About the Trust
Join us to celebrate 25 years of Barn Owl Conservation and support the Trust.
Three of the five musicians performing for the Barn Owl Trust’s 25th Birthday on Friday 2nd August met Baley the Barn Owl on Wednesday. Local singer songwriters, Tee Marcheur (left), Rebecca Maze and Owly Dave (right) will be joined on the night by Jasmin Ramsden and Alistair J Pearson from Doncaster. The Acoustic Music evening, at Ashburton, will celebrate two and half decades of practical conservation, provision of information, education and research.
All of the musicians are giving their time and the Dartmoor Lodge is providing the venue free of charge to support the Trust. Marianne Bryan from the Trust said,”We are looking forward to a really enjoyable evening and the opportunity to raise much needed funds to help our work". Find out more and buy tickets.
The weather at this year’s Royal Cornwall Show couldn’t have been better. After the torrential rain and winds of 2012 it was a pleasure to be manning the Trust’s stand and to meet all the folk that visited us. Reports of Barn Owls reaffirmed that this year the breeding season is very late, with only one site reported during the three days with young in the nest. A local site visit where a pair was present revealed that the female was underweight – way below breeding condition – so we can only hope that the current wet spell blows over and we actually get a summer this year.
The only low point of the Show was a light-fingered individual walking off with a copy of the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook which severely ate into our takings. We never even come close to covering our costs at these events so this was a blow for everyone. A major highlight of the show was a prize for the Trust. We won the first prize for a “non-agricultural trade stand” and were presented with two certificates and a ceramic plate. With next year being the year of the Cornwall Barn Owl Survey we are looking forward to meeting up with everyone that has reported Barn Owls to us since the last survey in 2004.
Photos: Left Image - the Mandarin Drake – Marianne Bryan
Top Right – Mallard and ducklings – David Ramsden
Bottom Right - Mallard and Drake - captured by Motion Sensor Camera
The Bank Holiday brought exciting news from the Lennon Legacy Project. We first saw a pair of Mandarin Ducks around the ponds in April 2011. They were seen again in 2012 but we found no sign of nesting. Nest boxes were provided before this year’s breeding season but inspection showed no sign of use despite occasional sightings of the male. Our first sighting of a Mandarin this year was on the 9th May, he was spotted at the cattle drink and numerous times after on the Flo Pond.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend a Mallard duck was spotted on the Flo Pond with three or four ducklings. Imagine our surprise when we spotted the Mandarin Drake sat next to the Mallard Duck and her ducklings on the island! Hybrid ducklings have been recorded before but quite unusual and would be a first for the LLP. However, we have since spotted two Mallard Drakes one being caught on film by our motion sensor camera, and so it seems more likely the ducklings are not hybrids as we first suspected. By 28th only two of the ducklings remained but all are doing well.
The weekend had already started promisingly with a brood of House Sparrows ringed from one of the nestboxes in the barn, it wasn’t possible to ring another brood in an old watering can fixed under the roof. These were followed by a brood of three Dippers from a nestbox located under one of our bridges over the Ashburn, another LLP first.
Head of Conservation David Ramsden is ‘Guest Blogger’ this month on the Springwatch Blog.You can read it and see some great pictures at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/posts/Barn-owls
Don't forget to record any Barn Owl sightings you might have at www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk
An unusual visitor to our stand at the Devon County Show this year was a wild Tawny Owl.
This bird had been fortunate enough to be found by a lady who was prepared to go to almost any lengths to try and save it. She took it to her local vet who couldn’t find anything wrong with it. After giving it fluids to keep it alive they said she needed to collect it as soon as possible because they didn’t have any suitable food, and then they charged her for the privilege! Most veterinary practices do not charge for treating wildlife.
Whilst at the Show she saw our stand and came in asking for help and advice. We said we could take the owl and she then organised its collection from the vets and delivery to the showground, where she passed it to BOT staff and it was brought to our Owl Hospital.
Examination here showed signs of old bleeding in and around the right ear and the left ear appeared to be blocked, suggesting a blow to the head at some time. Deafness may well account for the birds inability to hunt and subsequent loss of weight.
‘Devon’, as he is now known, is now on a course of antibiotics and is starting to eat voluntarily. It’s looking likely that he will survive although we have yet to start treating his ear problems. If he makes a full recovery he will be returned to the wild otherwise he will be given a home here at the Trust.
The BTO ring enables us to identify the individual bird and trace its movement.
The bad weather in March was responsible for unusually high Barn Owl mortality throughout the UK. In the 2nd half of the month BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) recorded 2.5 times the normal number of ring recoveries. Generally half of late winter recoveries are first year birds. The Barn Owl Trust has just received one for an unusually ‘old’ bird.
Four owlets were ringed by the Trust in the South Hams area of Devon on the 27th June 2007. One of these, a male, survived for 2,098 days (5.75 years) and was found freshly dead in a barn on 25th March 2013. It was found just 22km (13.67 miles) from its original nest site.
The owl had survived five previous winters, hopefully breeding during the intervening summers. Although we don’t know why this bird died, it is possible that it starved given that low spring temperatures suppress small mammal activity. It is also likely that it could have been poisoned. Latest figures from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme indicate that in 2011 84% of Barn Owls analysed contained Second Generation Anti-coagulant rodenticides.
8th April 2013
She’s done it!
Hannah has just completed the ‘Two Moors Way’ – 117 miles (plus the extra few when she lost the path). It’s taken eight days and she deserves a medal, in fact she did get one at the finish line.
Hannah had originally planned to do the walk with her dog Cato, but due to an injury he had to withdraw. However he was there at the finish line with her family to greet her.
Not only has she completed this incredible feat, she has also raised much need funds for the Trust – so well done Hannah, we are all incredibly proud of you.
There is still time to sponsor Hannah and support the Trust - thank you.
The April issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine - on sale from 13th March features an 11-page special on Barn Owls. In an article written by travel and nature writer Pete Dommett you can read about community projects to support these wonderful birds. Pete was a conservation officer with the Barn Owl Trust back in 1999 and returned to visit us here in Devon whilst writing the article. The issue also has 'top tips' for Barn Owl sightings and how to improve your Barn Owl photography.
Go to the BBC Wildlife Magazines website to read the Barn Owl Fact File we helped produce!
Views across North Park to the Wildlife Tower and to Corner Wood - see Lennon Legacy Project News.
Barn Owl Trust office in the snow - business as usual.
There is always something wonderful happening in the natural world.
On a rare dry day in January during a lunch time walk we were completely amazed to see a bat hunting during daylight.
As we walked out of a patch of woodland we looked down over a patch of recently cut rough grass and semi scrub land and could see lots of small flying insects glimmering in the weak winter sunshine, presumably disturbed by the mowing of the area earlier in the day.
Flying in and out of the sunshine was a large brown bat. We watched, awestruck, for almost half an hour. What an incredible aerodynamic display; the bat wheeled and dived, presumably hunting, occasionally darting back into the woodland for a few moments at a time. It came within four feet of us and was completely unfazed by our presence.
The flying display was reminiscent of swallows ducking and diving. Unfortunately the bat didn’t stay still long enough for a good photograph but, having only ever seen bats flitting past briefly in low light, this was a magical experience.
The Met Office have quoted 1330.7mm (52”) as the average rainfall in 2012 but here on the edge of Dartmoor at the Barn Owl Trust where we have been collecting weather data since 2006 we recorded the 1416.8mm (55.8” or about 4’.5”) during the year. Incidentally despite the drought at the beginning of the year we recorded some rain on 254 days, that means we had less than one in five completely dry days in 2012 - not great for the Barn Owls!
Our Wildlife Poetry Competition is now closed - click here for details.
2012 Holiday Lottery and Grand Draw Winners listed here.
Spare a thought for the environment and look at how you can reduce and recycle your festive waste this year.
Here at the BOT we want your used Christmas pudding bowls, with lids if possible. If we can collect enough, next year we will be offering the “Ultimate Bird Cake” in our Christmas range. Maybe you can ask your friends and neighbours to save theirs and send them to us too.
The packaging your presents arrive in, cardboard, bubble wrap and tissue can all be folded neatly and offered to your local charity shop. You can also take them any unwanted gifts you receive. Many of them are also pleased to have your Christmas cards when you take them down, or you can cut them up to use for next year’s gift tags. Used postage stamps can be sent to the Trust, please leave a 5-8mm border around them.
What a shame to just use lovely gift wrap once, by unwrapping carefully you can smooth it out and use it for wrapping more gifts next year. Ribbons and bows can be saved too and reused.
A 60 minute programme available on the BBC iplayer “The Secret Life of Rubbish” (available until 13th December) gives a great insight into just how wasteful our society is. It also has some great archive footage and shows that recycling is nothing new!
Check out the GREEN ROOTS section of our website to find out more about the Trust's green roots and lots of information, ideas and links.
Boost for Barn Owls
The remaining population of one of Devon’s rarest birds is being boosted by the release of four young Barn Owls.
Earlier this year, the Barn Owl Trust received the birds from the Gower Bird Hospital via the RSPCA at West Hatch in Somerset. They were originally taken in as owlets that had fallen from the nest. The owlets were reared successfully but the RSPCA lacked the specialist facilities needed to provide each of the owls with a supported release. The Devon-based Trust agreed to release them using their purpose-built mobile aviaries and set about the task of finding release sites with volunteers to feed the birds.
Under most circumstances, Barn Owls are released as close as possible to the place they were found. This is because they are very site-faithful and will live in the same home range all of their lives, releasing an established bird away from its home range will significantly reduce the chances of it surviving. Because these birds were taken in as nestlings and didn’t have a home range to return to, they could be released anywhere. The birds were split into two pairs and two release sites with plenty of good habitat were selected - one in the Teign Valley, west of Exeter and one in the Axe valley close to the Dorset border. The birds are currently confined in mobile aviaries and will be released as soon as the weather improves.
“These mobile aviaries are a fantastic resource” said Stuart Baker from the Barn Owl Trust. “Rather than simply letting the birds go, it is much better to release them from an aviary, where they can be supported in their transition from life in captivity to life in the wild”. The problem is that most locations do not have a suitable aviary – hence the need for mobile aviaries. These are large 14-foot aviaries purpose built onto the back of a trailer with a roof that can be propped open. Stuart explained “Using a mobile aviary allows us to use the best release method in the best place for each individual owl. Once a suitable release site has been identified, the aviary is towed to the site and parked up. The owls are then placed inside for about two weeks before the roof is opened up, allowing the birds to fly in and out. They then disperse into the countryside in search of a home range, just as they would from their parents nest. Once the owl stops returning for food the aviary is towed away”.
The Barn Owl Trust is always on the look-out for volunteers with potential release sites. “We need people who can feed the owls every night at sites with plenty of rough tussocky grassland” said Stuart, “as this is the best habitat for their main prey the Field Vole. Sites also need to be at least 1km from the nearest motorway or dual-carriageway”. Anyone in Devon, E Cornwall, or W Dorset who is interested in future releases should contact the Barn Owl Trust on 01364 653026 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A male Barn Owl tagged in 2009 as part of our radio tracking study in the South West has been found breeding again this month. The owl was three years old when it was originally ringed in 2007 so is now eight years old - unusual for a wild British Barn Owl as the average life expectancy of birds over one year old is only four. We also know a huge amount about this bird as it was radio tagged and tracked as part of our research into foraging behavior in both 2009 and 2010.
The owl was re-caught when we were checking for second broods as this year's breeding season had started earlier than usual. We were delighted to find three five-week old owlets in the nestbox and fitted them with unique BTO rings. In May an early brood of three was ringed at the same site making this the most productive breeding year at this site since the 1960's.
The now defunct radio tag which the bird had been carrying for 27 months was removed leaving no sign that it had ever been fitted. David Ramsden head of conservation at the Trust said "We already knew that these tiny radio transmitters have little or no impact on the birds. Nevertheless, it's great to have further proof of their safety. This bird has done amazingly well to have nested annually for at least six years and it's still going strong."
For more information about the radio tracking project see Feedback 40. - follow the link in the news article below.
In preparation for our new Home Page - coming soon - we are adding new pages to our website. The latest two to appear can be accessed by selecting the links below or those on the right.
Wind Turbines and Barn Owls explores the relationship between the two and makes recommendations for planning and development.
Identifying priority areas for Barn Owl conservation in Britain provides links to allow you to asses how suitable your local landscape is for the birds.
Look out for more new pages and our new Home Page coming soon.
The oldest of our nestcam owlets was seen out of the box for the first time at 11:45pm on Midsummer Day. This screenshot was taken by J Hancox on the 21st.
After all of the rain this month, we are delighted to report the weather has been a bit better for the last couple of days and we saw all three owlets with food at 8.55am on the 25tt.
Keep reading the Nestcam diary for the latest news and don't forget to check out Barncam to see the owlets on the other side of the nestbox hole and hopefully taking their first flights.
Weather Woe for Owls
After a great start to the breeding season here in the South West our hopes for a bumper Barn Owl year have been knocked back yet again thanks to our unpredictable British weather. It has been 15 years since we’ve had a really good year for the birds in this part of the country (1997) and the balmy March weather that led us, and the birds, to think that this year would be good has been replaced with unseasonable wind and rain.
Our annual monitoring visits are providing very mixed results with sites visited before the storms of last weekend having broods of up to seven owlets. The owls at our nestcam site hatched five owlets this year but two have now succumbed to food shortages as the weather prevented the adults from providing enough food for their family.
Some adult Barn Owls seem to be coping with the weather conditions. We surmise that if the habitat close to the nest site provides a really good food supply then the birds can stock pile food for their young, or pop out during any clear periods to hunt. Birds that need to forage further from the nest site for food are at a distinct disadvantage.
Three sites visited on the same day all with four owlets in the nestbox appear to bears this out. Site one – arable but with some rough grassland nearby - owlets – alive but thin. Site two – adjacent to field of rough grassland – owlets in good condition. Site three – surrounded by arable fields, few hedgerows – owlets dead in box.
With another band of wind and rain predicted for the South West this weekend we hope that the adult birds can get out and find enough food for their young to fledge. The best long-term hope for the species given our record breaking British weather is that landowners, who are lucky enough to have the birds around, will ensure there is some really good habitat close to their nest sites to help the owls through the difficult times.
To see and to find out more about our nestcam owlets select the link to our nestcam diary on the right.
The Barn Owl Conservation Handbook
We have just received an advance copy of our long awaited “Barn Owl Conservation Handbook” and wow!
To all those waiting for their ‘pre-orders’ from the Trust, it really is worth the wait. We expect the first consignment to arrive with us before the end of June and will post out signed copies immediately with a complimentary bookmark; let us know as soon as possible if you would like a dedication.
After so long in production it is amazing to see the book in print. We are sure it will be an incredible asset to anyone with an interest in practical Barn Owl conservation, there are 100’s of pictures and it makes a really fascinating read.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who contributed to the project with photographs, advice and editing.
You can order your copy from the Trust by selecting the link on the right. Enjoy!
Please support Poppy on her very first Walk for Wildlife by making a donation online via our donations page - click the link on the right, please put Poppy in the 'reason for donation' box, she will be walking at least 7 miles.
Poppy the Springer Spaniel spends a lot of time at the Trust with her owner Jasmin, one of our practical support team and is a firm favourite with our staff and volunteers. Always up for a romp Poppy, will be leading our Walk for Wildlife this year during the week of 2nd - 9th June. At just over a year old Poppy is full of energy and enthusiasm and keen to take on the challenge of encouraging other dogs to take their owners for a walk to increase awareness of the Trust and raise funds to support our work.
Find out more about the walk and how you and your pet can join in by selecting the link to more info.
Thank you so much for your support – woof!
We were delighted to receive 85 entries for the Trust's first open Poetry Competition. This created a difficult job for our two judges Rebecca Gethin and Miranda Egan who really had their work cut out to decide on a winner. The competition was the brain-child of ex-trustee Heather Buswell who, like us, was thrilled with the number of entries we received.
We are pleased to announce that the winners are :-
1st Prize - "Red" by Isobel Thrilling
2nd Prize - "Pantoum:Beautiful and Cursed" by Graham Burchell
3rd Prize - "Tyto" by Mark Totterdell
To read the three winning entries and view the list of six Highly Commended and six Commended entries select the link on the right.
To celebrate the success of this poetry competition a collection of twenty of the most inspirational poems - 'Wildlife Words' will be produced. To purchase your copy please send £5 plus £2 p&p to the Trust or select the link to Gift Ideas.
All the profits from the sale of this anthology will support our Barn Owl conservation work.
In 2001 the Trust purchased the 26 acres of land now known as the Lennon Legacy Project (the LLP). Over the intervening years we have seen it change from intensively grazed pasture to a wildlife haven supporting a myriad of species. The creation of hedgebanks, ponds and most recently an orchard have all added to the diversity of the site which is managed to create optimum Barn Owl habitat.
This week we have added a new species to the ever increasing list of inhabitants of the LLP. During a conservation task to manage the hedgerows, a Harvest Mouse nest was discovered; another first for the LLP.
You can find out more about the project (enabled by a legacy from Vivien Lennon) by clicking the links on the left and reading the LLP Diary or "The Lennon Legacy Project - A true story".
....And a first for 2012, the earliest frogspawn was spotted on January 19th in the little stream between the Flo and Oakley ponds.
On 26th October last year we received a call from someone telling us they were bringing in yet another injured Tawny Owl. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be a beautiful Short Eared Owl!, only our second in over twenty years of receiving casualty owls! We promptly gave her the not-very-imaginative name of SEO. The poor bird was desperately thin with a badly broken wing. After assessment, tubing and force-feeding the owl was taken 25 miles to our friends at The Veterinary Hospital Group, Plymouth (where all our seriously injured owls go).
The vets discovered that the wing fracture was by no means a fresh injury, worst of all, the ends of the broken bone had started to die off, greatly reducing the chance of full recovery. She had probably been hit by a car and then spent five or six days wondering around on the ground before being found. We agonised over a difficult decision: Should SEO be put to sleep, have her wing amputated, or should we ask for the wing to be pinned? In the end we opted for pinning even although the chances of a full recovery were slim. Four days later SEO retuned to the Barn Owl Trust for a period of TLC and rehabilitation. She had external metal pins holding her fractured humerus in the optimum position and oral antibiotics and painkillers to be administered twice-daily.
By 4th November SEO had put on 77grams, almost a third of her body weight and was becoming quite "feisty". She had to be kept boxed to allow the wing to mend but after a couple of days we'd moved her into a larger box in the hope that she would calm down a bit. Fortunately she did! A full twenty-five days later, another x-ray revealed that the wing was healing, but more slowly than expected. We were advised that SEO required physio (!) - the wing required daily stretching by member of staff. Although she continued to gain weight, SEO didn't enjoy the physio at all and found it very stressful, as did some of our staff. On the 12th December we conferred with the vet and suggested that rather than continue the physiotherapy we should move her into a small aviary where she could exercise her own wing. Unsurprisingly, she seemed much happier in the aviary than in a box.
Over the Christmas period SEO ate extremely well and moved around the aviary quite well too. The New Year brought another x-ray at the vets and we were devastated to hear that the bone had not ‘knitted' at all and there was no chance that the wing would ever heal. It was now a choice between euthanasia or amputation and a life in captivity. After much soul-searching it was decided that the vets should operate and SEO would spend the rest of her days in the Barn Owl Trust sancuary, however this was not to be. Whilst opening up the wing under anesthetic, it was discovered that an infection in the bone had spread up the wing. The vets advised that this was unlikely to respond to treatment and that the kindest option for this brave soul was euthanasia. We agreed. After 73 days in captivity there was nothing more we could do.
With hindsight, one could argue that the bird should have been euthanased as soon as she was deemed un-releasable. Equally, one could say that she showed every sign of adapting well to life in captivity and we know that in specially adapted aviaries even amputees can learn to cope. Such life and death decisions are unavoidably subjective and all we can do is what seems best for the individual.
We'd like to thank The Veterinary Hospital Group, Plymouth for all the time and resources they put into helping SEO and the other owls we've taken to them over the years, the staff and volunteers here that care for all our casualty owls and our Friends and supporters who make it possible for us to care for these wonderful creatures. Thankfully most of the casualties we receive have stories with a happier ending.
Help the Barn Owl Trust to Raise Funds
Raise Funds for the Barn Owl Trust when you Search or Shop on-line – at no cost to you!
The Barn Owl Trust is trying some new ways to raise much needed funds on-line. You can help us – at absolutely no cost to yourself, or to us - by using either of these charity search engines or going via these websites (below) when you shop on-line.
When you shop via either of these two sites, the retailers make a donation to your chosen charity – it costs you nothing, and the small amounts raised quickly add up to a huge difference for us, and for Barn Owls!
Some companies make donations just for signing up for their e-newsletter, participating in free trials or even simply registering on their site – so you don’t even have to buy anything. See ‘Raise funds for free’ on Easy Fundraising. http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/deals/raise-funds-for-free/
This seems to be useful way that our supporters can help out, without having to dip into your own pockets, at a time when are all having to tighten our belts.
Please give it a try, and let us know what you think.
(Please note that the Barn Owl Trust offers these services in good faith – but we have no control over the content or management of these external websites or organisations.)
The latest issue of Feedback (FB46) has just reached our supporters and this issue has our long awaited "Memory Tree” featured on the front cover. The tree is made of 18mm FSC softwood ply and the leaves (100mm x 40mm) are made of 6mm birch ply. It was designed and made here by Jasmin - one of our handy ‘men’. Each leaf is unique and carries the name of someone who remembered the Barn Owl Trust in their will, or whose family or friends made a donation in their memory.
When we looked back through our records we were amazed to find that there were almost one hundred and fifty leaves to make. Nearly one hundred people have had donations made for them and forty-six kind folk remembered the Trust in their wills and made legacies.
It is these legacies that have enabled the Trust to grow and to undertake projects like the purchase of the Lennon Legacy Project field, the creation of our two ponds and now the new Meeting Room. Since 2003 they have also made the difference between the Trust ending the year with a positive balance sheet or a deficit.
The Memory Tree is our way of remembering these people and saying thank you for their thoughtfulness. It also looks lovely and has been much admired by our visitors.
For those of you that like to write, the Barn Owl Trust is holding an Open Poetry Competition with the theme Wildlife/Conservation. A small anthology of the most inspirational contributions is planned for 2012. Our judges are poets, Rebecca Gethin and Miranda Egan. The closing date for the competition is 16th January 2012 and winners will be announced in the spring issue of Feedback, the Trust’s bi-annual magazine.
There will be first, second and third prizes and six runners-up will receive a certificate of commendation. There is a small entrance fee and all profits from the competition will provide care for casualty birds. For more details click the link on the right
From an Egg to an Owl in 63 days
Baley the Barn Owl is the star of this new colour A5 card produced by the Trust. When Baley hatched in 2006 he was photographed every day and this card is a collage of those pictures. From an egg to an adult the pictures highlight Baley’s development with the age of the different stages listed on the back of the card. The card, left blank for your own message, is available by selecting the link to the right.
Coming soon - the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook: A comprehensive guide for ecologists, surveyors, land managers and ornithologists - written by the Barn Owl Trust
This 400 page comprehensive handbook covering all aspects of the conservation of Barn Owls includes in-depth information on Barn Owl survey techniques, relevant ecology, Barn Owls and the law, mortality, habitat management, use of nest boxes and Barn Owl rehabilitation. Over a year in the writing this book is essential reading for ecologists, planners, land managers and ornithologists.
3. Legal issues
Due for publication this autumn the handbook is 244 x 170mm and has colour and black and white photos and illustrations. Most chapters include a section on how the contents apply to mainland Europe. You can pre-order your copy from our website by clicking the link on the right.
Paul Hackney’s book “Growing Barn Owls in my garden” is a wonderful insight into the life of an long-term conservationist. His obvious passion for the natural world and its creatures is reflected in his delightful descriptions of his encounters with the wildlife and the human characters of the British countryside. His story leads the reader from the years of his childhood to his passion for Barn Owls and their conservation.
As Paul explains in the book in the 1980’s the breeding and release of captive Barn Owls was a fairly controversial thing to do. There were thought to be far more Barn Owls in captivity in Britain than in the wild. Rumours abounded of well meaning individuals who thought they were helping to restore the balance by giving birds bred in captivity their “freedom”. Unfortunately for these birds most of them died, often a slow lingering death from starvation. This story is from a man who really thought about his conservation work. He carefully selected his birds, his release sites and his methods of release.
There are almost certainly young Barn Owls flying around in the countryside today that are descended from his released birds but, more than that, there are the people and their friends and families whose lives his project touched. People who discovered this amazing bird because his work gave them a glimpse of its incredible beauty. Farmers that put up nestboxes or landowners who changed their farming practices to encourage Barn Owls on their land, thereby benefiting many other kinds of flora and fauna.
By giving so much of his time and his energy to his Barn Owl project, Paul Hackney has raised awareness of this wonderful bird that has shared our countryside for thousands of years. This book tells the story of how one man can make a difference.
His book is available to buy on line from the Trust - just select the link on the right handside of the page.
To celebrate midsummer this year the Barn Owl Trust is holding a guided walk on the evening of Wednesday 22nd June. The Trust has 26 acres of land known as the Lennon Legacy project which is managed entirely for wildlife. Purchased with a legacy in 2001 it is nestled in a wooded valley on the edge of Dartmoor. Head of conservation at the Trust, David Ramsden MBE, who will be leading the walk said, “We have radically altered the land management changing what was short intensively grazed grassland into a paradise for birds, butterflies, flowers and insects. The recreation of two hedges and the building of two ponds, providing the largest area of still water in the valley, have further enhanced the bio-diversity of this beautiful site. Last year a stone wildlife tower was added providing potential homes for a huge range of species including, birds, bats and reptiles”.
The walk begins at 7pm and is free of charge to Friends of the Trust, others will be asked to make a donation of £5. Refreshments will be served. Please note: we DO NOT display live owls.
To come along contact the Trust on 01364 653026, booking is essential as places are strictly limited. To find out more about the Lennon Legacy Project select the link on the right hand side.
WE NEED YOU AND YOUR PETS TO JOIN IN WHEREVER YOU LIVE!
Sponsor “Whisky the Westie” Or walk your own four-legged friend!
This year we’d like you and your faithful four-legged friends to join us and make this a nationwide dog walking event!
This is our 11th annual sponsored dog event. Megan the Golden Retriever started us off in 2001, Hugo the Cocker Spaniel took over last year and now we welcome Whisky the West Highland Terrier. This year we would like to invite you, your pooches and your family to get involved too.
Our friend Whisky will be walking for the Barn Owl Trust here in glorious Devon on one day between the 28th May and the 4th June.
To have your own doggy day out and support the Trust wherever you live, contact us for a sponsor form; it even has a space provided for a photo of your dog! Plan a route, we suggest about 5 miles, find some sponsors, take a picnic, binoculars, your partner, friends and kids, if you have them and make it an event.
CLICK HERE TO EMAIL FOR A SPONSOR FORM FOR YOUR OWN WALK. Don't forget to include your dogs name and your full postal address. Please be mindful of where you are walking, ask permission if required and always follow the countryside code.
If you don’t have your own dog Whisky can be sponsored on-line by clicking the link on the right and making a donation. Please put ‘Whisky’ in the ‘reason for donation’ box. Whisky will be walking 7 miles and only has little legs, bless him! So please be as generous as you can.
Thank you for your support.
The Barn Owl Trust has just been alerted to the fact that a news story has appeared on the BBC Cornwall website, which is factually incorrect and gives entirely the wrong impression about the Barn Owl Trust's visits to nest sites. Mr Grantham is not employed by the Barn Owl Trust and the news item certainly did not come from the Barn Owl Trust.
Whilst visiting nest sites, Barn Owl Trust staff take the utmost care to avoid disturbing birds and would certainly never "clatter about with a ladder." There are a number of other factual inaccuracies in the article and the BBC have already agreed to remove the story from their website as a matter of urgency.
As always, the Barn Owl Trust is keen to record Barn Owl sites and sightings within the South-west of England and treats all information in the strictest confidence
For many years the Barn Owl Trust has been concernedabout the way mouse and rat poisons are labelled and the increasing proportion of Barn Owls that are found to contain rodenticide. The latest figures from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme show that a staggering 81% of dead Barn Owls analysed (mostly road casualties) contained traces of the more toxic Second Generation rodenticides. Whilst there is no doubt that some Barn Owls die as a direct result, very little is known about the effects of a sub-lethal dose.
Covering the subject of rodenticides in the book we are producing has prompted the Trust to take a new approach in tackling the problem. We have written four short easy-to-grasp statements that we would like to see included on all Second Generation Rodenticide product labels:
1) Owls and raptors can be killed by the use of this product even if the instructions are strictly followed. This type of rodenticide was detected in 81% of Barn Owls analysed by the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme.
2) Please be aware that this product is slow acting and rodents are unlikely to be found dead at baiting points. Typically it takes between 3 and 14 days for poisoned rodents to die. During this time they will still be moving around the site, may move further a field, and may be caught and eaten by a predators such as Barn Owls. This is termed ‘secondary poisoning’.
3) Bait-covering will not significantly reduce the chances of secondary poisoning of predators that eat small mammals (Barn Owls, Kestrels, Red Kites, Stoats, Weasels, Polecats etc.).
4) This product should only be used as a last resort where other control methods, non-toxic products and less-toxic products, have been recently used and a rodent problem is still present.
Dr Alan Buckle who runs the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, an organisation set up by rodenticide manufacturers, has forwarded our request to all the major rodenticide companies and we have written to the Health and Safety Executive who are currently carrying out a review of rodenticide labelling requirements.
To find out more about how rodenticides affect Barn Owls, please click the adjacent links.
Maxine has just taken one of our three 'new' mobile aviaries down to a farm near Kingsbridge for the supported release of two Barn Owls that came in for rehabilitation last summer.
An adult male Barn Owl was brought to us after it had been treated at Estover Veterinary Hospital for a broken left wing. The bird had been found outside a barn in the South Hams area of Devon and was thought to have injured itself by getting one wing caught on overhead electricity cables.
The second bird was a young female who fell out of a nest as an owlet last year and unfortunately could not be replaced. She had sustained bruising to one foot, was weak, concussed and in poor body condition. However, she responded well to treatment.
Ideally, we would get any rehabilitated owls back to the wild as soon as possible, usually within a fortnight of them arriving here. However, with birds that have sustained bad injuries or with inexperienced juveniles, the process takes a little longer. Both birds were ready for release in late October but heading into winter is not the best time to be releasing Barn Owls. We made the decision to release them in the spring. As it turned out, this was a good move as we all remember what the last winter was like for Barn Owls; three times as many dead Barn Owls were reported to the British Trust for Ornithology than normal!
The owls are now ensconced in the mobile aviary, where they will stay for at least a fortnight, and then be released during a period of calm, dry weather. The aviary will stay in situ with food continuing to be provided daily until they stop returning, signalling that they are hunting successfully for themselves.
Back in December 2008 Friend of the Trust, John Woodland passed away. Before he died, John talked about making a donation to the Trust and loved the idea of his money being used to fund the Trust’s very own wildlife tower, like the one built for ‘Wild Thing I Love You’ back in 2006.
Two years down the line and the wildlife tower is now complete! A small ceremony was held this month to mark the 2nd anniversary of John’s death and to declare the tower open to local wildlife. The ceremony was attended by John’s family, three of the Barn Owl Trust Trustees and the Head of Conservation, David Ramsden.
The tower has separate nesting cavities for Barn Owls, Little Owls, Kestrels, Stock Doves and small birds such as Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers, Robins and House Sparrows. It also has nursery and hibernation areas for bats, holes in the mortar for hibernating insects and stones at the base of the tower for reptiles and amphibians.
A local stonemason, Ashley Major, and his colleagues started work in July this year and managed to get the tower built before the winter weather set in. Our handywoman, Jasmin, then installed all the woodwork including the nestboxes, the locally sourced oak doors and timbers.
The tower is situated in a beautiful and peaceful spot, looking down over the wildlife ponds and the river Ashburn. We hope that it will be, as John wanted, a lasting home for local fauna.
A slideshow of the building of the “new improved” tower is planned for the website in 2011.
The Barn Owl Trust has been liaising with the Hungarian Barn Owl Foundation since 2004 and when we introduced them to Ambios Ltd, a not for profit company specialising in environmental training projects, it opened a whole new era for the Foundation. Since 2008 volunteers from the UK have been visiting Hungary to help with Hungarian Barn Owl conservation projects.
Last year a Hungarian media company filmed the project and visited Devon to see the volunteers as they prepared for their adventure and then followed them back to Hungary. The film was recently broadcast on Hungarian television successfully raising the profile of Barn Owl conservation in the country.
If you would like to see the film – which is broadcast in Hungarian click the link.
There are also links to find out more about the Hungarian Barn Owl Foundation (lots of information in English on their site) and Ambios Ltd.
After 20 months of fieldwork the Westmoor Barn Owl Scheme has been concluded.There are now 125 new nestboxes for Barn Owls in this part of Devon, which saw a significant decline in occupied breeding sites between the county surveys of 1993 (16) and 2003 (2). One polebox, twenty-two outdoor nestboxes and one hundred and two indoor boxes will provide safe roosting and breeding sites in places where the landowners are keen to encourage the birds.
Providing safe nesting sites in the area was only a small part of the project, which aimed to enhance 23 sites with a three-stage package of measures including nestboxes, advice on habitat and rodenticides. Another 50 sites received advisory visits and at 62 more sites a deep nestbox was erected.
191 site identification visits were made in order to target the most suitable places to encourage the birds and all participating landowners received copies of the Westmoor Barn Owl Scheme newsletter.
The project was made possible with the award of landfill tax credit funding from Biffaward and grants from the Claude & Margaret Pike Woodlands Trust, the Oakdale Trust, the Devon Bird Watching & Preservation Society, Dartmoor National Park Authority, West Devon Borough Council and the Devon Biodiversity Partnership and others.
On behalf of the Barn Owls in the Westmoor area thank you all for your support.
We are now hoping to find funding to allow us to check the nestboxes and to monitor the success of the scheme.
Isn’t it great when you do something and it works? Well that’s how folks here at the Barn Owl Trust feel following the discovery of both Barn Owls and Kestrels breeding successfully in the Tower built with the well known personality, Bill Bailey, for the TV programme ‘Wild Thing I love you’, back in 2006.
“Although the owls visited the Tower almost straight away and there was evidence of roosting, they continued to use their old site for breeding until this year” said conservation officer Matthew Twiggs. “We have also found signs of over wintering butterflies, bats and Little Owls using this desirable residence. When the site was checked this summer two well grown healthy Barn Owlets were ringed and the landowner reported that at least three kestrels fledged from the Tower”.
This is great news especially as the Trust is currently building its very own Wildlife Tower on Lennon Legacy Project land.
Use the links on the left to find out more about the building of the 2006 Tower and small stone buildings for Barn Owls and other wildlife.
The aviary built by the Western Power Distribution (WPD) apprentices has just become the new home for 43 Tawny Owls and 2 Barn Owls.
The new residents came from the Three Owls Bird Sanctuary in Rochdale, which was forced to close earlier this year.
Nigel Fowler, a trustee of the sanctuary, was keen to keep the owls together as many of them have lived in the same social group for 30+ years.
When Nigel and the owls arrived, it was all hands on deck to get the birds into the aviary as quickly and calmly as possible. Even two of the neighbours came along to lend a helping hand.
All of the owls were given a quick health check and any birds with disabilities such as eyesight problems; were colour ringed so that we can identify them easily. The youngest owl is 19 and the two oldest owls are an amazing 35 and 34 years old, the same ages as our Assistant Conservation Officers Maxine and Stuart so we thought it fitting to name these owls after them.
Along with the owls, “Three Owls” also donated two large chest freezers, 21 pet carriers, 10 stackable chairs and a donation to help the Trust look after the owls for the rest of their days.
The new arrivals have settled in well and seem quite content in their new home. David Ramsden said “It is very unusual for us to have so many owls living together and because they have been in captivity for many years they are very relaxed despite their new surroundings. It’s quite incredible to have 45 birds all staring at you at the same time, we are all very happy have them here”.
Newly recruited apprentices from Western Power Distribution (WPD) have been putting their skills to great use recently for the Barn Owl Trust.
Twenty nine apprentices and two graduate trainees from the local electricity company spent four days working in some rather inclement weather to build a new aviary for the owls as well as creating a new footpath on a previously inaccessible area of the Trusts’ land. They built two bridges over a stream and four boardwalks as well as improving access for visitors, volunteers and the staff who all make the Trust such a success.
The community challenge has become an integral part of the induction training for the apprentices and is an early opportunity for new recruits to feel they have contributed something useful and of benefit to the wider community.
Frances Ramsden, one of the Trustees explains how the work by the apprentice group will help the Trust, “We rely on a great deal of volunteer support here so to have four days of manpower on this scale will have an instant impact on our work and in particular the land owned by the Trust and known as the Lennon Legacy Project.”
In 2001, The Trust received a legacy from the late Vivien Lennon which enabled the Trust to buy 26 acres of intensively grazed sheep pasture. The Trust wanted to do something special with this newly acquired land and The Lennon Legacy Project was born. Today the land has been transformed into 26 acres of Barn Owl heaven perfect habitat for Barn Owls which also benefit many other species of wildlife.
Frances added: “Creating a new walkway has been on our ‘to-do list’ for a while so when the apprentice challenge was discussed we knew this would be an excellent project to occupy the apprentices and provide a wonderful opportunity for our visiting groups to experience a very different kind of habitat and of course be a huge benefit to the educational work of the Trust.
We would like to say a huge thank you to the apprentices and trainers from WPD. The work they did will make a massive difference to the Trust both now and in the future. Everyone at the Trust was impressed with their determination to complete the work knowing we will soon be providing sanctuary for 45 owls from Rochdale in the new aviary.”
Phil Thorne, one of the WPD Trainer’s who co-ordinated the group said: “Everyone worked incredibly hard in some terrible weather conditions but they could all see how beneficial their efforts would be to support the education and conservation work of the Trust.”
Two new mobile release aviaries are about to go into service for the Barn Owl Trust. Originally a ‘whacky idea’ by Head of Conservation, David Ramsden MBE, the unusual looking contraptions were pioneered by the Trust and have since become a vital piece of equipment for the rehabilitation and release of Barn Owls back into the wild.
49% of the injured owls received by the Trust recover well enough to be released. As David explained “it’s much better to take the owl back to the area it came from and far better to release it from an aviary than taking it out and just letting it go. Using a mobile aviary allows us to use the best release method in the best place for each individual owl. The aviary is towed close to the site where the owl was found and parked up. The owl is then placed inside for about two weeks before the roof is opened up, allowing the bird to fly in and out. Once the owl stops returning for food the aviary is towed to the next release site. People love getting involved”, said David, “we have no end of volunteers who’d love to have a Barn Owl released on their land”.
The two new mobile aviaries supersede the original version built in1997 and include significant design improvements and modifications. Galvanised steel panels provide areas of protection from the elements and prevent other animals such as cats and squirrels entering the aviary and stealing the owl’s food. The chasis for the two new mobile aviaries were supplied in kit form by Alko. The first was built with help from a representative from Alko who travelled to Devon from the Midlands. The second was built entirely by the Barn Owl Trust and David drew upon his experiences of using the original mobile aviary to create plans for the the new improved design. Construction was undertaken entirely in-house by the Barn Owl Trust.
One of the new release aviaries was completely funded by the William and Patricia Venton Charitable Trust, and grants from the Marjorie Coote Charitable Trust and the Valerie White Memorial Trust helped towards the cost of the second one.
Check out our new hoody design promoting rough grassland for Barn Owls. What do you think? With ten orders or more we can go into production!
Available in classic olive as a hoody with design on reverse, or as a t-shirt with design on front. Hoody £22, T-shirt £14. Actual wording will vary slightly to that shown and may read: ‘I like a bit of rough! Promoting rough grassland for Barn Owls’.
Email us at: email@example.com to pre-order yours!
This Tawny Owlet was brought to the Trust by the RSPCA on 19th April 2010. It was approx. 48 hours old and still had the egg tooth on its beak and its eyes closed. The Owlet was kept under a heat lamp and fed small select pieces of dead poultry chick every 3 hours.
The Owlet has made good progress and is now housed with two slightly older sibling Tawny Owls that were brought to the Trust after being found at the base of a tree with a dead sibling. NOTE: please remember it is illegal to take birds from the wild, and hand rearing an owlet and releasing it later is NOT the best thing for it if the adults are still present. Tawny Owlets do spend a lot of time on the ground but this doesn’t mean they are in trouble, it’s a natural stage of development. Our leaflet ‘What to do if you find a young Tawny Owl’ can be found on our website http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/infopage.html?Id=50
Two years in the making, our well loved ‘Wings of Change’ story of the Barn Owl and its decline has been updated for children to enjoy on DVD.
The 'Wings of Change' story began as a school talk given by the Barn Owl Trust using a traditional chalk board and
Entitled “Wings of Change”, Hill Tribe has produced a 20 minute DVD for The Barn Owl Trust which will be played at schools throughout the UK as part of the charity’s efforts to raise awareness about the decline of the Barn Owl. Working closely with the charity, the film was 2 years in the making, and is presented by TV Naturalist, Nick Baker.
A captivating story about Barn Owls presented by naturalist and TV presenter, Nick Baker. Nick tells the story of Barn Owls on a farm between 1940 and the present day. A thought provoking and educational DVD most suited to primary school viewers but of interest to all ages.
After many nights of eager anticipation it finally happened! At just over seven weeks old the biggest owlet managed to jump up 18" (460mm) and get out of our special ‘deep' nestbox - watched by people all over the world! It should start to fly within a week.
"Our 20th Anniversary Web Cam has been a great success" said BOT Senior Conservation Officer David Ramsden. "It's amazing to think that people around the world are watching owls nesting in Cornwall via our website. We're getting information on the owls' progress from viewers across Europe and America, - it's really fascinating" said David.
For all of us at the Barn Owl Trust ‘Nestcam' has become compulsive viewing and with ‘Barncam' we can now see the owlets emerging, as well as the adults coming and going.
The first egg was laid in mid April with three more following at 2-3 day intervals. The male provided a regular food supply for the female while she was incubating and the first egg hatched right on schedule 32 days after it was laid, closely followed by the other three. We were saddened in mid-June to see that one of the owlets had died. On close inspection it appeared to have starved which is a bit of a mystery as there were uneaten food items in the nest. However, food supply has been far from constant as prolonged rainfall has prevented the adults hunting some nights. "The nest we are viewing is absolutely typical of Barn Owls generally," said David. "The first Nestcam egg was laid on the average first-egg date and the number of young we have (3) is the national average brood size. The young should still be around up to about mid-August so there are plenty of sleepless nights to look forward to!"
The Barn Owl Trust launches a new document this week, ‘Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications. What needs to happen: A Guide for Planners’. The guide is a landmark publication for Barn Owl conservation. It is currently the only document of its kind and brings together all the information required by planners and applicants regarding Barn Owls.
The ‘Planners Guide’ is written by the Barn Owl Trust and funded and endorsed by Natural England. This innovative new document has taken two years to complete and aims to help both planners and applicants address their obligations to biodiversity (and therefore Barn Owls) by presenting information relevant to each party in a clear and concise format. The guide aims to dispel any mystery surrounding planning and biodiversity, and attempts to give standardisation to the planning process for all parties concerned.
David Ramsden, Head of Conservation at the Barn Owl Trust said “Barn conversions that don’t include barn owls are a major problem and there are so many sites where birds have been needlessly evicted. We are delighted with this new publication and believe the new guide ‘Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications’ will help streamline the whole planning process whilst ensuring that the bird’s needs are taken fully into account. I would love to think that by simplifying the process, planners and applicants will be better able to protect Barn Owls at every stage of building works and ensure that permanent provision for the birds is incorporated into barn conversions”.
'Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications' is available in pdf file format from the Barn Owl Trust website and Natural England websites, or by contacting the Barn Owl Trust by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Barn Owl Trust were delighted to receive the ‘Highly Commended’ community project award from the University of Plymouth Students Union recently. The award celebrates the positive benefits of student volunteering, both for students and for the organisations they volunteer with.
A dedicated team have regularly visited the Trust to undertake practical outdoor work in the Lennon Legacy Project field; a habitat that supports an amazing variety of wild flowers, insects, birds and mammals, as well as resident Barn Owls.
Matthew Twiggs, Conservation Officer at the Trust said “The students' help has proved invaluable this year. As a small conservation charity we rely on the help of volunteers to enable us to manage the 26 acres of land here at the Trust. The work can be physically demanding and the weather isn’t always kind, but the students are always enthusiastic and keen to get ‘stuck in!”
Photo: Carole Bowles of the Animal Defence Trust and Emma Birch of Naturesave Trust cut the recycled paper chain to officially open our new Owl Hospital.
Owl Hospital now officially open!
The Barn Owl Trust invited Carole Bowles of the Animal Defence Trust and Emma Birch of the Naturesave Trust to officially open their new owl hospital by cutting a recycled paper chain to mark the occasion. The Mayor of Ashburton, staff, trustees and project funders enjoyed a tour of the hospital and a brief talk by David Ramsden, Head of Conservation about the new facility and how it will benefit Barn Owls. The new owl hospital consists of a treatment room and four specialist hospital aviaries. The aviaries are designed for Owls that cannot fly at all through to a large outside aviary with plenty of flying space and an opening roof suitable for releasing a bird back into the wild.
The original treatment room and hospital aviary were built in 1998 and situated some distance from each other. Watching Conservation Officers walking between the two areas with a Barn Owl tucked under their jacket for safekeeping became a regular occurrence! The new facilities bring the Lennon Legacy Project barn, owl hospital and rehabilitation aviaries together in one location. This significantly improves the working environment for Conservation Officers and more importantly the Barn Owls that come to the Trust for care. David Ramsden MBE, said “Although the majority of the cost of building this facility was from core funds and legacy income we wanted to thank the Animal Defence Trust, the Naturesave Trust and other funders for grants towards this project by holding an official opening ceremony. We are really excited about the great new resource we have now to help rehabilitate and release Barn Owls”.
The Barn Owl Trust is currently undertaking some exciting research into juvenile dispersal by fitting tiny transmitters to fledgling Barn Owls.
This new radio-tracking project is a collaboration with Ambios, a not-for-profit training organisation and Biotrack Ltd., a company that builds radio-tracking equipment, which has already conducted similar research in Dorset and Hampshire. The customised radio-tag ‘backpacks' weigh only 8 grams and are secured to the owls with ultra-slippery Teflon straps developed by NASA. Previous studies have confirmed that wearing the transmitters appears to have no discernible effect on the birds' survival rate.
Currently, seven juvenile Barn Owls have already had radio-tag backpacks fitted but it is hoped that nine juvenile Barn Owls will eventually be radio-tagged. Two teams of volunteers from Ambios equipped with receivers track the nightly movements of the Barn Owls by going out during daylight hours to triangulate their diurnal roosting location. The data from this project should give us a unique insight into the dispersal process.
Recoveries of ringed juvenile Barn Owls have already revealed that dispersing individuals travel an average of 12km from the nest site and may go in any direction. It also suggests that most dispersal is finished by late autumn. However there is a distinct lack of detailed information on the process of dispersal. It is hoped that the new project will tell us about diurnal roost site selection, daily dispersal distances, and dispersal routes in relation to landscape features. We are also particularly interested to know whether Barn Owls can survive encounters with hazards such as major roads.
There will be more information on this project in the October edition of Feedback, our biannual publication for supporters of the Barn Owl Trust.
Live moving images! It's all happening right now! We have two web cams on a farm in Cornwall (UK) where wild Barn Owls are currently nesting in a specially designed Barn Owl Trust nestbox. Nestcam is a close up view of the owls' nest inside the nestbox which went live on the 15th April, and to our delight the female Barn Owl laid her first egg on the 16th. Barncam is a view of the nestbox which enables you to see the owls coming and going.
To find out more click on the 'About our web cams' link>
To see the owls click on the link (>) to the Web Broadcasting Corporation website. Simply scroll down through the various webcams hosted by the corporation and click on either Nestcam or Barncam. Both options will bring you back into the Barn Owl Trust website. Enjoy!
Wildlife Refuge Update - Fantastic news! We have just discovered a pair of Barn Owls roosting in the nest box in the wildlife refuge. There was a total of 82 Barn Owl pellets in the box too! The pair are using the purpose built nest box to roost in regularly- here's hoping that the next news to impart is that they are using it as a nest site - so fingers crossed. There were also Little Owl pellets and feathers and Kestrel pellets in their respective boxes - we'll keep you posted.
Photo: Courtesy British Ceremonial Arts.
On Tuesday 11th December 2007 the Queen presented David Ramsden, Head of Conservation with an MBE for services to the Barn Owl Trust. The investiture ceremony took place in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace.
David is Head of Conservation at the Barn Owl Trust, a national conservation charity, based just outside Ashburton in Devon that he co-founded in1987, Since its inception, nearly twenty years ago, the Trust has carried out ground-breaking research into Barn Owl conservation, led by David. The Trust is renowned for its practical work and information service and has become recognised both nationally and internationally.
David was nominated for the MBE award by Mike and Heather Ross from North Devon; they first met in 1995 when he visited their Barn Owl site. David received news of the award in the Queen's Birthday Honours list published in June and his was the only MBE to be awarded for services to wildlife.
Talking about the MBE award David said, “I haven't really had time to stop and think about it as I have been speaking at the World Owl Conference in Holland and returned a few days ago to run the Trust's 'Barn Owl Ecology, Survey and Signs' training course (BOESS). I feel extremely honoured to have been considered for an MBE and I am keen to accept the award on behalf of everyone who helped to create the Barn Owl Trust, all those who helped in its achievements, and especially my partner Frances Jaine who was also fundamental in helping to set up the Trust.”
In November the Barn Owl Trust presented two papers at the World Owl Conference in Hungary. These were ‘Barn Owls and Major Roads' and 'Criteria for the Evaluation of Barn Owl Nestbox Designs'.
We have added a new page entitled 'How to choose the best nestbox design' that contains all the information you need to choose a suitable box for your site. Just click on the link on the right.
For all those interested in disecting Barn Owl pellets we have updated our pellet analysis slide show - click on the link on the right to take a look.
A ballot run by the RSPB to find Britain's favourite farmland bird sees the Barn Owl come out on top. It is the first time a poll has been held to compare the popularity of farmland birds, most of which have suffered heavy losses in the last 40 years.
An RSPB spokesperson said about the results, 'Farmland birds are popular for their songs, their dramatic courtship displays and, in the case of the barn owl, their stealth, mystery and beauty'. Click on the link opposite to read the full article.
Listen to David Ramsden on the Living on Earth's radio broadcast discussing the fate of Barn Owls on major roads in Idaho, United States and here in the UK. The interview explores the reasons that could be contributing to the death of thousands of Barn Owls each year on America's highways. Barn Owl deaths greatly outnumber that of other raptors and researchers in America are trying to discover why.
Help raise money for the Barn Owl Trust by using everyclick.com to search the internet. Simply visit everyclick.com, select the Barn Owl Trust as your nominated charity, register your details and start surfing!
The Barn Owl used to be a common sight in Britain, but few people today are fortunate enough to have seen this most elegant of predators in its natural environment. In the last 75 years the country's Barn Owl population has fallen by at least 70 per cent, the primary causes being the loss of suitable nest sites and hunting habitat because of agricultural intensification.
Now studies at the University of York have produced new recommendations which will help to make Barn Owls a familiar sight once again. The research, led by Dr Nick Askew in the University's Department of Biology and supported by the Barn Owl Trust, has quantified the species habitat requirements and is now helping to focus conservation efforts across the country.
"We combined information gathered by volunteers with modern mapping techniques to help identify the best areas for Barn Owl habitat creation and nest boxes," Dr Askew said. "There is an army of volunteers in Britain working to conserve this popular bird. At present there are only 4,000 pairs in Britain and more conservation effort is needed. Our results will allow conservationists to assess the suitability of their local area for Barn Owls and make more informed decisions on how to help the species."
The research findings have formed the basis of a new advisory leaflet on Barn Owl conservation produced by the University of York, RSPB and the Barn Owl Trust. The leaflet includes nest box designs, a guide to government subsidies, a conservation action map of Britain, and habitat creation advice. You can download the leaflet using the link on the right.
"This new collaborative leaflet is a comprehensive guide to Barn Owl conservation and incorporates our findings" said Dr Askew. "For example, previously habitat advice was the same regardless of where you live. However, we found Barn Owls had different requirements in arable, pastoral and mixed agricultural areas. Consequently, we have been able to make new habitat recommendations which are specific to these three landscape types. He added: "In Britain today there are thought to be more Barn Owls in captivity than in the wild, a trend that may be increasing following the popularity of Harry Potter and his magical helpers!
"By using the Barn Owl as a ‘flagship species' to promote conservation action, we hope that the national population decline of Barn Owls may be reversed, along with that of many other nationally threatened species."
- Dr Nick Askew completed his doctorate in the University's Department of Biology in November 2006. His research was funded by the Barn Owl Trust, Environment Agency, Central Science Laboratory, Natural England and the University of York.
- The Department of Biology at the University of York undertakes a range of ecological projects in the areas of theoretical and applied ecology, biological conservation, behavioural ecology, molecular ecology and evolution.
- Leaflets are available free from the RSPB. Contact: email@example.com and ask for "Bird species sheet: barn owl - stock code 24-286".
Barn Owl Trust Conservation Officers will be in West Devon early this year carrying out the ‘Westmoor Barn Owl Survey'. The Trust will be gathering information about past and present roost sites, nesting sites and Barn Owl sightings. David Ramsden, Senior Conservation Officer explained "The Barn Owl population in much of West Devon is particularly sparse compared to the rest of the county. Previous surveys showed that whilst Barn Owl numbers in Devon were increasing, the number of nest records between Dartmoor and the Tamar fell from 16 in 1993 to only 2 in 2003. The Westmoor Barn Owl survey will reveal current Barn Owl distribution and determine the scope for increasing Barn Owl numbers. We are hoping that the survey will lead to the creation of a new Barn Owl conservation project targeting the area between Plymouth and the A30, Dartmoor and the Tamar". "Getting Barn Owl numbers up in this area will be a huge challenge" said David. You can help the survey by reporting any sightings or evidence of site occupation. Barn Owls are white, they fly at dusk and dawn and screech. Their droppings are white and they produce thumb-sized black/grey pellets (mainly in buildings). Please contact the Barn Owl Trust on 01364 653026 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All roost and nest records are treated as confidential.
The forecast for Britain's Barn Owl population is extremely bleak following the worst breeding season for over twenty years. A huge amount of conservation work has taken place and the future was looking brighter for this graceful and much loved native bird after a long history of decline but this year's appalling breeding season has been a severe set-back for the UK Barn Owl population.
Records of dead or injured Barn Owls reported to the Trust between January and July 2006 tripled in comparison to 2005. Below average temperatures in March caused reduced levels of prey activity, resulting in higher than normal owl mortality. The birds were then hit with well above average rainfall in May, which further reduced hunting success. Those birds that did attempt to breed nested much later and laid fewer eggs than in a normal year.
Conservationists in the South West have discovered that at least two out of three traditional breeding sites have failed to produce young this year. This is particularly disappointing following the gradual increase of Barn Owls in the wild over the last ten years. David Ramsden, Head of Conservation at the Barn Owl Trust based in Devon said, "Every year we visit the same 70 breeding sites and we generally find young owlets in most nests. This year one third of the sites we have visited had no signs of Barn Owl occupation at all, let alone nesting. One third have had single adult birds which implies their partners didn't make it through the winter and most of the adult pairs that did survive show no signs of breeding. This lack of nesting success, on top of the high mortality means a further reduction in the British population".
"The phenomenon is not limited to the South West as conservationists in other parts of the UK are reporting similar findings. John Lightfoot from the Shropshire Barn Owl Group normally expects to find 40 nests at the sites he monitors, this year he found 3. We have also had similar reports from Sussex, Wiltshire and other areas," added David.
It is natural for Barn Owl populations to go through peaks and troughs like any other species. However the sheer amount of mortality and the high frequency of nest failure is a serious setback for the species recovery. Global warming is thought to be behind many of the extreme weather patterns in recent years. Virtually every year has record-breaking weather and prolonged extreme conditions are bad news for Barn Owls. The thought that climate change may significantly hinder the recovery of this national treasure is a huge worry to those concerned with Barn Owl conservation in the UK.
The year ended on a high for the Trust when we featured on Channel 4's 'Wild thing I love you' presented by Bill Bailey. The programme went 'on air' on Sunday 10th December 2006 and showed the creation of a special 'owl refuge' that was designed by the Barn Owl Trust and built by Channel 4!
"The Barn Owl Trust are a shining example of just how much can be achieved by a small team of hard working staff and dedicated volunteers" Bill Bailey
Use the link on the right - making Barn Owl TV - for a 'behind the scenes' look at the programme.
Every year hundreds of young Tawny Owls and, to a lesser extent, young Barn Owls are found on the ground. The advice on what (if anything) should be done with such birds depends on who you ask, and detailed written guidance was (until now) very hard to find.
From April to July a lot of our time is taken up by dealing with this type of "Live Bird Emergency" call. Often, listening to the finding circumstances, helping them to check the owl over whilst holding the phone, and advising on the best course of action can take over 30 minutes.
In March 2005 we published "What to do if you find a young Tawny Owl" and posted it as a PDF on our website. When the calls started coming in it was great! We simply said "put the owl somewhere safe, go to www.barnowltrust.org.uk, read leaflet 48 and if you need any more help phone us back". Sorted in a few minutes!
Whilst young Tawnies on the ground are fed by their parents, nestling Barn Owls are not. Any that are left on the ground are almost certain to die. To help reduce this unnecessary mortality we have now created leaflet 49 "What to do if you find a young Barn Owl".
We trust you will find them useful and we're very happy for you to photocopy the leaflets provided they are copied in their entirety. However, if you get a call from someone who's found a young owl they'll need immediate access to the information. You can either help them find it on our website or fax it to them. Alternatively, call us and we'll send it as soon as we possibly can.
The leaflet can be downloaded from our information pages. Alternatively, you can call us on (01364) 653026 or send an SAE to receive a copy through the post.
An opportunity not to be missed - this beautiful limited edition, signed print is now available for sale.
From an original chroma-artists-colour on linen paper by Dick Twinney. Image size 21 x 15 inches, print size 26 x 18 inches. Published as a signed limited edition of 300 to help promote the work of the Barn Owl Trust. 50 prints will be donated to the Trust to retail at £52 plus post and packing of £3.
This is a way to help wildlife whilst acquiring a really beautiful print either for yourself or as a present. We will be happy to enclose a little information about the Trust and its work and a greetings card with your personal message.
You can contact Dick Twinney at The Lyndhurst Studio, Trekenning Road, St Columb, Cornwall TR9 6RR. Tel 01637 880606. Or visit his website via our Links page.
Long overdue, a new addition to the BOT range of information leaflets has been produced just in time for this year's breeding season. Every year we are contacted by people who have found young Tawny Owls on the ground. What to do if you find a young Tawny Owl will enable you to check the owlet over and assess whether or not it needs specialist care. If it's okay, and most of them are, it needs to stay in the wild and this leaflet gives you advice about where to place it, including a temporary box you can provide, and tells you how to recheck it later. It also tells you how to get help.
The leaflet can be downloaded from our information pages. Alternatively, you can call us on (01364) 653026 or send an SAE to receive a copy through the post.
Results from by far the most thorough Barn Owl survey ever carried out in Cornwall include a population estimate of 271-361 pairs and a breeding density of 8.6-11.5 pairs per 10km square, one of the highest breeding densities in Britain.
The main aims of the 2004 Cornwall Barn Owl Survey were to:
- establish the number and distribution of known sites where breeding or roosting occurred in 2004
- check all breeding and roosting sites found during the 1994 Cornwall Barn Owl Survey
- recheck all breeding and roosting sites recorded by the Barn Owl Trust in the ten years since the last survey
- create detailed distribution maps of Barn Owl activity
- check data coverage by interviewing landowners in randomly selected tetrads with no reported Barn Owl activity
- produce a county population estimate that can be compared to 1994.
BOT staff undertook the mammoth task of re-checking all nesting and roosting sites reported in the county during the last ten years (over 800 sites!) during which they confirmed 217 nests and 244 roosting sites.
The survey revealed that the species is widely but not evenly distributed across the county. There was a lack of Barn Owl records along the A30 dual carriageway (as a result of road mortality), on Bodmin Moor (less suitable landscape) and in several other areas for reasons which are not fully understood.
We decided to record the type of site used by the birds at every nest site. Modern barns don't normally provide a suitable place for Barn Owls to nest, unless a purpose built nestbox is installed. 74% of nests recorded occurred in nestboxes and site types were fairly evenly distributed between traditional barns and modern barns. This just goes to show that had it not been for the erection of nestboxes in the county by the Barn Owl Trust, voluntary organisations and enthusiastic individuals, the population level might have been a lot lower.
To receive a copy of the Survey report please send £5 (incl. p&p) to the Barn Owl Trust, Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7HU.
The Barn Owl Trust has just published the results and recommendations from a 15-year research project that investigated the effects of major roads on Britain's Barn Owl population.
This is the first report ever to be published on the subject and reveals the devastating effect of major roads on this rare species.
72% of Barn Owls known to have encountered a major road were killed.
Barn Owls are rare - there are only 4,000 pairs in Britain.
Half of all known Barn Owl deaths occur on roads.
Road deaths have more impact on Barn Owls than any other creature.
On major roads, Barn Owls are three times more likely to be found dead than seen alive.
The presence of major roads in rural England has removed Barn Owls from an area of between 8,100 and 16,200 sq km and depleted the population over an area of roughly 48,600 sq km - this is 40% of the total area of rural England.
Please help us to help Barn Owls by sending a donation today.
- With £5 we could collect another road casualty
- With £10 we will be able to look after it for 10 days
- With £20 we can provide a nestbox to encourage nesting away from roads
- With £50 we can advise a landowner on providing the right habitat at a safe distance
- £100 will support our campaign to change transport policy and road verges
- £65,000 will pay for further independent research into protecting this threatened species
The Barn Owls and Major Roads research was funded entirely by the Barn Owl Trust and this is only the second time in fifteen years that the Trust has made a general appeal for funds
The results of the Trust's recent research on the effects of Major roads on Barn Owls are available to purchase and to download.
The Brood of 101: the excerpt from the report is a chronological record of what happened to an imaginary brood of 101 nestling Barn Owls and gives the reader a real insight into the dispersal, life expectancy, and mortality of British Barn Owls.
The results of the countywide survey carried out by the Trust during 2003 have just been published, showing an estimated population of 350 to 470 pairs. This is a 37% increase since the last survey in 1993.
The aims of the survey were:
- To establish the number and distribution of known sites where breeding or roosting occurred during 2003.
- To recheck Barn Owl breeding and roosting sites found during the 1993 Devon Barn Owl Survey, and to analyse any trends.
- To quantify changes in the number of known sites in each local authority district as an aid to assessing the usefulness of the district Barn Owl Schemes.
- To create a more representative distribution map by surveying more sites.
- To check data coverage by interviewing landowners in areas where there were no records of Barn Owls (with follow-up searches where necessary).
- To estimate the county population level in 2003 and compare it with 1993.
Barn Owl Trust staff and volunteers undertook the mammoth task of re-checking all nesting and roosting sites reported in the county during the last ten years (over 1,000 sites!) and recorded 281 nests and 348 roosts.
The success of conservation schemes is reflected in the South Hams, Teignbridge, North and East Devon districts, where records have shown significant increases. West Devon is the district giving most cause for concern. The survey results indicate a significant decline here. However, on the whole the results of the Devon Barn Owl Survey are encouraging as they show the first rise in the county's Barn Owl population for a hundred years.
To receive a copy of the Survey Report please send £5 (incl. p&p)
The Barn Owl Trust held its Grand Draw at the Barn Owl Pub in Exeter on Friday 5th December 2003. The famous wildlife artist Pollyanna Pickering spent the evening talking to people who had turned up to support the Trust.
The buffet was a mixture of delicious hot and cold dishes created by Mark Newbrooks' team at The Barn Owl Pub. Afterwards Pollyanna drew the winning draw tickets.
The event raised in excess of £300 and was heralded a huge success.
A generous legacy from a mysterious benefactor has enabled the Barn Owl Trust to buy 25 acres of farmland to turn into ideal Barn Owl habitat.
The Trust - the small, national registered conservation charity based near Ashburton ‚ was left £80,000 in the will of Vivien Lennon, from South Devon.
"This is the largest single donation the Trust has received so we felt that it was important to do something really significant and long-lasting with it," said chairman of Trustees Keith Grant. "Using the legacy to purchase land and manage it specifically for Barn Owls and other wildlife not only furthers the Trust aims, but will also help towards meeting some of the targets outlined in the county biodiversity action plan for Barn Owls."
Trustees, staff and volunteers will all contribute ideas to the project before the creation of a management plan.
Senior Conservation Officer David Ramsden added, "This is a tremendous opportunity for Barn Owl conservation and for the Trust. The land was originally eight fields and probably supported far more wildlife than it does now. We intend to carry out flora and fauna surveys on the land as it develops its full wildlife potential. It is thanks to the generosity of Vivien Lennon that this exciting project is possible, we are sure she would be pleased that her legacy is going to have such tangible results for conservation."
Tragic tale of Jos highlights hard times for wild Barn Owls
Jos the Barn Owl lived and died in obscurity. But his sad story is typical of the fate of so many wild Barn Owls in this country.
Jos was found as a helpless fledgling at a farm near Holsworthy by a lady called Joslyn. She alerted the Barn Owl Trust and Assistant Conservation Officer Mark Green made a round trip of more than 100 miles to save the owlet. He took the bird directly to the Veterinary Hospital, in Plymouth, where an x-ray confirmed that the owl (a male of some seven and a half weeks) had a broken right leg. He was treated by David Young, one of the country's top wildlife vets.
Jos (named after Joslyn, who found him) was nursed back to health by Trust staff and volunteers. His return visit to the vets, where his leg was X-rayed and the fracture was found to have healed, was filmed for Channel 4's Pet Rescue series and shown on national television.
Within months Jos - now a fully-fledged adult - was fit enough to be ringed and released back into the wild. Most released birds are never seen again, but three months later Trust staff came across him by chance, identifying him using his leg ring. He was alive and well at a roosting site close to where he had been released. Jos had been self-sufficient for over three months and had taken up residence in a valley that hadn't seen Barn Owls since the 1960s. Over the winter Jos was joined by a lone female. In the spring the pair bred and successfully reared a single male chick - "son of Jos"
Then tragedy struck. A dead Barn Owl was reported on a dual-carriageway two miles from the nesting site. Mark Green, who had originally rescued Jos as an owlet, went to retrieve the body. It was Jos. The verges of major roads, with good populations of voles and shrews, make excellent hunting for Barn Owls - but the speeding traffic is deadly. Thousands of Barn Owls die each year on our roads.
Jos endured the shock of breaking his leg, the stress of being picked up by human beings, being treated by a vet and spending time in a bird hospital before being successfully returned to the wild. After all that he was "controlled" (caught humanely for study purposes). He also suffered a winter of rain and high winds and found both somewhere to roost and somewhere to hunt for food, which for a modern Barn Owl is quite an achievement. He battled against all the odds to breed successfully, only to be killed on a busy modern road. He was just 16 months old.
With the government under pressure to build new roads and expand existing ones, the story of Jos is a timely reminder of the largely unseen consequences of road building.
Links to website design
The Barn Owl Trust website was designed by local web developers Integralvision. Integralvision are one of the most creative web design and flash animation companies in Devon. Based in Exeter, they provide a wide range of web design and multimedia services to companies and organisations. Services available include: web design, exciting multimedia, cutting edge server-side development and expert search engine optimisation and placement.