Dorset Wildlife Trust’s (DWT’s) webcam has recorded the largest number of barn owl chicks ready to fledge from the nest box located at the Lorton Meadows nature reserve in Weymouth since the camera was installed in 2010, by Wildlife Windows*.
The webcam, which is sponsored by Dorset Tea, has been entertaining viewers all over the UK since April, when eight eggs were laid; a surprisingly large clutch for barn owls. Viewers have been monitoring the progress of the chicks since, with five owlets now getting ready to leave the barn owl box.
Five owlets fledging is a great success story for barn owls, as their numbers have been in decline nationally, with 2013 seeing the worst breeding season in 30 years. The UK population of barn owls fell by 70% between the 1930s and the 1980s. Unusual weather such as long winters, cold summers and wet springs have made it harder to hunt and changes in farming practices and barn conversions to houses have meant loss of nesting sites.
It is thought that the dry weather in the last few months may have helped the barn owl parents’ ability to hunt effectively and feed their chicks. Rick Lockwood, Assistant Conservation Officer for the Barn Owl Trust, said, “It has been a good breeding season across the Southwest, with good brood sizes at many sites.”
DWT Community Conservation Officer based at Lorton Meadows, Sam Dallimore, said, “This year the female has laid the most eggs we’ve ever had in the barn owl box. In the past the owls have laid between 4 and 6 eggs, so we were amazed. We’re thrilled that 5 have survived so far – the parents have been doing fantastically well to provide all the chicks with food, it’s obviously been a very good year for voles! We, and all the webcam viewers, are hoping for drier weather over the weekend, so they can hunt more easily. I’ll be sad to see them go, it’s been a privilege to be able to watch them grow and it’s been brilliant reading all the owl watchers comments on the webpage”.
The barn owlets will be fledging any day now, but the adult male will return throughout the winter to roost, which will be shown live on the screen in the Lorton Meadows Conservation Centre, Lorton Lane, Weymouth, DT3 5QH.
For the last chance to view the barn owl chicks before they fledge, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/raptorcam.