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Somerset Community Barn Owl Project

Hundreds of New Nest Boxes in 3-year Plan

The Hawk and Owl Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) are setting out to erect 335 new barn owl boxes in the county over three years – that’s at least one box in each parish by the end of 2014 – by teaming up with local communities.

The Somerset Community Barn Owl Project, which launches on 30 March, is funded by Viridor Credits, a charity that distributes money from the Landfill Communities Fund.

Chris Sperring with Ham Hill Watch Club

Chris Sperring, the Hawk and Owl Trust’s Conservation Officer in the south west, and also a vice president of the SWT,  will be busy recruiting 1000 volunteers and organising the construction and installation of the nest boxes.

He will also be visiting landowners to advise on conservation, running surveys to record and monitor barn owls, giving dozens of talks and owl prowls, and making scores of visits to schools.

“Because of the loss of traditional nesting sites, it’s estimated that four out of five barn owl pairs now breed in boxes. So this project is about securing the future of this special bird by providing new nest sites – and by working with landowners to create new habitat as well,” says Chris.

“The boxes will be given free to landowners across the county. They will provide suitable barn owl hunting habitat and agree to monitor the boxes and feed information back to us, enabling us to increase our knowledge of where barn owls are doing well and where they are still struggling.”

Simon Nash, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive says:

“The sight of a barn owl is one of those wildlife experiences that leave you with a great sense of privilege. By providing a free barn owl box for every parish in Somerset we will be helping ensure they remain part of the Somerset countryside for generations to come.”

Horrington School
Horrington School pupils making a barn owl box.

On behalf of the Hawk and Owl Trust, Chris will be working closely with SWT education staff to promote public education about the value of barn owls and their habitats, especially via the SWT WATCH children’s groups.

“This is a very exciting project, as working together with other organisations is something that the Trust believes is essential,” he says. “This project really delivers on several fronts, and one of the things that excites me most is that in some of the areas we are working alongside the wildlife trust’s Living Landscape Projects, which means we can have direct input to landscape-scale conservation.

“I have every belief that we will ultimately be increasing the barn owl population of Somerset, and helping a diversity of other wildlife along the way.”

For more information on the project, and for news of events, see the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

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