Helping Barn Owls in the Galloway Glens area

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A partnership consisting of the Galloway Glens Scheme, The Barn Owl Trust, HM Prison Dumfries, and volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology has come together to support Barn Owls in the Ken/Dee Valley in Dumfries & Galloway.

Barn Owls are an iconic and much-loved species which is widely distributed across the UK although their populations have declined over the last 100 years as a result of changes in agricultural practice and loss of habitat. Barn Owls are birds of prey, hunting and catching small mammals, mostly Field Voles, and have some extraordinary adaptations to help them hunt for food at night, such as incredibly sensitive hearing and the ability to see movement with very little light.

This initiative will support the installation of up to 50 purpose-built Barn Owl nest boxes up and down the Ken/Dee valley, with follow-up monitoring of the boxes and ringing of chicks produced by breeding pairs.

The nest boxes are being made by the HM Prison Dumfries woodwork shop, and the follow up monitoring undertaken by British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) ringers and raptor handlers. The minimal materials and mileage costs are being met through the Galloway Glens Scheme, itself funded primarily by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project has generated great interest amongst local communities, farmers , landowners and individuals with the first boxes installed last week at the National Trust for Scotland’s Kelton Mains farm, itself hosting the broader Threave Landscape Restoration Project.

More boxes will follow at various locations from Kirkcudbright on the coast right up to Carsphairn in the north.

David Ramsden MBE, Head of Conservation at the Barn Owl Trust said

We are delighted to endorse this fantastic nestbox scheme, Barn Owls certainly need all the help they can get and it’s great to see local communities coming together to help them with support from the National Lottery”.

Jonathan Barrett, Galloway Glens Land Management and Access officer said

“The aim of this work is to promote and support a healthy and sustainable population of Barn Owls throughout the Galloway Glens area. By broadening the range of the local Barn Owl population, the opportunity for residents and visitors alike to see and enjoy the presence of this iconic bird will be improved. 

McNabb Laurie, Galloway Glens Team leader, added:

The beautiful thing about this work is that, due to the support of partners, it is delivered at minimal cash cost – it is really built upon relationships we have established up and down the valley, as well as working with our new friends from the Barn Owl Trust.
As ever, our thanks go to all involved, particularly the support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and to the Council’s Environment Team for seeing the potential for a landscape partnership scheme like ours.”

The Ken/Dee valley has an abundance of suitable habitat but fewer breeding pairs of owls than it should have. This work aims to encourage the presence of more Barn Owls in the Galloway Glens area and we are looking for suitable sites for nest boxes.

Suitable habitats are disused or derelict buildings in isolated and undisturbed areas surrounded by open grass land.

If you know of the presence of Barn Owls in the Ken/Dee valley or would like to host an owl box in a suitable area, please get in touch at Jonathan.Barrett@dumgal.gov.uk or via the Galloway Glens web site.

The Barn Owl is specially protected under Schedules 1 and 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is illegal to kill, injure or take a wild Barn Owl or to take or destroy its eggs.

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