Jason Ball @ Natureheads.com
Before I begin, please note that Barn Owl is a species protected by UK and European law, as are its breeding sites. I hold a BTO ringer licence – my permit allows me to inspect nest sites – as part of population monitoring – and my training enables me to carry out the monitoring without harming the breeding success of a nest site. When I handle owlets I am able to do so properly without hurting them. (photo below)
Leg rings are proven as a very useful method for monitoring, and the information from rings helps the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) to study the populations and ecology of birds. Ringing is something that requires training and the skills needed to deal with different types of birds will vary, so experience is vital.
Lambourn Valley Barn Owl Group
LVBOG – Lambourn Valley Barn Owl Group – are volunteers working to boost the Barn Owl population in a beautiful area of Berkshire. Towards the ‘top’ of our project area we cover the Lambourn Downs and Leckhampstead, and further down the map, we follow the River Lambourn to Bagnor and Shaw.
A pair of Barn Owl rearing a family needs substatial areas of good habitat to provide its owlets with prey, especially voles. We are pleased to see that many landowners, often advised by the local Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), have developed rough grass areas (e.g. buffer strips) as part of stewardship schemes, which reward the farm for wildlife conservation. Along some parts of the River Lambourn, there is still some extensive rough grass, marshy areas and reedbeds, where flooding maintains a barrier against grazing and building.
The valley area is home to many sensitive species, and the River Lambourn has a protected status as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Barn Owl monitoring
Lately we have been monitoring the Barn Owl nestboxes. So far, the number of Barn Owl breeding sites is quite small, compared to a good year, but the brood sizes of 2-5 chicks is not bad. Plus there are more sites to check, and we hope to discover more owlets.It soon becomes obvious that all sorts of animals like a cosy cavity for a home! The barn owls compete for nesting sites with squirrel, honeybees, wasps, and birds such as Tawny Owl, Kestrel, Stock Dove and Jackdaw. Some of these species are more exciting to us than others! (see below) Whilst the Barn Owl is our top target, it is great to see that our work benefits a whole range of birds.
Your support makes a difference
During springtime we installed boxes at a number of farm locations, providing more owl homes in the Lambourn Valley. Some of them have already been used this summer by birds on the Amber List (i.e. vulnerable species in decline) including Barn Owl, Kestrel and Stock Dove. Thanks to local landowners and donors for making this possible. Our most recent donation of £80 will cover the cost of another new A-frame nestbox, which is a big triangular box, made locally from our improved versions of Hawk and Owl Trust plans.
If you would like to donate towards our work, please send a cheque payable to The Sheepdrove Trust (charity no:328369) to: Lambourn Valley Barn Owl Group, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn, RG17 7UU. Thank you.
Jason Ball. 07719 225965
LVBOG volunteers operate under the Pang, Kennet and Lambourn Valleys Countryside Project; monitoring is under their Schedule 1 licence. Jason Ball is a licensed BTO ringer for Barn Owl.