|New homes for barn owls!|
According to the Barn Owl Conservation Network between the 1930s and 1980s, barn owls numbers fell in the UK from possibly 12,000 breeding pairs to approximately 4000 – a 70% decline.
In Carmarthenshire barn owls typically occur on farmland preferring to breed in quiet buildings or holes in hedgerow trees and hunt over open fields of rough grassland that hold good populations of their small mammal prey.
Loss of nest sites through restoration of old farm buildings to dwellings and felling of old hedgerow trees are reasons for their decline compounded by the loss of semi-improved species-rich grassland in the county.
These days, hunting of voles along the hazardous environment of grassy roadside verges is, increasingly, responsible for a significant number of barn owl deaths.
Another recent blow has been the prolonged cold spells during the last two winters, which have increased barn owl mortality due an inability to hunt for prey in the snowy conditions.
Nest box installation schemes have helped boost the barn owl population in the UK and increasingly in Britain nest boxes are becoming important as nesting sites replacing their now much scarcer traditional nesting sites.
A previous postcard survey in the county in 2004–05 yielded over 50 records throughout the county. A non-scientific poll of a small number of those that returned postcards revealed that the respondents had not seen barn owls since.
The Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership is fortunate to have received funding from the Countryside Council for Wales over the past 2 years to make 20 nest boxes for use in the county. The boxes were made by volunteers at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park and are being put up at sites in the county where barn owls are known or where there is suitable habitat. They will be monitored to see how/if they are used by barn owls.