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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Thursday 18th December, 2014

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A Real Treat For Rusland Valley Volunteers

A Barn Owl Awareness Day was organised on behalf of the Rusland Valley Project at The Yan building, Grizedale Forest. The project, jointly run by the World Owl Trust and the Forestry Commission, aims to help the Barn Owl population to disperse through the valley and to work on the conservation of the Barn Owl the local area. The day was an opportunity for both organisations to explain what the project entailed and offered interested volunteers a chance to contribute to this work.

Rusland Valley Project - Barn Owl Awareness Day

The morning started off with presentations covering the background of both organisations and introducing the project’s aims and objectives. Informal talks then detailed the Barn Owl’s physiology, preferred food and habitat, with attendees treated to a special, up-close meeting with Tythe the Barn Owl from the Trusts own Owl Centre at Muncaster.

Meeting Tythe

Following the presentations, there was a ‘hands-on’ Barn Owl pellet dissection workshop, allowing the volunteers to become a ‘forensic scientists’ for an hour and examining some of the tiny mammal bones from prey species such as the Field Vole and Common Shrew, indicating what the Barn Owls are eating in the wild.

An Owl experience would not be complete without a site visit for the volunteers, who went to a local barn to identify Barn Owl signs (i.e. pellets and droppings) which determine the bird’s presence and equip the local volunteers with the knowledge to identify an occupied site.

At the end of the day, the volunteers understood the Barn Owl’s behaviour, how habitat management could improve the area for the population and found ways to help them in the local area through nest box provision. They also came away with better knowledge about the project and how the two organisations are aiming to help the Barn Owl in their local area.

A good turn-out was expected with the event being advertised in the local parish newsletters and regional newspapers. In the past the project has featured on the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme and on the day, ITV covered the event to be featured that evening on the local news. There was also a live radio interview for BBC Cumbria at the event to highlight what the volunteers could get involved with.

Overall the event was very successful and enjoyed by all, with one volunteer commenting that “The live Barn Owl was the best part of the day; made it all much more real”, while another commented that the Barn Owl is one of the “Most wonderful birds of prey, Surely it should be a benefit for people to see these birds”.

With thanks to the people who helped run the event:
  -  Volunteers (you know who you are!)
  -  Iain Yoxall (Wildlife Ranger, Forestry Commission)
  -  Hilary Lange (UK Conservation Officer, World Owl Trust)
  -  Vicky Lane (Owl Keeper, World Owl Trust)
  -  Rebecca Kiggins (Conservation Volunteer, World Owl Trust)
  -  Tythe the Barn Owl

And to Forestry Commission for providing us the Yan building, tea/coffee and facilities.

Rebecca Kiggins
Conservation Volunteer

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