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News Bytes – January 2024

These news bytes have appeared on our social media sites, FacebookX, formerly known as Twitter and Instagram during the month and have been pulled together here.

Happy New Year from the Barn Owl Trust!

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Buy a beautiful handmade gift and support the Barn Owl Trust! Thank you so much for your support Rafiki Handcrafted!​

2 rafiki

Barn Owls in Winter

Barn Owls originally evolved in a warmer and drier climate than we have in the UK. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that Barn Owl mortality peaks between December and March.

Although low temperatures, rainfall and snow cover can all have an impact on a Barn Owl’s survival, they are usually much less important than prey abundance. Dr Iain Taylor’s long-term study in SW Scotland demonstrated that Barn Owl survival was much more closely linked to vole numbers than it was to winter weather.

What can be done to help? Click here to find out!

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Join in the RSPB‘s Big Garden Birdwatch!

If you’re ever lucky enough to spot a Barn Owl (in your garden or elsewhere) please record it on our survey site here!

Thank you!

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Hair Ice on our reserve!

“Hair ice is a rare type of ice formation where the presence of a particular fungus in rotting wood produces thin strands of ice which resemble hair or candy floss.”  Met Office hair ice.

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Surprise!! Although Barn Owl broods have been recorded in every month of the year, most pairs lay eggs only in the spring.  For information on nesting, click here.

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The New Year is often a time for reflection!

Have you considered putting up a nestbox for Tawny Owls?

Find out all about how to build one, where to put it up, or buy one, on our website here.
Photo credit: With kind permission From Harvey Grenville.

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The Barn Owl Trust will shortly be advertising for a full-time Administrator who has experience with IT systems, and who can learn about the database we use and our other IT support needs.

*This position is based full-time at our office near Ashburton in South Devon*

If you think you might fit the bill, and you’d like to support a team working hard to conserve one of the most beautiful birds on Earth, we’d like to talk to you!

You must have experience in both admin systems and processes, and a real interest and experience in IT systems.

Contact for an informal chat.

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Since returning to work on January 3rd, the Nestbox Team have been working their socks off! There are five of them who work just seven days a week between them. By the end of last week, they had built, packed and dispatched 65 nestboxes! Here are last Tuesday’s boxes awaiting collection with one of the canine supervisors, Lyra

Well done, Jasmin, Emily, Aiden, Joel and Chris

Our nestbox shop is here.

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We reposted the BBC Springwatch Wildlife Hero award…

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During periods of snow cover, voles and shrews stay underneath the snow. Although mice will move about on top of it, they do spend an increased proportion of their time underground eating stored food. When snow cover is more than about 70mm deep and/or frozen hard, the owls have great difficulty finding and catching food. It’s at times like these that some Barn Owls turn temporarily to unusual food sources such as small birds. Periods of food shortage – feeding wild Barn Owls

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Our popular Christmas Prize Draw in December was a huge success, raising much needed funds for the Barn Owl Trust

Shona came to pick up her prize last week from Scott’s Chainsaw Carvings in Ashburton ( She is thrilled with the magnificent carved owl and it has pride of place outside her stables. Shona has a regular Barn Owl visitor so she is hoping the carving may attract more!

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Do you think you might have Barn Owls around?

Even if Barn Owls aren’t present at a roost or nest site, it’s often easy to tell if they’ve been there.

Signs of occupation include:

– Pellets

– Droppings

– Nest and roost debris

– Feathers

– Smell

– Small mammal remains

Find out more about how to recognise Barn Owl signs of occupation here

If you’ve seen a Barn Owl, please report it on our UK Barn Owl Online Survey Website.

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Some recent images from our reserve!

  1. Our volunteer group have been doing an amazing job hedge-laying!
  2. The first Snowdrops are out on the reserve
  3. A Grey Heron looking for breakfast in the pond
  4. We love seeing these two foraging together!
  5. Frogspawn is now appearing in the ponds on our reserve

Our Wildlife Diary is here.

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Tawny Owl supported release

Tawny Owl Ken came to us in mid-November after he was found entangled in barbed wire. He was treated with antibiotics, pain killers and wound spray, and recovered well from the tendon damage and open wound. We were so relieved to be able to release him last week

As he had been with us for a while, we were keen to do a supported release. This was unfortunately not possible where he was found, so he was released from a mobile aviary on our reserve. Ken emerged from his nestbox 20 minutes after the roof was raised and sat in the entrance hole for half an hour. He then moved confidently back and forth between the nestbox and a perch for about 20 minutes, before exiting and perching on a branch up above the aviary. Wild owls were calling, and one was seen close by. All in all, a very successful outcome!

This is what we do!

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Our Conservation Officers are busy installing Barn Owl nestboxes. This is one of the research nestboxes that have recently gone up. An owl entrance hole was created just in front of this nestbox to allow easy access for owls into the building. If you’re considering creating an owl entrance hole, the optimum size is around 25cm high and 13cm wide. Find out more here.

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Visit from the Barn Owl Trust and installation of a Barn Owl Nest Box

“Last Wednesday Mateo and Kate from the Barn Owl Trust came to give a talk to Year 11 animal care pupils. The talk included barn owl anatomy and life history, the habitats upon which barn owls depend and the challenges they face. Barn owls depend on tussocky grasslands, which are important habitats for their prey; voles and field mice. Barn owl numbers have been in decline because much of this habitat has been lost over the past fifty years and they face challenges with rodenticides and also being hit by lorries on busy main roads, but recent surveys show that their numbers are increasing. Pupils were fortunate to watch as a barn owl nesting box was installed in the barn on the school farm. There are regular sightings of barn owls in this area, so we hope that by offering this box, an owl might take up residence in the future. Pupils will make use of what they have learnt today in their work about animal accommodation and conservation.”
Mrs McDonald
Teacher of Science and Animal Care
Chulmleigh College
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