Cheshire Wildlife Trust are thrilled to discover their barn owl nest boxes are in use at their Bickley Hall Farm headquarters.
Broxton Barn Owl group, along with Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive officer Charlotte Harris, found three barn owl chicks in one of the nest boxes during their annual check of the farm’s barn owl nest boxes.
Recent figures from the Barn Owl Trust’s State of the UK Barn Owl Population report showed that 2016 had generally been a poor year for barn owls.
But the report, which is compiled from the records of 32 barn owl groups across the UK, who monitor more than 6,000 potential nest sites between them, showed a positive result for Cheshire with an increase in numbers recorded.
Area manager south and part of the expert conservation team at Cheshire Wildlife Trust Ben Gregory said: “Let’s hope that 2017 will continue to be a positive year for barn owls in Cheshire– we are over the moon to be hosting a family for the second year running.
“Keeping records of breeding sites helps the population to be monitored and builds a picture of what needs to be done to continue to support this enigmatic species. During the visit by Broxton Barn Owl group, all four of our nest boxes were checked and although only one had been used for nesting it was clear that another box had also been used for roosting.”
The chicks were weighed, ringed and sexed where possible.
They also had their age assessed during the visit.
It was thought that due to the small black dots on the feathers, two of the chicks were female and that they were all of a size, which would mean that they would fledge in the next 10 days.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust is managing Bickley Hall Farm as a wildlife-friendly farm in partnership with a local grazier.
“Wildlife-friendly field margins and hedgerows are a key feature on our farm,” explained Ben.
“They create wildlife corridors, which support a whole host of species, including barn owls.”
With the ongoing loss of suitable natural nest sites, dedicated nest boxes have become essential to the success of breeding of barn owls, with volunteer organisations such as the Broxton Barn Owl group leading the way in installing and monitoring hundreds of nest sites every year.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust has put up barn owl nest boxes on a number of its reserves across the region including Gowy Meadows nature reserve at Ellesmere Port; Danes Moss nature reserve near Macclesfield, which has also had led to barn owl breeding success this year; and Swettenham Meadows nature reserve near Holmes Chapel.