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Barn owl project is launched to gauge population

News | Published:

A NEW bird conservation programme has been launched.

The Guernsey Barn Owl Project will provide much-needed information on population health.

The launch follows on from the success of this year’s breeding birds survey and the recognition by Deputy Barry Brehaut that a great deal more work was required to protect and enhance the island’s biodiversity.

The survey has been initiated by Chris Mourant, secretary of the bird section of La Societe Guernesiaise. It will inform the key areas outlined by the Environment & Infrastructure president’s statement.

Barn owls are an important indicator species.

A decrease in their numbers is an early warning sign that there are problems in the wider environment.

They have special protected status in the rest of the British Isles.

This survey is designed to help understand what is happening to the local barn owl population and what conservation and mitigation is required to help them.

Guernsey Biological Records Centre manager Elizabeth Sweet said: ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure. At present, the few records we have on barn owls come mainly from casual observations. This project marks the start of an organised approach to monitor Guernsey’s barn owl population. We have some dedicated box owners who have reported back for over 10 years, which is amazing as they have had 33 fledglings.’

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The survey wants to hear from anyone who has an owl box, or had one in the past.

Most barn owl boxes around the island were put up several years ago.

People may have a box either because they put it up or they moved to a property which already had one in place.

Maybe a box has been lost because it has been removed or damaged in a storm.

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(Picture by Dave Carre)

Every piece of information will help the survey team to understand better the status of the population.

Information needed is: location; state of the box; occupation over the past two to three years – barn owl, kestrel, and stock dove most often use the boxes; and if it has not been occupied at all.

The survey team stress that these boxes are placed high up and they do not want anyone climbing ladders to investigate and risk hurting themselves or disturbing any birds.

All information will be treated confidentially.

Barn Owl Project co-ordinator Julie Davis said: ‘Vic Froome has done a huge amount of work, making and putting up boxes across the island.

'His original network had more than 400 boxes. He also produced regular newsletters with his wife, Jill. He has been less active in recent years and with the establishment of the Biodiversity Strategy we are now in a position to build on his impressive work.’

Yves Le

By Yves Le
News reporter

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