Specially-made barn owl nest boxes, installed by rangers and volunteers in Northumberland National Park over the last six years, are to receive a major refurbishment thanks to a generous donation from Tarmac.
Since the 1950s, the barn owl population has suffered through the loss of hedgerows and mature hedgerow trees and the trend for turning old barns into houses.
With the disappearance of these habitats favoured by the small mammals that are the bird’s staple diet, barn owl numbers crashed, reaching an all-time low in the late 1990s.
As a low-flying bird, the remaining population has been further devastated by the increase in road traffic.
The long-lasting snows of the past two winters have also taken a toll on barn owl numbers.
Northumberland National Park Authority has been supporting barn owls through wildlife-friendly farmers in the Coquet Valley, Redesdale, Breamish and along the Hadrian’s Wall corridor since 2006.
Volunteers and staff survey hunting grounds, install owl boxes in viable places and monitor populations. The original boxes put up in the Coquet Valley have now been used for six breeding seasons and, overall, 195 owl chicks have been successfully ringed. A further 10 boxes have recently been installed along the Hadrian’s Wall corridor.
After this length of time, and a few wet summers and icy winters, essential maintenance work is badly needed on the original boxes. As Tarmac’s Harden Quarry, at Biddlestone is host to one of the barn owl boxes, the firm has kindly donated the materials to enable these vital repairs.
National Park ranger, Mark Bolton, said: “Following cuts in National Park resources this year we have had to find different ways of continuing our conservation activities. We are very grateful to organisations like Tarmac, and those businesses and people who contribute to our Good Nature Fund, for helping us care for the wildlife of the National Park.”