CASE STUDY: Barn Owl Surveys in Oxfordshire

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Most barn owl surveys in Oxfordshire, start for us in the usual manner. A client books us for a roost assessment, and if evidence presents or potential for barn owls to use the structure is evident addition surveys and mitigation proceeds.

However, on this occasion, things work out differently with a surprise to all on-site.

It all started when undertaking a Bat roost assessment on a derelict barn.

Although no evidence of use for barn owls, such as nesting, feathers, or pellet droppings, were visible during the initial assessment, the surrounding landscape offered the perfect hunting habitat for them.

As a policy, we include nesting birds and barn owl surveys, into all our rural preliminary roost assessments.

As stated, the barn initially offered very little evidence of barn owl use, however, the high number of feeding remains and Brown long-eared bat droppings, which littered the floor, prompted bat survey requirements.

As activity bat surveys had been booked for the following summer (2020), we decided to monitor the barn for owls instead of loading further costs on to the client for potentially unnecessary work.

It was during these return visits where things changed.

Barn Owl Roost Assessment

As we sat in the glistening summer evening sunset among the poppies, a little owl (Athene noctua) called from the gable end of the farmhouse across the lane.

Soprano Pipistrelle started to emerge for the open barn windows as, in the opposite direction, Brown long-eared bats went inside for the first (early) feed of the evening.

barn owl surveys in oxfordshire

As we sat in awe of the setting sun, the time came when we were confident that all bats had now emerged from the building.

Then, silent as the night itself, he cruised over the bordering hedge and sat upon the window of the barn.  Eyes widened around the site as we sat as silent as the barn owl himself, watching the majestic beauty of such an incredible species.  The owl spent around 20 minutes resting in the barn before re-emerging and continuing his flight across the grass meadows south.

After the dusk survey was completed, we stayed overnight on-site to enable us to inspect the barn the next morning. Remembering, that there was zero evidence of barn owl activity just a few months ago in late winter.

How things had changed, The building now presented itself with several pellet droppings, feathers, and Guano. It was clear a barn owl had moved into the barn between our visits. After speaking to a few local walkers, it seemed that this was the case and the barn had only been in use for around 4 months.

With confirmed evidence, it now meant further barn owl surveys in Oxfordshire, were going to be required.

Oxfordshire Barn Owl Surveys

Based on the evidence, additional barn owl surveys in Oxfordshire were booked to commence over the next couple of weeks.

Two weeks later we arrived for a barn owl activity survey. The activity was minimal with only distant calls from both male and female barn owls heard.

How things can change!

Our team returned to the building 15 days later to undertake the second round of bat and barn owl surveys in Oxfordshire.

Yet, despite it being a rather quiet survey on the first visit the barn owl did not disappoint, this time around.

Yes! The male returned to the barn for a few minutes before being called back home to feed hungry chicks at the nest around 0.5 miles north.

The Final Barn Owl Surveys in Oxfordshire

Arriving early with excitement to undertake the final barn owl surveys in Oxfordshire, we met up with ‘Bob the Barn Owl‘ to show him what we’d found so far.

The client also met us on-site who is very keen to implement the right environment for the bats and barn owls within the design of the project.

Unfortunately, the barn owl again decided to use another favoured roost, around 800 meters south of our barn.

We also took the time, during this survey, to find the barn owl nest. We located a derelict brick cow barn among, popular trees around half a mile from our site. Hesitant to disturb and breeding activity of chicks within the barn itself, we placed recording equipment at a safe distance outside the building. Those recordings confirmed this building to be the one used for nesting, with the calls of young barn owl babies picked up.

Barn Owl Mitigation Oxfordshire

The next step for this project will be continued monitoring of the site. We will also work with the architect to design the perfect environment to retain the bat roost and barn owl roost. This will include a dedicated barn owl nesting box along with a boxed section within the roof for bats.

Barn Owls at one end of the building and bats in the other.

A dream house for any wildlife lover! Unfortunately, beyond our budget.

Furthermore, Chase Ecology will design a mitigation strategy.

Finally, we’ll apply all the correct measures to ensure all species are protected correctly under the right protected species licences.

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