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400th nest box made by Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: May 25, 2014

By Belinda Hargreaves

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A wildlife group is celebrating after reaching a major milestone in the number of nest boxes installed across the county.

Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group (BOAG), which is based at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's HQ near Rugeley, has installed its 400th nest box box at a site in Ipstones.

Set up in 2005, the group has so far counted 204 pairs of owls and 471 chicks nesting in the boxes.

Helen Cottam from BOAG said: "As the numbers of barn owls have dramatically declined over the last century, the barn owl nest box scheme has proved to be a very effective way to help in the conservation of this beautiful farmland bird.

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"The provision of nest boxes in grassland areas provides opportunities for roosting and nesting barn owls where nest sites have been lost due to barn conversions and the felling of old hollow trees, and is an effective means of helping with barn owl conservation."

The box was installed as figures from the Barn Owl Trust suggest that there are currently less barn owls in Britain than at any other time since farming became widespread roughly 1,000 years ago.

The Barn Owl Action Group, reported just 15 pairs using its nest boxes in 2013, down from 54 pairs the previous year.

Scott Petrek, monitoring officer at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust said: "The barn owl has seen a dramatic decline in numbers over the last century following changes in farming practices, with the prolonged cold weather we had this time last year having a further negative impact on numbers within the county.

"We are appealing for members of the public to send us their sightings to help us to build an up-to-date picture of barn owl distribution across Staffordshire, and locate areas of most significant decline."

Barn owls will often hunt during the daytime over fields and grasslands looking for small mammals to feed on. Breeding in hollow trees, barn owls do not hoot in any way, instead making shrieking noises.

For details of sending in sightings visit www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/barnowlappeal.

For more information contact Staffordshire Wildlife Trust on 01889 880100.

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