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Sunday 21st December, 2014

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Barn Owls Of The Rusland Valley

The Rusland Valley project, jointly run by the World Owl Trust and Forestry Commission, has collectively monitored the Barn Owl population of the area for some years. The aim of the project is to aid the dispersal of young through the valley, by providing nest boxes in suitable areas of habitat.

The Barn Owl breeding season for 2010 was expected to exceed last year’s numbers (eleven chicks fledged) after a prediction that field vole numbers were set to increase. Out of fifteen sites visited in the project area, five nest sites were occupied. A total of seven barn owlets were fledged, two of which were ringed using BTO monitoring rings.

As the numbers of young fledged for 2010 show a decline, it must be said due to a harsh winter at the end of 2009, the heavy rainfall and the snow cover did not allow the majority of females to reach the ideal breeding weight and condition for the 2010 season. An excessive duration of snow cover, i.e. in January, confines the small mammals beneath, thus reducing the feeding opportunities for Barn Owls. This can reduce breeding success and cause increased mortality.

Rusland Valley Project Barn Owlet

Despite this year’s disappointment, since the project started, we have exceeded our target with more than ten nest boxes erected in areas of suitable habitat. The provision of nest boxes at such sites can be an effective way of encouraging the Barn Owl population to disperse throughout the Rusland Valley and Grizedale area. During 2010, five new landowners have come forward with suitable habitat on their property, to request boxes for erection and these will be added to the list of sites monitored by the project.

Some of the aims of the Rusland Valley project featured recently on the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ with the World Owl Trusts, Honorary President, Tony Warburton (M.B.E) and the UK Conservation Officer, Hilary Lange explaining the plight of the Barn Owl in this country.

With a highly successful Barn Owl Education Day run early 2010 for local primary schools, where children got the opportunity to learn all about what Barn Owls eat and even to meet one up close and personal, another Barn Owl Awareness Day is going ahead next year with the aim to show interested local volunteers how to spot Barn Owl signs.

Barn Owl Awareness Day - Saturday 26th February 2011 - The Yan building, Grizedale

We are looking to raise further awareness of the Barn Owl in the project area and the day will be open to any locals interested and keen to learn about Barn Owls in general, identifying their presence (i.e. droppings, feathers and general behaviour). If you are interested in attending, please contact Millie Clarke on 01229 717393, or by E-mail by clicking here as places are limited.

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