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November 05, 2019
Latest News Super User

Work for the Trust

We are now looking to recruit Editor for Trust publications - part time Social Media and Web Marketing Officer – part time Please see for details and how to make an application.
October 01, 2019
Latest News Super User

New Trust Chairman Appointed

Philip Merricks welcoming the new Trust Chairman – Henry Robinson Hawk and Owl Trust 50th Anniversary AGM was held the International Bird of Prey Centre on Sunday 29th September 2019. Philip Merricks, after two terms as Chairman, has now stood down and did…
September 17, 2019
Latest News Super User

New Wetland Area at Sculthorpe

The new wetland area is taking shaping. Photos: (C) Martin Hayward-Smith

Sculthorpe Moor Closure

Aug 06, 2019 713
The Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre will be CLOSED this SATURDAY 10…

Horror as rare Marsh Harrier shot next to Sculthorpe reserve

Jul 02, 2019 2576
Shot Marsh Harrier
On 21 June a dog walker came across a critically injured male Marsh Harrier on the…

Fire brigade called to nest site - false alarm

Jul 02, 2019 1472
Last night the fire brigade were called to the Hawk and Owl Trust Peregrine nesting…

Bright future ahead as nationally important nature reserve more than triples in size.

Jun 24, 2019 1198
Sculthorpe moor oak fen by Andy Thompson
The ink is barely dry, but today Hawk and Owl Trust are celebrating watching the…

Barn Owl Live Update

Jun 23, 2019 1009
Barn Owl Update Sunday 23rd June 2019. 3 eggs hatched so far, and 3 remaining. The male…

Serendipity Garden Project

Jun 18, 2019 478
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Just a few of our amazing volunteers busy with the 'Serendipity Gardening Project' at…

Norwich Peregrines: all 3 chicks fledge

Jun 07, 2019 2000
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Today, 7th June 2019, at about 20 minutes past midday the third, and final, chick fledged…

Volunteers Week 2019

Jun 06, 2019 492
Flora Surveying
What do a warm welcome, Barn Owls raising chicks in nest boxes, cleared ditches,…

First 2019 Peregrine chick at Norwich fledges.

Jun 02, 2019 1198
At 10.40am this morning the first of the chicks at the Norwich cathedral Peregrine nest…

Bath Peregrine chick 'TX' returned successfully.

Jun 01, 2019 602
Bath Peregrine chick, colour-ringed ‘TX’, which left the nest box backwards on 18 May…

barn owl ringing. sculthorpe 040711 6

In south and eastern Britain last week the heavens opened, and it seemed like the rain didn’t stop for days. It’s not what you expect in June! How has this affected our nesting birds of prey and owls? Most likely as soon as there is a gap in the weather the adults will go off hunting and bring back food and all will be well. If the bad weather continues, however, the chicks will become increasingly hungry. At that point the oldest ones will start eyeing up the youngest ones as potential food; distasteful to us, but at least some can survive. At worst the whole brood will starve, but the adults can lay another clutch. The weather, and therefore the stories, are not the same across the country, however:

North Yorkshire. We are having an extremely poor Tawny Owl year – probably the worst I can remember in over 25 years. Many boxes are completely empty and where there have been more than one chick the second has been eaten in almost every case. Eggs have been deserted too and just left freezing in the boxes. There is no food, the small mammal population around here is just non-existent this year.  Not too sure about Barn Owls yet because it is still early for them, but initial thoughts are not good either. Interesting that this is the very opposite to the info the BTO released quoting Colin Shawyer as saying it was a cracking year and there was lots of food around. It is not happening around here!

Tawny Owl 21Salisbury Plain. Every four or five years we have a ‘vole year’, and this is one of them.  The weather in Wiltshire has been good through the winter and spring with no extremes, the voles have multiplied, and the current gentle weather has made hunting easy. It means we are having record numbers of breeding Kestrels and owls in boxes. Today we ringed Kestrels at six sites, three had SIX pulli in each box, the other three had five in each. That’s 33 pulli from six boxes, which is excellent. The normal full clutch is five. We have 62 pairs of Kestrels in Wiltshire and 112 pairs of Barn Owls so far and many sites have not been visited yet.  I expect to ring over 500 Barn Owl pulli this year. But, as ever, we rely on ‘reasonable’ weather for the next three months. Tawny Owls have done reasonably well, Little Owls are seriously down, the open habitat and greater number of other predators doesn’t help.

South-west England. Prolonged bad weather affects Barn Owls more than many other species, and numbers crash quite dramatically if unseasonably bad weather continues for long periods. Although I am in the early stages of nest checking there are signs that owlets are starving because of the bad weather. From one of the Adopt-a-Box nestboxes I monitor we saw seven eggs laid during early April, indicating that food was plentiful at that time. All seven eggs hatched but now, after two weeks of almost continual rain, only three owlets remain and, with more rain forecast, further losses cannot be ruled out.

Another pair of Barn Owls laid their eggs much later, no doubt in response to slower spring grass growth affecting their small mammal prey. By laying later this pair have a better chance of riding out the bad weather as they need less food while incubating and while the chicks are small. When conditions are good Barn Owls can have large broods and even rear two broods in one year, so they can recover their numbers quickly providing prey-rich habitats and nest sites are in place, but the worry with climate change is that these cold, wet summers will become the norm and Barn Owls will be one of the species which suffers as a result.

With thanks to A J Crease, Nigel Lewis and Chris Sperring for these observations. We will continue to keep you updated on how the season progresses.