Barn owls continue to be low in numbers in the Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Wetlands. However the Local Biodiversity Action Plan process continues to work at local level to identify the most important areas for the birds and co-ordinate action to help restore and expand the population.
The landscape of the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Wetlands has traditionally been home to barn owls. Due to recent reports from local people, it is known that birds continue to be present in the area. In 2009 the Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Local Biodiversity Action Plan aims to step up effort to track down the general location of birds in the area. To do that, an appeal has been launched to encourage people to report recent sightings so that areas can be surveyed in an attempt to confirm the location of breeding birds coming into the breeding season.
Working in part partnership with the Ulster Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Advisory Committee’s Biodiversity Officer will co-ordinate fieldwork in the area, using specialist equipment to track birds with the aim of monitoring the success of breeding birds locally.
Success of breeding birds is generally dependent on the availability of food and shelter. With an increased effort by farmers in the area to provide suitable feeding and nesting habitats for the birds, it would be expected to see an increase in the population of barn owls locally. One of the most effective methods of finding out where birds are, is for trained fieldworkers to follow up reports of sightings. During the spring and summer of 2009 we need to hear from people who have seen a barn owl. Reports should be sent to the Biodiversity Officer for Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Wetlands – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Providing nest boxes for barn owls
Advice can be given to those who wish to help provide nest boxes for barn owls on farms. Nest boxes include designs to be fitted to large trees, and designs for use inside farm buildings.
In addition, provisions can be made for barn owls in new buildings. Farmers that are having new farm buildings erected can easily incorporate a purpose built “loft” for birds at little extra cost. Following recommendations from our Biodiversity Officer, a landowner in the Lough Beg area recently incorporated a sound-proof loft complete with owl window to allow barn owls to gain access to his home. The habitat in the area appears to be suitable, and there have been several sightings of birds in the Lough Beg area in recent times. It is hoped that this facility will attract birds in the future.