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The Owl Box Initiative Fieldwork Diary, February 2021

The Owl Box Initiative was born through funds awarded by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. Project organisation and activities were set in motion at the end of last year with the purchase of 64 flat-packed barn owl nest boxes, to be distributed to farms across six farmers clusters in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

When we asked the local farmer cluster members who would like a box, many hands went up and our fieldwork commenced. It was imperative that nest boxes were constructed and erected on their respective sites as soon as possible because by early spring pairs have usually selected their intended nest place.

In early February, the project Fieldwork Manager, Chris Heward, and myself, set off in our separate vehicles to begin our ‘owl box adventure’, first erecting nest boxes across the new Cranborne Chase and Avon Valley Farmer Clusters, followed by the longer standing Martin Down and Allenford Farmer Clusters. From initial phone calls to book visits to arriving on-site, we were met with great enthusiasm from all farmers, with detailed stories given of barn owls using existing boxes and natural roost sites, along with descriptions of other habitat measures in place on the farm to attract all sorts of wildlife.

Once on site, Chris and I would have a good chat with the farmer to decide on a suitable location for the new Owl Box Initiative nest box. We took a range of factors into account such as existing boxes, wind direction, habitat and major roads.

One by one we were presented with the task of attaching the box to either a wooden barn, a metal barn, a brick wall or a tree; Chris skillfully erected each box with care and precision making sure they were fully secure.

Chris Heward preparing and fixing one of the Barn Owl nest boxes to a barn in the Cranborne Chase Farmer Cluster

Some farmers were happy to put the new nest boxes up themselves after advice received on a suitable location, as well as advice for additional nest boxes many had already made themselves.

The Pewsey Downs Farmers Group also received new boxes, constructed and ready to go, so the farmers could erect the boxes themselves. The last of the project boxes will be provided to the Marlborough Downs Partnership in the autumn when we will give Cluster members and volunteers an opportunity to participate in a workshop to construct and erect the boxes.

GWCT Student, Pen Prego, constructing and delivering ten Owl Box Initiative barn owl nest boxes to the Pewsey Downs Farmers Group

It has been a busy few weeks, but 50 of our project nest boxes are now either up and ready or with the farmers to carry on the work where needed. We would like to thank each farmer cluster and their facilitators for helping us achieve this important milestone for the project, and Ryan Burrell, volunteer ornithologist, in kindly providing his time to help erect some of the nest boxes.

By Jodie Case, Owl Box Initiative Research Assistant

We’ll post a blog about siting your own Barn Owl nest box soon. Please keep an eye out for it on our blogs.

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