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Essex Wildlife Trust celebrates barn owl project success

PUBLISHED: 10:33 10 December 2017

A barn owl - the species is being helped by an Essex Wildlife Trust project. Picture: JON EVANS

A barn owl - the species is being helped by an Essex Wildlife Trust project. Picture: JON EVANS

New figures released by Essex Wildlife Trust show that a conservation project that helps one of the UK’s most popular bird species is continuing to be a barnstorming success.

A young barn owl - many barn owl chicks have been ringed under licence in the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project. Picture: JON EVANSA young barn owl - many barn owl chicks have been ringed under licence in the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project. Picture: JON EVANS

The Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project, established by the trust in 2013, is celebrating five years of going “from strength to strength” with support from volunteers and landowners across the county.

A trust statement said: “Watching a barn owl flying over fields is a magical experience. With their distinctive white heart-shaped face, pure white underparts, apricot and silvery blue mottled back and silent flight, they are a beloved countryside bird.

“However, this spectacle is becoming increasingly rarer, with populations tumbling due to changes in land management reducing nesting and hunting habitats, road mortality and increased frequency of extreme weather.”

The project aimed to reverse the species’ dramatic declines and “works with landowners and land managers across Essex to restore, reconnect and recreate suitable hunting and breeding sites for barn owls.”

A total of 261 nestboxes had been installed since 2013, providing ideal nesting sites and shelter for barn owls and a range of other species, including tawny owls, little owls, kestrels and “even a family of mallards”.

The nest boxes and barn owl populations were monitored annually and in just three seasons, more than 250 barn owls, including adults and more than 160 chicks, had been ringed under British Trust for Ornithology licenses after being discovered in the project’s nestboxes. The study results were fed into national reports and datasets, contributing vital information on the state of barn owls in the UK.

Emma Ormond, Living Landscapes co-ordinator for the trust, said: “In five years the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project has grown from strength to strength. We now have 164 landowners who have provided their land as sites for nestboxes, businesses who have generously donated materials and support and 52 dedicated volunteers who help with all elements of the project.

“We’re now starting to observe trends from the results, which will provide vital information on the success of barn owls within Essex and also on a national scale.”

One project volunteers, Malcolm Easton, said: ““I left the City with a plan - get fit, clear my lungs and make a difference. Now I monitor barn owl boxes and assist with the ringing of chicks. It’s great fun and I’m grateful to Essex Wildlife Trust for the opportunity.”

Another volunteer, Trevor Howes, added: “I help to make barn owl nestboxes, which I enjoy, as I am doing something practical to help protect these wonderful birds. I also get to learn more about the owls and meet enthusiastic, knowledgeable people, dedicated to the preservation of wildlife.”

Anyone who wants to support the project, host or sponsor a nestbox or join as a volunteer adviser or monitor in north-west Essex can contact Ms Ormond on 01621 862954 or emmao@essexwt.org.uk

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