Creating new homes for Barn Owls in the Ouse Washes

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A local Barn Owl Recovery project in partnership between the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership and the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN) has been working hard to increase the population of Barn Owls in the area by recreating a connected habitat across the Ouse Washes Landscape.

Research has taken place to establish the locations of existing boxes and potentially suitable new nest box sites at regular 1km intervals throughout the landscape, and also to determine habitat suitability and obtain farmers’ permission.

Existing boxes are monitored under the necessary Natural England Disturbance Licence for Barn Owls by a team of volunteers trained as part of the project including David Garner. The Barn Owls are also ringed and their details recorded including wing feather length (which determines age), weight and condition of the bird. These results are being reported annually.

Since the start of the project in 2014, 35 new nest boxes have now been installed filling in any gaps in the landscape and replacing any existing sites due to be demolished, such as those in old barns.

Ouse Washes Owl

The Barn Owl Recovery project contributes to a wider national strategy to conserve Barn Owls in the UK led by the BOCN. In regions where this work has already been undertaken a significant recovery in the Barn Owl population has been achieved during the last 25 years. Colin Shawyer, who manages the Barn Owl Recovery project, said “The range and population size of Barn Owls in East Anglia declined by 70% between 1932 and 1985, mainly due to degradation of once prey-rich habitats in the face of increasing urbanisation and intensive agricultural practice. This is worsened by the lack of suitable nesting sites, due to the disappearance of farm buildings and the premature felling of large, hollow trees”.

You can learn more about Barn Owls and dissect a pellet at the OuseFest Manea Fun Day on Saturday 23 July between 11am – 5pm. The Barn Owl Conservation Network’s display of the project will be at RSPB Ouse Washes alongside lots of other great conservation organisations. There will also be lots of fun activities held at Manea Pit Nature Reserve and Pavilion including pond dipping, craft workshops, storytelling, bouncy castle, games and lots more. To find out more and to see the full OuseFest programme, please visit www.ousewashes.org.uk/ousefest.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is supported by a £900,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the project runs until March 2017. More information can be found on the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership’s website at www.ousewashes.org.uk.