Barn owls in East Bergholt
Installing barn owl nest boxes has been something Suffolk Wildlife Trust, along with the Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project has been pioneering, to great success, for some years now. In 2011 a grant from the SITA Trust funded 100 free boxes that were erected around the county near to and on suitable community habitat such as village greens and churchyards. Last year three of these boxes were sited in East Bergholt on land adjacent to public footpaths, where any perspective tenants would have plenty of access to the rich hunting grounds of the beautiful Dedham Vale.
“When Angela offered us free barn owl nest boxes I was delighted to install them in an old oak tree, in a hay loft and in a barn I had recently restored. Two years on we have our first sign of occupation in the presence of owl pellets filled with the tiny bones of their prey. I file their presence as an indicator of the health of the countryside and a very satisfying sight.” Richard King, landowner.
A box installed at nearby Flatford Mill has become the most productive box in the county so installing these additional boxes in the parish means that the chicks successfully reared at Flatford are able to branch out, making the most of nearby grazed pasture and rough grassland to hunt and raise families of their own.
All of the SITA funded boxes are monitored by a team of licensed Barn Owl Monitors who check the boxes twice a year. Monitors weigh and ring chicks and record the data. Chris Eldred recently trained to become a monitor for East Bergholt: “Its great to play an active role in securing the future for this iconic species.” He said.
In addition to installing the boxes and monitoring their success, the Trust is also raising awareness by holding a range of barn owl events and activities at community boxes across the county. Children from local schools have visited sites and have carried out owl pellet dissections to analyse the owls’ prey items. Lauren Hansford (pictured) from East Bergholt Primary School said: “I love owls! I like the way they have really ugly little chicks that grow into such beautiful birds. I can’t wait to see our first chicks when they hatch.”
If you would like to learn more about these amazing creatures, and perhaps even witness barn owl chicks being ringed, the Trust will be running guided barn owl walks and activities at nature days on the 26th May and 25th August at Flatford Mill.