Barn Owls in the depths of Dorset

Floating above the ground on silent wings. A white ghost standing out against the murky dark of dusk. Swooping to a stop on a standing post. Watching, waiting, listening for a rustle in the grass, before moving on. The reticent guardian of twilight. – Original piece

A graceful and beautiful bird, the barn owl is one species that captures the hearts and the imaginations of people across Britain. Over the last century, barn owls have been on a rocky journey, showing a decline in numbers in line with agricultural improvement, before reaching stabilisation during the more recent decades. Though they are showing signs of adapting to our changing landscape, this iconic species still needs our help and protection.

The start of my very own relationship with barn owls began with the creation of this Wild World blog. During summer 2015, my earliest posts trace my first up close and personal experiences with barn owls, which at the time were breeding on my family’s land in Dorset. The two owls that feature in these posts met with tragedy though; a failed breeding attempt and mysterious disappearance. Despite a not quite expected outcome, summer 2015 was just the start of an ever growing love affair for my family and these majestic birds.

With my dad incorporating wildlife into his land management plans over the last decade, his work has now culminated in 2019 being the best year yet for barn owls on our land. We had not one, but two successful breeding pairs this year, with both fledging two chicks each, at about 2 weeks apart. One pair nested in our own barn owl box, whilst the other made their home in a hollow of a tree at the heart of our land.

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Excitingly, these breeding attempts also coincided with the Dorset County Council’s Barn Owl project. As a result fully licensed ringers approached us with the request of checking any barn owl nests on our land, which led to all four chicks produced this year being ringed. They can now importantly be a part of the conservation efforts for monitoring this species in the wild.

Barn Owl Chick

Owl chick from tree roost

Reflecting on this year with this incredible species, it is exciting to be able to now see how successful they have been in our area during 2019, gradually increasing in number. It is interesting to think now that maybe one day one of the ringed chicks could go on to nest on our land or in our area in the future, or even venture further afield. Here’s to the hope that our barn owl population will continue to thrive and be even more successful next year, and give us more heartstopping experiences! What will another 4 years bring?

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