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Conservation groups fear for barn owl population as big freeze takes its toll

ANXIOUS conservationists across Cheshire are appealing to the public for help in finding barn owls after the big freeze.

ANXIOUS conservationists across Cheshire are appealing to the public for help in finding barn owls after the big freeze.

Severe temperatures and snow-covered ground has resulted in an increase in barn owl mortalities.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch project, aimed at helping the charity record population and species, raised the profile of birds last weekend but fears are growing for the county’s barn owls.

John Mycock, who runs the Mid Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group, said that the birds of prey were struggling to survive in the cold weather.

He said: “Firstly, barn owls are not water proof so they will not go out in the rain. They are also finding it hard to find their food such as voles and shrews because they are hidden under the snow.

“There have been more deaths than usual and it is a problem that is affecting the whole county.”

Mr Mycock is working alongside colleagues at the Broxton Barn Owl Group to try and identify nesting barn owls in west Cheshire.

A barn owl monitoring project has also been launched by the Wildlife Conservation Partnership in reaction to last month’s sub-zero temperatures.

Project leader Colin Shawyer said that the future of barn owls in Cheshire rested largely on vole populations.

“By the eighth day of last month’s snow event, I began receiving reports of dead barn owls,” he said.

“However, because the vole population began increasing in 2009 following its trough in early spring and is likely to peak during 2010, those barn owls which do survive would be expected to lay eggs earlier than usual and produce larger broods.”

To volunteer to help or to report sightings of barn owls across west Cheshire, call John Mycock on 07970 235473.

 

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