Barn Owls bounce back in Berkshire
Good news for the barn owl population: Wokingham borough council's own nestbox challenge has bucked the national trend and seen 30 chicks born in 2007.
It was a bumper 2007 for barn owls in the Wokingham borough. Barn owls are thought to have declined nationally by 70 per cent since the 1930s, and in Wokingham there were recently thought to be only a handful of breeding pairs.
But the barn owls have bounced back with 30 chicks born in 2007, after Wokingham Borough Council in partnership with Hurst Parish Council, the Environment Agency, the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN) and local landowners set up new nesting boxes for the birds.
Some 13 new barn owl nest boxes were erected in November 2002 and a further six boxes were added in late 2005, bringing the total to 19 nest boxes across Hurst, Barkham, Swallowfield, Finchampstead, Arborfield, Wokingham and Lower Earley.
Monitoring of the boxes over the last five years has revealed barn owl breeding is highly dependent on the availability of small mammals.
And 2007 proved to be a bumper small mammal year when staff monitoring the boxes found numerous uneaten mice and voles stock piled in the boxes.
Biodiversity officer Andy Glencross said: "The nest box project has been a great success in its first five years, with 58 barn owl chicks, one little owl chick and 13 kestrel chicks born.
"The most popular breeding areas are in Swallowfield, Finchampstead and Hurst, but there is evidence that boxes in less rural locations have been used by non-breeding birds."
Executive member for the environment Cllr Simon Weeks said: "Barn owl nest sites are difficult to find in an area where many barns are converted into houses.
"It's great to know that practical action by the project partners has helped to substantially increase the local population."
All birds on their nests and eggs inside the nests are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Barn owls are listed on schedule 1, which gives them special protection.
Anyone who would like to get involved in barn owl conservation project in the future should contact biodiversity officer Andy Glencross on (0118) 934 2016.
last updated: 31/03/2008 at 13:45
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