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Published this week - the 'State of the Barn Owl Population 2014' can now be found on our website.
Despite winter 13-14 being the stormiest and wettest for 250 years, it was mild and therefore quite a good one for Barn Owls (except where long term flooding was an issue). An early spring was followed by a long and pleasant summer. Indeed, September 2014 was the driest since records began. According to the National Climatic Data Centre, 2014 was the warmest year on record which was largely attributable to sea temperatures.
Annual variations in small mammal abundance are not linked to winter weather (Taylor 1994) so it was a fortunate coincidence that a year of great weather happened to coincide with a peak year for small mammals. The result: Barn Owls had a very productive year in many areas.
Although not every ‘dependable’ nest site was occupied (probably due to high mortality in 2013), many groups were surprised to find so many pairs nesting. Overall, UK nesting occupancy in 2014 was 16% above the all-years average. An overall UK brood size increase of 35% is a tremendous short-term gain.
We found the first frogspawn on the year on the Flo Pond in Forde Orchard (part of the Lennon Legacy Project) on the 27th January. Unfortunately for the frogs the Heron discovered it too and has spent the last two weeks catching the frogs as they come in to spawn.
We’ve had some great views of the Heron and two have been spotted together on occasion, but the result is we have less frogspawn this year than at any time since the ponds were created (October 2006).
Spawning dates for previous years: - 23rd January 2014,- 30th January 2013, - 19th January 2012, - 4th February 2011, - 9th February 2010,- 28th January 2009 - 23rd January 2008 and 22nd January 2007.
To find out more about the Lennon Legacy Project wildlife read the Lennon Legacy Project News
Good news on the 'Steve' front..... On Friday the 6th he started eating voluntarily after 44 days of hand feeding. In all the years we've been doing this we've never had a bird that has needed hand feeding for so long! There is always something new.
Steve went for his last vet appointment yesterday. All his pins are now out! He is still not eating by himself, which is a bit of a worry, but hopefully he will perk up now his metal work has gone!
Steve (Eve) arrived back at the Trust from the vets this morning. The leg is healing well and part of the pinning has now been removed! He has also put on plenty of weight so things are looking great for our Christmas visitor!
January 7th 2015
Update: Eve (or Steve as it turns out he is a boy!) is still doing well. He is off back to the vets for a check up today. Fingers crossed his leg has healed OK. We'll keep you posted on the outcome!
Update: Eve cast his first pellet last night and hooted when the lights went out (brief power cut). He's standing now and producing droppings but still having to be hand fed.
Christmas visitor at the BOT - this Tawny arrived from the vets on the morning of Christmas Eve with a pinned right leg and antibiotics for the infection. So far, so good, let’s hope it makes a miraculous recovery over the festive season.
A big thank you and seasons greetings to all our supporters – we hope you have a good Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year. The office will reopen on January 5th 2015.
Feed the Birds
Christmas Eve 2014
With the weather getting colder don’t forget the festive treats for our feathered friends. Here is our recipe to make a bird cake for your garden birds.
Kingfisher Caught on Camera
This Kingfisher was captured by the Trusts camera on the 28th September at 11:32am. Perched on a conveniently placed branch over the Flo Pond it has caught something, unfortunately we can’t tell what!
Despite several sightings over the last few years, this is the first Kingfisher picture from the Lennon Legacy Project. The camera will go back out this afternoon but angled slightly lower so we may get an even better one.
Biscuit (left), Poppy (centre) and Maize (right)
Walking for Wildlife
These three doggies are preparing for the weekend when they will be walking to raise funds for the Barn Owl Trust. Back in the Spring issue of Feedback we announced that Poppy, the then pregnant Springer Spaniel and Maizie, the Working Cocker Spaniel would walk in July..... Puppies and other events got in the way and so the walk was postponed until October 11th. Now it's literally ‘full-steam ahead'.
This Saturday Poppy and Maizie will be joined by Poppy's puppy Biscuit, the chocolate Sprocker. They will walk from the Barn Owl Trust, through Ashburton to Buckfastleigh approximately 6 miles and then, thanks to the generous support of the South Devon Railway Association, they will board a steam train for Totnes. With a walk from the station and around the town we estimate the dogs will each have walked almost 10 miles by the time they board the train for the return trip to Buckfastleigh.
If you would like to sponsor Poppy, Maizie & Biscuit please make a donation stating ‘dogs' as the reason for donation. Thank you and woof, woof, woof.
Another Late First Brood
These two young females were fitted with their BTO rings this week. A very late brood for this particular site where there was no sign of breeding in early June. Being weighed, measured and ringed must be like a strange dream for an owlet and then, they wake up wearing jewelry!
Management by Herd
Our most effective management tools are now in action in the Lennon Legacy Project.
This small herd of Limousin x South Devon cattle are currently grazing the Trusts' land to help reinvigorate the grassland and maximise the bio-diversity.
A Very Urban Barn Owl Nest
Is this the most urban Barn Owl nest site in Britain?
It's cerainly the most urban we've had reported to date. This unusual nest site in Cardigan (Wales) was recently reported on the UK Barn Owl Survey website and appeared in a local paper, the Tivy-side Advertiser.
A youngster was spotted on scaffolding outside Belotti`s delicatessen last week, and was happy to pose for pictures taken by delighted shoppers. Maria Belotti said "three or four young birds may be nesting in the area, and had been heard by local residents". "It just stayed there while people took pictures. It's not something that you see everyday. It's nice to know they are in town."
Feedback 52 Arrives
Feedback 52 is winging its way towards Trust Friends and supporters. Email copies have been sent out today of this bi-annual magazine and postal copies were collected from the office on Monday so should be dropping through letterboxes any day. This issue also contains our 2013-2014 Annual Report and for those of you looking ahead has details of our new Christmas cards and our unique 2015 calendar.
Christmas cards right
A late first brood of five, yes there are five, owlets ringed mid-August
Late First Brood
2014 is undoubtedly a much better year for Barn Owls than we've seen for many years with many birds breeding earlier and having larger broods than usual. It's particularly good given that 2013 was the worst year for the birds most Barn Owl workers had ever experienced. See our report; ‘State of the UK Barn Owl population 2013'.
We're currently receiving reports of second broods but this young family of five was a late first brood with the adults not pairing up until May.
Rodenticide Campaign Latest
According to new government figures, the proportion of Barn Owls that contain highly-toxic rat poison now stands at 87%. Along with Kestrels (100%) and Red Kites (93%), even bird-eating predators like Sparrowhawks and Peregrines are now known to be widely contaminated. The Barn Owl Trust campaign for radical reforms in the use of these poisons and vastly improved product labelling is still in full swing and our petition now stands at a staggering 126,773 signatures.
Since the last issue of Feedback, the Government Oversight Group led by the Pesticide Regulators (HSE) thankfully rejected the industry's Stewardship Scheme proposals which had been heavily criticized by the Barn Owl Trust. In that crucial meeting on 4th March, the rodenticide industry was told to go away and consolidate its proposals in preparation for the next Government Oversight Group meeting on 7th July.
What the industry mainly did was to swell their 44-page Proposal into 72 pages by adding a mass of background information in an effort to justify their position. HSE was obviously not impressed. They told the Government Oversight Group members not to attend and used the 7th July meeting to convey their concerns and send the industry away yet again to amend the proposal.
Although not in the public domain, we managed to get hold of a copy of the ‘second draft Proposals for the Stewardship of the Second Generation Anti-coagulant Rodenticide' and circulated an 8-page ‘Checklist and Recommendations' to the Government Oversight Group and key representatives of the poison industry on the 3rd July. We have since heard that on 7th July, ALL of the issues raised by the Barn Owl Trust were addressed by the Regulators (HSE).
At the time of writing, we are waiting to see a third version of the industry's Proposal and hear from HSE about the final round of Public Consultation. Please rest assured that your 126,758 signatures have made a difference! We may be a tiny little charity facing up to a multi-million pound industry but thanks to you we ARE being heard!
To find out more scroll down to our launch news items in January 2014 or visit our Rodenticide Campaign page for more information including the labelling details we advocate and references.
You can lend your support to this campaign by signing the petition and then forward it to your friends.
More groups and more Butterflies
We had a wonderful Butterfly walk on the 21st with a U3A group from Kingsbridge that visited. A couple of the participants in their 80's weren't sure they could manage the whole route, but with the gentle pace and frequent stops to admire the wildlife everyone completed the walk and had a wonderful time. "A great afternoon, thank you very much". "Wonderful, even better than expected". "Tremendous, so glad I did it - took me back to my childhood (over 80)".
If you are interested in booking a walk for your group, with or without a cream tea, or a team-building day for your company please contact Jo for more details.
Walking with Wildlife
The weather was kind for our two Butterfly Walks last week. Brilliant sunshine greeted a group of twenty-four from the National Trust Axe Valley on Wednesday when they visited the Trusts Lennon Legacy Project for the first time. Hundreds of Marbled Whites and Ringlets, plus Meadow Browns, Skippers and Burnet Moths were amongst the species seen flying in ‘Barn Owl heaven' (rough grassland). The event finished up with a delicious cream tea in our Meeting Room.
On Thursday the first of our two open Butterfly Walks was also blessed with good weather and the butterflies were once again out in force. Join us for our final Butterfly Walk of the summer on Saturday 19th July or one of the other events we have planned - booking is essential.
Baley the Barn Owl helps spread the word about the dangers of rat poison
Trust on TV - Thursday 26th June
The Barn Owl Trust will be featured in The Rise of the Super Rat on ITV1 this Thursday (26/06/14) at 7.30PM
The use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) has increased dramatically due to the wild rat population developing immunity to more conventional poisons. This can only mean bad news for predatory birds who are highly susceptible to secondary poisoning. A recent study found that 84% of Barn Owls contain doses of SGARs and this has been at lethal levels in some birds. The ITV Tonight programme has recorded an episode looking at this issue and how the government intends to tackle rodenticide use in the future.
Following the Trust’s highly successful petition (with over 126,000 signatories calling for regulatory reform) and Ministerial meeting, the Tonight programme came along to the Barn Owl Trust in early June and filmed an interview with David ably assisted by Baley, our education owl! The programme is being broadcast on Thursday 26th June on ITV1 at 7.30pm or catch it an hour later on ITV1+1.
For more information, have a look at our rodenticide campaign page and sign our e-petition to call upon the government to improve the rules and regulations around SGAR use.
Photo: Richard Tadman
Breeding Season News
After a disastrous 2013 when the Barn Owl population hit a 'living memory' all-time low, we are delighted that this year things are looking up. Not only are the birds breeding earlier than usual, our annual monitoring visits have so far shown larger broods than normal. As we know all too well from the really wet summer of 2012, things can go terribly wrong very quickly, but so far so good, at least here in the South West.
Last year we saw a 77% drop in breeding at sites here and figures from other groups show the national picture was almost as bad with 71% of sites checked failing and generally smaller brood sizes (ref: State of the UK Barn Owl population - 2013). But after a fairly mild winter the birds have rallied and as long as we avoid any significant extreme weather events, things are looking hopeful for good fledging success and hopefully second broods.
Wildlife Words - Enter Now
With a closing date of Wednesday 25th June 2014 there are just a few weeks left to enter our Poetry Competition.
Previous competitions in 2011 and 2012 have raised much needed funds for the Trust and helped us to care for casualty birds. Winning entries will be included in a third "Wildlife Words Anthology" in the autumn of 2014. Entries are just £3 per poem and the theme is your interpretation of Wildlife/Conservation. Find out more.
Our Dawn Chorus walk this morning was wonderful!
The weather was perfect and the five of us that met up at 5am had the most magical experience. As we stood outside the Barn Owl Trust office we could hear a Barn Owl screeching as it flew over the Trust’s land which is known as The Lennon Legacy Project (named after Mrs Vivien Lennon). Other than the distant gurgling of the stream and the occasional hoot of a Tawny Owl in the nearby woods this was the only sound. Then, as we walked through ‘Kiln Close’, one of the fields re-created by the Barn Owl Trust, the sky began to lighten and a single Robin started singing in the hazel hedge. This seemed to wake up all the other birds! Suddenly there was a full orchestra of sound from other Robins, plus Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Great Tits, and Blackcaps newly-arrived from Africa. As we stopped to listen a Barn Owl swooped over the field behind us, it reappeared about 20 minutes later as we were dropping down into ‘North Park’ and we had some great views as full daylight arrived.
Past the Wildlife Tower into ‘Forde Orchard’ where the Cherry Trees are blossoming, we were just about to walk up the ‘Apprentice Path’ when we spotted a wonderful Roe Deer stag. We watched it, and it watched us(!) for about five minutes then continued to graze whilst surrounded by birdsong. Fantastic!
Huge patches of Greater Stitchwort in the grassland were gleaming magnificently amongst the yellow Celandines and the Bluebells are just starting to flower in ‘Corner Wood’.
Although cloud cover prevented us from actually seeing the sunrise, by the time we were ready for our ‘continental breakfast’ the sun was starting to break through. By now, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Dunnocks, Chiff Chaffs, Nuthatches, House Sparrows and a Great Spotted Woodpecker had joined in the chorus. What a great way to start the day! Check out our Events Diary and join us for a future Guided Walk.
“Thank you for a hugely informative and enjoyable outing this morning. Thank you also for getting up so early for us to be there. We had a really good time and are grateful to you for laying on the dry weather, the hunting Barn Owl and Roe Deer Stag etc. Oh, and the breakfast! The Lennon fields look magnificent too. Simon & Anita”
We all know that 2013 was an extremely poor year for Barn Owls. This prompted the Barn Owl Trust to collate results from 21 independent Barn Owl monitoring groups around the UK and pull them together.
Our new webpage the 'State of the UK Barn Owl population 2013' shows just how bad it really was, the groups that contributed and has a link to the 12 page colour .pdf document containing the results, comments from contributors and discussion.
Petition reaches 125,225 signatures
The Barn Owl Trust's first e-petition now has more than 125,225 signatures.
To find out more scroll down to our launch news items in January 2014 or visit our Rodenticide Campaign page for more information including the labelling details we advocate and references.
You can lend your support to this campaign by signing the petition and then forward it to your friends.
Poetry Competition - Wildlife Words 2014
Following the success of our 2011 and 2012 Poetry Competitions we have launched another one for 2014. The closing date is Wednesday 25th June 2014 so there is plenty of time for the muse to strike.
The winner of the 2012 competition, Jackie Bennett, has kindly agreed to be the judge this year and full details of how to enter can be found on our Poetry Competition 2014 page.
First Tawny Owlet of the Year
Photo: Owlet wrapped in a towel waiting to be fed.
The first young Tawny Owlet of the season arrived here on 14th April. It was picked up in a park in Exeter a week ago. It can't be returned so will stay here until it is fully grown and ready to be released.
‘100 gigs’ Barn Owl Trust Fundraising Event
Find out more about ‘100 gigs’ Barn Owl Trust Fundraising Event held at the Barrel House in Totnes on the 20th March. See and hear recordings and chat by Steve Nisbet (aka The Choir of Loretta, Owly Dave and Jasmin Ramsden, including the debut performance of a brand new song. 100 gigs’ Barn Owl Trust Fundraising Event.
Barn Owl rat poison deaths will continue without new rules on use, Bill Oddie warns
**Bird expert calls on Minister Mike Penning to act as over 120,000 people back campaign**
The number of British barn owls that die after eating poisoned rodents will continue to rise unless the government introduces new rules to govern their use, Bill Oddie has warned, adding his name to more than 120,000 people calling for action to stop owl poisoning deaths.
The bird expert spoke out ahead of a critical meeting on Tuesday between government officials and the pest control industry to discuss the impact of super strength poisons on Britain’s wildlife. The poisons are currently used on three quarters of Britain’s farms and kill owls when they catch and eat poisoned rodents. 84% of barn owls test positive for the poisons, which can lead to death by internal bleeding.
Joining the Save Britain’s Barn Owls Campaign, Bill Oddie said: “Barn Owls are widely loved and charismatic birds that are facing a deadly danger. More and more owls are being poisoned by deadly pesticides that have been ingested by rats, an animal that the owls help to control. If we carry on using poison in this way, the result could be plagues of poison-resistant rats, further demise of the barn owl, and an ever more toxic countryside. The government must resist the pressure put on it by the poison industry, and introduce strict legislation to curb and control the use of these killer chemicals.”
A campaign by Avaaz and the Barn Owl Trust calling for Mike Penning, the minister responsible for the decision, to introduce new rules to protect barn owls from being poisoned has attracted the support of people across the country. The campaign can be seen here.
Avaaz Campaign Director Meredith Alexander said: “More than 120,000 people are calling on Mike Penning to protect our owls from these rat poisons. Anyone can buy powerful poisons from their local garden centre and unknowingly turn the barn owl’s prey into a deadly time-bomb. Mike Penning urgently needs to bring new rules to control this silent killer stalking our countryside.”
David Ramsden MBE, senior conservation officer at the Barn Owl Trust said: "Overuse of poison has seen Britain's barn owls become the casualty of escalating chemical warfare against rats, with rats developing resistance and stronger poisons being required to control them. Mike Penning needs to ensure these poisons are only used as a last resort, before we end up with a plague of poison-resistant super-rats and our magnificent barn owls sick and dying."
On Thursday 27th February David and Frances Ramsden from the Barn Owl Trust travelled to London to join up with Bert Wander and Meredith Alexander from avaaz.org and meet with Minister Mike Penning. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The meeting was an opportunity to deliver our petition, signed by over 120,915 people, telling Mike Penning MP and the Health and Safety Executive: Britain's Barn Owls are in crisis. We call for the introduction of stronger controls on the use of powerful rodent poisons and clear labelling on packaging, as recommended by the Barn Owl Trust.
There can be no doubt that our Rodenticide Campaign and the public support it has generated will be considered when HSE meets with the rodenticide industry on the 4th March.
The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) was established by the companies that make the poisons to encourage safe use by the user groups, including professional pest controllers, farmers, gamekeepers and amateurs. CRRU have been tasked by HSE with Co-ordinating new stewardship regime proposals. The Trust has already submitted detailed comments on the 44-page document.
It’s not over yet. You can still sign the petition.
David Ramsden BOT meets Jon Snow.
On the same day Channel 4's Jon Snow featured the Barn Owl Trusts’ Rodenticide Campaign on the 7pm news.
Following the meeting at the Department of Work and Pensions we wanted some photographs for the archives with avaaz.org and we met up again with the Minister outside who was happy to join in.
We're meeting The Minister!
This Thursday, representatives from The Barn Owl Trust and Avaaz are having a 45-minute meeting with Minister Mike Penning and representatives from HSE and DEFRA in London to put the case for changes in Rodenticide Use aimed at reducing the poisoning of Barn Owls (+ Kestrels, and Red Kites etc.) and present our Petition.
THANKS to you! - 120,000+ signatures are making things happen!
More than 119,000 (and climbing) sign for change
February 2014 (updated 24/02/14)
In less than three weeks we have well over 80,000 signatures on our Rodenticide Campaign petition. Items on local TV and radio, features in the Guardian, The Ecologist and a tweet by the RSPB have all helped to spread the word. If you want to know more visit our Rodenticide Campaign page or see our information on How to control rats as safely as possible. Sign the petition and help to make a difference.
See our Facebook page and 'Like' to get the latest updates.
The Barn Owl Trust launches its first e-petition.
Did you know that most Barn Owls in the UK (84%) contain highly toxic rat poison?
Although not all die as a direct result, there is little doubt that sub-lethal doses have contributed to the catastrophic decline in Barn Owl numbers. Rodenticides can be used without any training and product labelling is inadequate and misleading.
The Barn Owl Trust has launced a petition calling upon Government Minister Mike Penning, and the Health and Safety Executive to:
• Regulate SGARs (Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides) for Last Resort use only
• Ban preventative and permanent baiting
• Include accurate information on all SGAR products as recommended by the Barn Owl Trust
You can lend your support to this campaign by signing the petition and then forward it to your friends.
Visit our Rodenticide Campaign page for more information including the labelling details we advocate and references.
Thank you for your help.
Valentine’s Day Gifts from the BOT
Posted January 2014
This year as well as sending a message of love on Valentine’s Day you can choose to give a gift that supports our conservation work.
A limited edition hand-made willow heart with a Barn Owl Trust owlet will make a really unusual Valentine’s gift for anyone that likes owls. The willow is grown here at the Barn Owl Trust and the gift comes with a card that says; “Happy Valentine's Day with 'Owl' my Love” and is blank inside for your own message. The soft toy owlet can be easily removed leaving the heart with its ribbons and roses as a decoration.
Alternatively you might like our new Valentine Bunting in pink. Unique to the Trust, designed and made here and printed on recycled card. 12 pennants (approx 4” x 5.5”, 10cm x 14.5cm) threaded on 2m of recycled string and presented in a recycled card wallet with a Happy Valentine’s Day gift card.
Feed the Birds
With all the bad weather we’ve been having recently it’s good to know there is something we can all do to help our local wildlife.
The latest addition to the Trusts’ information range is a step-by-step photo guide to making ‘Birdcakes’ for your garden birds.
Not only do these cakes help over-winter survival they also give you really good close up views of the birds if you hang them near your window.
Boxing Day’s before Christmas
It’s been all go here at the Trust for our crack nestbox making team, Jasmin and Henri. They’ve been working hard to make sure that all the boxes are ready for the Christmas orders. The UK’s remaining Barn Owls will have some great homes available in 2014. Let’s hope they have a better year than this one!
See the results of our Festive Wreath Making workshops
1. The Barn Owl Trust fully supports the comments by the HS2 Ecology Technical Group on the ecological content of the HS2 Draft Environmental Statement and associated documents. In particular; a) that more time is allocated for a proper assessment of both the short and long-term impacts on habitats and species, and b) the full Environmental Statement must set out exactly how the project will achieve net gains for biodiversity including Barn Owls.
2. The draft ES does not adequately address the issue of the probable effects of HS2 on Barn Owls.
3. The scope of the stated impact on Barn Owls, the terminology used, and other inadequacies (draft ES 7.5.8-13) indicate the author's lack of relevant knowledge.
4. In considering only the impact on nesting sites within 1.5km of the route, the draft ES is clearly inadequate. Specifically, the long-term impact of increased annual mortality of dispersing juvenile Barn Owls is not mentioned.
5. The draft ES does not include any measures aimed at preventing owl-train collisions.
6. The idea that the provision of nest boxes over 1.5 km from the route can effectively mitigate the impact of HS2 on Barn Owls ("offset the adverse effect") is ill-founded. Specifically, the statement "if the proposed mitigation measures for barn owl are implemented through liaison with landowners, the residual effect on barn owl would be reduced to a level that is not significant" is not true.
David Ramsden MBE, Senior Conservation Officer
6th December 2013
Christmas gifts from the BOT
With December galloping towards us the Barn Owl Trust can help out with Xmas gift ideas. A Barn Owl Adoption is perfect for anyone that loves owls or for someone who already “has everything”. We have cuddly owls and owlets that are soft and huggable, nestboxes for Barn Owls, Tawnies, Little Owls and garden birds all built here at the BOT. There are stocking fillers, Christmas cards and even puddings. We have a lovely handmade Barn Owl puzzle box and a pellet analysis pack, a Christmas gift wrap set and even some wooden mice!
There is something for everyone with prices to suit every pocket and better still, every purchase helps to support our Barn Owl conservation work.
Happy browsing and thank you for your support.
Tragic end to the most appalling year.
If you have a water trough, water butt, or even just a horse water bucket - a Barn Owl could easily drown in it. Please make it safe - it's very easy to do.
Here's how: How to Prevent Drowning (Free leaflet to download or print)
It is a sad fact that around 6% of all reported Barn Owl deaths are birds found dead in farm cattle troughs and similar steep sided deep water containers. Our free leaflet explains why Barn Owls are sometimes found dead in water and gives easy to follow DIY instructions on how to make a simple float that will help to prevent such deaths.
If you see a Barn Owl in the UK, dead or alive, you can record your sighting on-line at www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk
Four Hungarian trainees have spent four days with the Trust as part of a project run by Ambios.net
They arrived on Tuesday and were welcomed with presentations about the Barn Owl, the Trust and its work and the Lennon Legacy Project (LLP) and then had a tour of our 26 acre site.
The following day two of the trainees accompanied conservation staff, who were checking sites for the current Devon Barn Owl Survey. The other two spent the day in our workshop with our ‘handymen’ and built an outdoor nestbox for the conservation team to erect this winter. On Thursday they swapped around so all got both surveying and nestbox-building experience. On Friday they were back together again and spent the day with conservation officer Matthew carrying out practical tasks in the LLP.
This is the sixth group of Hungarian trainees to spend time here at the Trust over the past two years. All have come through the Leonardo da Vinci Programme, part of the EC’s Lifelong Learning Programme. We wish them the best of luck in their search for conservation positions on their return to Hungary at Christmas.
Pensilva Nestbox Workshop
The November nestbox workshop held by the Trust and the Pensilva Wildlife Group resulted in thirteen new homes for Barn Owls being built. Participants met in the Millennium Hall, Pensilva for a presentation by our Head of Conservation, David. They then transformed old tea-chests into desirable residences for the birds. The day was completed by a visit to a local farm where a nestbox was erected and David answered questions and gave advice on putting up boxes safely in suitable locations. Despite the wet and windy weather the day was a great success.
If you are part of a group interested in organising a nestbox workshop with the Trust in your local area please contact Hannah. If you are an individual wanting to attend a workshop here at the Trust you can find out exactly what is involved by reading our Nestbox Workshop page and then email us and we'll let you know when we have a date.
LLP Events at the Barn Owl Trust
The weather was kind to us in October when we held the first of our two Autumn Colours walks. The Lennon Legacy project was looking beautiful, and there were scones, muffins and cups of tea all round at the end!
The next walk will be on the 14th of November, see our Events Diary for details.
Our Little Owl boxes feature an internal baffle and an inspection hatch.
Bigger Range of nestboxes now available
Our Barn Owl boxes have always been ‘built to last’ but sadly the same cannot be said of many of the small bird nestboxes we’ve bought from commercial suppliers! So after years of testing we are now supplying ‘built to last’ nestboxes for small birds (tits, pied flycatchers etc.) for your garden or woodland project. After years of requests we have also added Little Owl and Tawny Owl nestboxes to the range.
Our boxes are more expensive than many, but in our experience they last three or four times as long. They are all built using treated FSC-approved timber and all outdoor boxes have sealed joints and seriously thick roofing felt.
Practical Conservation in Action
Three of our conservation team took a break from their normal Barn Owl conservation work today to undertake tasks on our Lennon Legacy Project. Despite the intermittent torrential downpours Matt wrestled with the 'Beast' cutting bracken and bramble on slopes too steep for the tractor. Hannah used a brush cutter on the areas the 'Beast' couldn’t reach and David dug a ditch to bury a drainage pipe so that the implement shed doesn’t flood.
The Lennon Legacy land is an inspirational project that began in 2001 when the Trust purchased 26 acres of intensively grazed grassland and began to manage it for wildlife conservation.
See photographs of the changes and the wildlife by visiting our Slideshow Directory.
"The worst Barn Owl breeding season for over thirty years" is how 2013 is being described by conservationists throughout the UK and beyond. Voted Britain's most popular farmland bird, this icon of the countryside is now in very serious trouble.
A run of extreme weather events since 2009 has devastated not only people and property but Barn Owls and other wildlife. The final blow was March 2013. "Barn Owl mortality usually peaks in February and then things improve" said Barn Owl Trust spokesperson David Ramden MBE, "but in March this year mortality just kept increasing and by the end of the month huge numbers were dead". At a time when Barn Owls should have been thinking of breeding the British Trust for Ornithology recorded a 280% increase in reports of dead birds many of which had starved.
Numbers were already low due to the bitterly cold winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 and the extremely wet 'English summers' of 2010 and 2011. "In 2012 our hopes were high" says David. "Fantastic summer weather in March 2012 meant that the owls started breeding earlier and by late May we were finding nests with as many as seven well-grown owlets. Then in June it all went horribly wrong. The rain started and just didn't stop. This prevented the adults hunting and many young birds starved. In some cases, we found entire broods of beautiful owlets dead in the nest".
This year's round of 73 Annual Monitoring Site visits by the Barn Owl Trust has now revealed the extent of the devastation. On average nesting occurs at 51% of sites, this year's figure is a mere 12% and 47% of nest sites are completely unoccupied. At the 12% of sites where pairs have managed to survive and breed, the average number of young in the nest is just two rather than the four or five that are needed for population recovery. Britain's biggest regular Barn Owl survey carried out every ten years in Devon is checking 1,234 sites this year. Out of 276 sites checked so far, Barn Owls are nesting at just 7. Of these seven, only four have young in the box and two have abandoned their eggs.
Figures from independent Barn Owl Groups around the country are all painting a similar picture. The Shropshire Barn Owl Group has 120 sites where they usually have 36 nests, this year they have found only 4. The West Sussex group has 90 sites that normally have up to 55 nests, this year there are only 5. And it's not only the UK that is affected. Dr Akos Klein from the Hungarian Barn Owl Foundation has found similar results, "Out of 30 regular nest sites we found one active nest and one solitary bird. This is pretty much the case all over Hungary. Our March was like January."
A hundred years ago the Barn Owl was a common farmland bird, if this year is anything to go by this beautiful bird is now far more scarce than it was in the 1980's when it was estimated to have declined by 70% since 1932.
How you can help
If you see a Barn Owl dead or alive you can record your sighting on-line at www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk
Find out more about Barn Owls by exploring our website
Lucky to be Alive
This young Barn Owl was the subject of a call to our Live Owl Emergency line on Friday. Recently fledged, she’d managed to get her legs tangled in baler twine and then get hooked onto barbed wire on an electricity pole only a short distance from the nest.
Glenda Calvert from Pry House Farm in North Yorshire rang the Trust to ask for advice and then, despite her fear of heights, Glenda decided to climb up to cut the twine and release the bird. Fortunately the barbed wire was much lower than the live wires! “The owl was quite calm and I was able to gently snip away at the string” said Glenda.
Having started to check the owl over; following the instructions on our website, she decided to take it to her local vet where the young owl was fed and observed overnight.
“The following morning the vet phoned to say that the owl had survived the night and was more lively; her talons were obviously working properly as she’d been trying to peck the vet (a good sign!). Today I put her back in the barn where she was raised. Imagine my delight when I discovered another young owl in there too! So from a brood of three or maybe four, at least two have made it. A big thank you to David, Senior Conservation Officer at the Barn Owl Trust”, said Glenda, “his advice and guidance was invaluable.”
SGARs (Rat Poison) and Barn Owls - Let’s get the information right
At least 76% of farms in the UK use Second Generation Anti-coagulant Rodenticides (SGARs). The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme shows that a shocking 91% of Barn Owls analysed in 2010 contained SGARs and in 2011 the proportion of contaminated Red Kites reached an all-time high of 94%.
The vast majority of our Barn Owls, Kestrels, and Red Kites contain rat poison. Our Senior Conservation Officer, David Ramsden MBE, gave a presentation at the recent HSE (Health & Safety Executive) Seminar on the future for Second Generation Anti-coagulant Rodenticides in Britain. As a result of this the Barn Owl Trust was invited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to submit an article to their newsletter; Pest Control News - PCN Issue 95. You can download and read David's article by clicking here - Click the 'Download' Button then scroll down to page 16.
A Book to Save a Species
We are delighted to announce that TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham has reviewed our Barn Owl Conservation Handbook on his blog.
Chris says; “Its detail is impressive to say the least. Each aspect of the Barn Owl’s care is meticulously outlined and the latest practical and applied methods of conservation are clearly analysed and presented. If ever there was a handbook which could save a species then this is it.
Anyone who has any interest and any capacity to assist in Barn Owl conservation should thus own this important book, whether it’s through care of injured birds, preparing them for release, managing habitat, protecting or designing nesting resources, understanding the legal aspects of planning or photography or the best techniques to employ whilst surveying and recording the species, it’s here. Along with the basics of its ecology, breeding biology and population dynamics it is complete, remarkable, brilliant.”
You can read the whole review by visiting http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/news/blog/off-the-shelf/a-book-to-save-a-species and you can buy the book from our website.
You can now report your Barn Owl sites and sightings (both dead and alive) anywhere in the UK on-line.
www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk is a project of the Barn Owl Trust launched on 1st May 2013.
With an Identification Guide to check the bird or the signs you saw really were Barn Owl you can report where, when and what you saw. The site map will give you a 10 figure map reference and latitude, longitude and elevation for your sighting.
By creating a unique logon you can return to the site and review your records at any time.
David Ramsden MBE, Head of Conservation at the Barn Owl Trust said “The new website makes it really easy for people to report Barn Owl sightings, roosts and nest sites. Receiving reports from the public is an important part of our population monitoring and allows us to target our conservation work to where it is most needed”.
Have you seen a wild Barn Owl since the cold weather?
Winter snow and low spring temperatures have more than doubled the mortality of Britain’s most popular farmland bird – the Barn Owl. Now the charity dedicated to their survival has launched a nation-wide appeal for sightings of these beautiful birds to be reported on-line.
Barn Owl Trust Head of Conservation, David Ramsden MBE announced “We are extremely concerned that few birds have survived to breed this year and are asking everyone who sees a Barn Owl to report it to us on-line”. Today sees the launch of a new website: www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk where anyone can report a Barn Owl sighting.
The website also provides a comprehensive identification guide for the birds and their signs with a huge gallery of images and sound clips to allow you ensure the bird you saw really was a Barn Owl. The Trust is keen to record reports of all wild Barn Owls – whether dead or alive.
With Barn Owl numbers being so low most people will never see one of these wonderful birds in the wild. But for those that are lucky, this site provides an opportunity to record exactly where and when you saw the owl and what it was doing.
Three New BOT Slideshows to see
If you have a few minutes to spare check out the Trust’s three new slideshows:
Each one opens in a new window.
With the Barn Owl breeding season almost upon us we’ve been excited that a second bird has appeared in the nestcam site – throughout February just the male had been seen but as at the beginning of March a pair is being seen again. You can visit the Nestcam to watch live or read the Nestcam Diary to see the latest news. By selecting our YouTube link you can see all of our videos including footage of owlets from previous breeding seasons. We have also included a link to an 8+ minute piece of footage of Barn Owlets 2012 put together by ' ' from last year’s nestcam showing the owlets in the nestbox and flying around inside the Barn.
To find out more about the Trust watch our three minute video to see what we do and why or if you want to learn more about the birds we have a selection of short videos:
An introduction to the Barn Owl – over 95,000 folk have viewed this video to date
Barn Owl Hunting Slideshow
Wildlife photographer Ed MacKerrow from Mountain Horizon Photography has provided a link to his stunning Barn Owl photographs featuring a Barn Owl hunting in snow. The link on the right will take you to the slideshow where you can see the owl catching a vole and then carrying its prey as it flies towards the camera. All of these photos are of wild owls catching wild prey. You can then explore the other amazing photographs on his site.
Ed is a huge fan of the Barn Owl Trust and has used the Barn Owl Trust online information to setup a network of Barn owl nest boxes in New Mexico. He has also generously offered to donate 20% of the profits from the sale of any of his Barn Owl photographs to the Trust and provide images for the BOT 2013 Christmas cards.
Visit our News Archives for other stories and older news items: News Archives
This year will see Devon’s Barn Owl population surveyed by the Barn Owl Trust for the third consecutive decade, there were previous surveys in 1993 and 2003.
In 2003 we checked/recorded 1,176 sites and recorded 281 nests and 348 roost sites. This year we hope to do even more!
Anyone and Everyone can get involved.
- Submit your own Barn Owl sightings on-line: www.barnowlsurvey.org.uk
- Register to become a Survey Volunteer
- Make a donation to support the survey
- Print and display the Wanted Poster - click the link on the right
- Book a walk or talk for your group or school to raise awareness of Barn Owl conservation
- Businesses – make a grant to support a new on-line recording system for the species - contact us for more details
The survey will allow us to identify changes in Barn Owl numbers across Devon and guide conservation work in the county over the next decade, thereby conserving the Barn Owl and its environment for future generations.
Go to the Devon Barn Owl Survey page for more information about the Survey and how to get involved.
It’s almost impossible to believe that this year the Trust will be 25 years old! Please help to support our work and to celebrate our 25th birthday by promoting the Trust, recruiting new Friends or holding a fund-raising event.
A coffee morning for your friends, a car boot sale, a draw, plant stall, a sponsored something’ or baking cakes for your workmates can all help to raise awareness and funds, best of all they can be fun too.
We can supply leaflets and posters to help you advertise, we can also add your event to our Forthcoming Events page on our website if you would like us to. Whoever you are and wherever you live you can join in. Help support our work and celebrate 25 years of Barn Owl conservation.
If you live in the South West or are visiting Devon do look at our Forthcoming Events list. Come along to an event, meet the team and see how your support really does help. We’d love to see you.
Individuals, groups, schools and business can all get involved. We need your support and together we really can make a difference.
Feedback Back Issues
Back issues of our bi-annual newsletter have been uploaded to this website for those that want to know what the Trust has been doing over the last few years. The copies go back to 2007 and are available as pdfs’ for anyone that is interested in looking through the 16-page publications.
Feedback is usually produced in greyscale but the back issues include our 20th anniversary edition of 20-page with a full colour cover. It is sent to Friends’ and supporters of the Trust by post or email in the spring and autumn and keeps them in touch with our work and latest news.
You can receive copies by becoming a Friend of the Barn Owl Trust and supporting our work of conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment.
The link on the right takes you to our General Information Page. Scroll to the bottom for Feedback.
Wednesday 22nd August
Following its trip to the Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth to have the barbed wire removed the Tawny Owl returned to the Trust with a course of antibiotics for rehabilitation. After a few days in our hospital and once it was eating voluntarily it was moved into one of our hospital aviaries. Latest news from the conservation team is that it is feisty but not yet attempting to fly.
Thursday 16th August 2012
This Tawny Owl was brought to the Trust this morning. Found hanging from a barbed wire fence near Ashburton the wire was cut to minimise the damage removing it from the fence.
Having been checked over by our conservation team and found to be in otherwise good condition a volunteer immediately transported the owl to the Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth where it was examined. It appears that the injury is mainly soft tissue damage and the bird should return here tomorrow for recuperation and hopefully eventual release - we'll keep you posted.
Unfortunately this is not the first casualty owl the Trust has received caught on barbed wire.
- Barn Owls are Britain's most popular farmland bird but they have declined by at least 70% and there are only 4000 pairs left.
- One third of all the young Barn Owls produced annually (3000 birds) end up dead on trunk roads. At least 1000 adult Barn Owls are also killed annually
- The Highways Agency has ignored recommendations made in 2003 and has singularly failed to do anything to reduce mortality. 3000 more young Barn Owls will die this Autumn. Trunk roads kill 450 times more Barn Owls (per mile) than other roads. Major roads and Barn Owls
- Latest government figures show that a staggering 91% of Barn Owls contain rat/mouse poison (rodenticide). Some die as a direct result. Most contain sub leathal doses that could be reducing the owls hunting ability and nesting success.
- The use of rodenticides is largely uncontrolled and the information on containers is both misleading and inadequate: Most people who use rodenticides have no idea that they are poisoning Barn Owls and other wildlife. Rodenticides and Barn Owls
- The first-ever Barn Owl Conservation Handbook, published this month exposes these critical issues and is a highly critical wake-up call for the Highways Agency, the rodenticide manufacturers and the Health and Safety Executives of Chemicals Regulation Directorate.
Barn Owls are stunningly beautiful and to see one hunting at dusk, is a magnificent sight. However most of the wild Barn Owls people see these days are dead on the roadside. If you're really lucky and see a live Barn Owl the chances are that it will already be poisoned. Government research has shown that the vast majority of Britain's Barn Owls contain highly toxic rat poison. Overall, the population has declined by at least 70% since the 1930's and researchers have identified trunk roads and rat poisons as two of the most likely causes.
For further information please email:
Keep up to date with our latest Nestcam News
Click the link on the right and go to the Nestcam Diary 2013 to discover how things are going this year in a wild Barn Owl nest.
From here there are links to our Nestcam and Barncam so you can see for yourself. There are also links to Nestcam Diaries for each year since 2008.
Because of the high volume of email we receive relating to Nestcam we have set up a dedicated email address for letting us know of any unusual activity. Please check the diary first and use the new email address to report any noteworthy events.
Here you can find out how you can help us to conserve the beautiful Barn Owl. Watch our 3 minute video to find out more about the Trust and its work. We have six short 1.5 minute videos including an Introduction to the Barn Owl, Providing a home and Where do Barn Owls feed. There are lots of information leaflets and reports you can download as well as some rather wonderful desktop backgrounds. We also have a huge slideshow library with a vast amount of information about Barn Owls, the land the Trust owns and manages for wildlife and much, much more.
You can support our work by making a donation, becoming a Friend of the Trust, adopting one of the Barn Owls in our sanctuary or by making a purchase from our on-line shop - checkout our nestboxes, cards, clothing and gift ideas.
Click on any bold text to take you straight to that part of our website and have fun exploring. To keep in touch and up-to-date with the latest news and events here you can set our News page or our LLP diary as one of your browser favourites
Donate Your Scrap Car to the Barn Owl Trust
The Barn Owl Trust has recently teamed up with Giveacar, the UK’s largest car donation service. Giveacar arranges the free collection of any car, regardless of its condition, anywhere in the UK.
Cars are either scrapped, and a donation to the Trust made based on the value of scrap metal, or put into an auction, and a donation made based on the price gained at auction.
If you have an old car this is a really good way to get rid of it and support the Trust at the same time.
To donate a car to The Barn Owl Trust, please click here and it will take you to our page on the Giveacar website.
Three Minute Wonder!
Our new promotional film is now 'live' on the Barn Owl Trust website! Go to 'About the Trust', 'Watch our three minute video' to have a look. The film is a short summary of the work of the Trust, tracing its foundations in 1988 right through to the present day. Conservation, education and research are all highlighted in the video, as well as information provision.
The film emphasises just how vital donations, adoptions and legacies are to enabling the Trust to continue its work. The Lennon Legacy Project is a fantastic example of how a legacy can really make a difference, allowing the Trust to transform 26 acres of intensive grassland into 26 acres of Barn Owl heaven - which now has two pairs of breeding Barn Owls!! As well as appearing on our website, the film will accompany funding applications to show the varied amount of work the Trust undertakes.
A big 'thank you' to Hilltribe Productions for a great production. Our new 'Wings of Change' educational film should arrive any day now. We can hardly wait!!
Lennon Legacy Project News
See the latest news from the Lennon Legacy Project - turning 26 acres of what was intensively grazed grassland into Barn Owl paradise - it's great for loads of wildlife too. Click the link on the right for the LLP monthly diary and visit our 15+ LLP slideshows for "How it used to look, Hedge creation, Butterflies" and so much more..........
Visit our Slideshows
The Trusts website has over 70 different slideshows for you to view. Select the link on the right hand side of the page to see the list: Owl pictures, Barn Owls, Other Owls, Barn Owl prey and their signs, Signs of owls, Pellets, Barn Owl habitat, Hazards facing Barn Owls, Rehabilitation and sanctuary, Nestboxes, Nestbox construction, Nestbox erection, Barns, barn conversions and other nest sites, Lennon Legacy Project, Training and education and Other slideshows – enjoy.