by Jason Ball
This year’s International Festival of Owls chose Colin Shawyer to receive their Special Achievement Award. Colin travelled to Houston, Minnesota, USA to collect the accolade.
His passion as a naturalist has never been purely for raptors of course – Colin works as a professional ecologist and consultant for a wide range of wildlife, at locations spanning the British Isles. However, he is perhaps best known for his work studying and campaigning for the conservation of the Barn Owl.
Colin witnessed the disapperance of the once familiar Barn Owl from his childhood haunts, and sought to determine the extent of the owl’s downfall with a national survey during 1982-85. Data revealed a nationwide average of 69% decline.
He established the Barn Owl Conservation Network as a result of the many links he had developed with fellow owl conservationists during his gargantuan investigation.
Colin’s survey findings have been cited innumerous times by reports – but more importantly he used this vital information to drive on a campaign for Barn Owl conservation and popularised the notion of habitat links – vital as a way to reconnect and sustain the areas where the Barn Owl population had retained its best numbers.
Colin Shawyer’s book “The Barn Owl” (1998, Arlequin Press) is an essential library piece for any serious Barn Owl enthusiast. Research by Colin Shawyer also includes the 1995-98 Highways Agency study on Barn Owl mortality rates at major roads. His work was central to the BTO Barn Owl Monitoring Programme and he continues to study the Barn Owl closely. He also supports PhD students and has also looked at birds such as Long-eared Owl, Little Owl and Tawny Owl.
However, the long campaign has been about practical action – creating suitable habitat and installing and surveying hundreds of owl boxes every year – more than it was ever about the conference pulpit, albeit important.
Through the support of the BOCN and his co-operative ventures with colleagues, landowners and many statutory and conservation organisations, Colin Shawyer has generated a long-lasting impact on what the future holds for the Barn Owl.
My congratulations on the award, Colin!