Last night the Local ladies group opened its meeting at the village hall too all (men as well!) and welcomed Chris Sperring MBE and Beau the Barn owl for a presentation about the current owl situation in the country and the Somerset Barn owl project in particular.
It proved to be a fascinating and informative evening, starting with information, about how Barn owls have struggled with the weather over the last couple of years. First the wet spring and summer last year caused the vole population ( favourite owl food) to plummet as the fields, especially on the Somerset Levels were flooded. Then the snow, followed by cold winds made hunting for food very difficult. This resulted in very few successful breeding attempts and so by this summer the numbers of Barn owl locally had fallen by an estimated 75%.
Chris however explained that his recent surveys were indicating that vole numbers were increasing again and he was hopeful that the owls may have had success with their attempts at late broods this year. If that was the case he was also hopeful that numbers would increase again quite quickly.
The Somerset Owl project is a joint effort between the Hawk and Owl Trust and the Somerset Wildlife Trust and is well on the way to achieving its aim to put a Barn owl box in all 335 parishes in the county by November 2014. At the same time, Chris is visiting local farmers and landowners and encouraging them to leave field margins or corners of land uncut to help the vole populations and thereby provide food for the owls. Indeed, everyone can help by leaving areas in their own gardens where the grass can grow longer and thereby increase biodiversity as invertebrates etc can survive.
Al in all an enjoyable evening and whilst the star of the evening was obviously Beau, Chris's talk was very much appreciated!