The ghostly silhouette of a barn owl, silently hunting along a field margin or meadow is a sight that many people treasure. Twenty years ago, however, you would have been hard pushed to see this iconic bird, as it was all but extinct in Cheshire due to the loss of traditional nesting sites and suitable habitat to support its favoured prey of voles, mice and shrews.
Then, help was at hand from a group of local volunteers who dedicated themselves to increasing the number of Barn Owls in West Cheshire — the Broxton Barn Owl Group.
Fortunately, barn owls take readily to artificial nest boxes, and so the Group began an intensive nest box programme — raising the funds for materials, constructing the boxes, and then installing them in suitable locations close to foraging habitats with the support and co-operation of farmers and landowners.
By the end of the 2016 breeding season, the Group had installed a staggering total of 467 next boxes! Numbers of breeding pairs of barn owl in the area fluctuate in any given year due to the weather and the availability of food, but the population has now reached around 40-45 pairs — a great success story! Several other types of birds also benefit from the work of the Group, including the kestrel.
The Group's website has a wealth of information about the Barn Owl, an opportunity to read the Cheshire Barn Owl Report 2013, and how you can join and support their work.
If you know of Barn Owls in your area you can contact the Group via this web site, report sightings, request nest boxes and report any threats to existing nest sites.