offered to help so thank you for being patient with us.

Almost 100 landowners have already been visited and although some of the sites were unsuitable for barn owl boxes at the present time, many were and now have their boxes.

All of the landowners have agreed to create more rough grassland, keep us informed of progress, and allow us to monitor the boxes.

Take a look at Wookey Farm's blog about my visit: http://www.wookeyfarm.com/home/blog/

Ian Wickham2 sml

Ian Wickham puts up their nest box at Wookey Farm

Surveying & volunteering

Having been out monitoring, the early signs are that the extremley wet April weather has impacted badly on barn owls. The water makes silent flight, so essential to their hunting success, impossible leaving parents unable to provide enough food to sustain their chicks. However, unlike some other owls, barn owls do get another chance, able to produce a second brood. 

We’re keen to monitor the situation and need all the information we can gather so please:

  • 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.

 

  • Come along to our next organised survey along the River Tone in Taunton on July 23. Contact if you're interested.

 

We have also been training members of the Trust's Wildlife Watch Family Groups on various aspects of Barn Owl conservation, including surveying habitat, identifying prey species and participating in owl surveys.

Barn owl © Margaret Holland

Always remember barn owls are a Schedule 1 Specially Protected Species, so their nest site and contents are protected by law and must not be disturbed except under licence.

survey in bruton

Our first project survey took place in the Selwood area on March 30. We had a good number of volunteers sign up for this event, following a talk we did at Bruton School for Girls.

Schools & clubs

The educational visits have also been hugely popular, with a mixture of visits with Beau, pellet dissection and nest building workshops, enthusing and educating well over 1000 children of all ages from across Somerset.

Many of the children are from farming families and have immediately gone home to persuade their parents to create barn owl habitat and to sign up for one of our boxes­, which many have done.

The schools themselves have also got onboard with wanting to help the project, and although most do not have suitable secluded places to site an owl nest box, many have promised to create wild areas within the school grounds.

Children at Wedmore Primary School, for example, have come up with a plan to create rough grassland margins around the entire school grounds, which also border onto open farmland. They will also be using this as a study opportunity and will be comparing the differences between the wildlife diversity of the short grass as it is now, with the newly created rough grass in a few months time.


The education sessions have all been different and rewarding in their own ways. A good example is the Magdalen Project where we provided a talk and box-building session for a group of Young Carers.

Here is what the Care Farm Manager, Rebecca King, said:

“Thank you and your colleagues so much for a wonderful morning yesterday. You gave a great talk and really engaged the children. That was the first time they had listened attentively during the 3 days.” ­

They have also put up a nest box and asked us to come back and do a second session.

Need more info?

If you've got a question about the project you might find the answer in our FAQs.

Upton Noble pupils box building © Vincent Evans

Pupils from Upton Noble Primary School nest box building at our launch event in Bruton

box building TWWK

Families helped build nest boxes at our Wildlife Extravaganza in Longrun Meadow for Taunton Wildlife Week in May