Barn owl numbers in East Yorkshire have been given a boost after three chicks were hatched at Tophill Low Nature Reserve.
The news could hardly arrive at a better time, following recent warnings from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that numbers of the much-loved birds across the whole county were thought to be at an all-time low after one of the worst breeding seasons in 2013.
Tophill Low’s latest arrivals came thanks to an 11-year dedicated effort to encourage numbers of the birds at the site, which has now seen 50 chicks raised since 2003.
Recent extreme winters make that feat even more remarkable and it is testament to the land management at the Yorkshire Water-owned site and the volunteers that pitch in there.
Richard Hampshire, Warden at Tophill Low, said: “We’re delighted to have another group of barn owl chicks coming through at the site, particularly given the challenges being faced by the birds.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can to help one of Britain’s best-loved birds thrive at our site and throughout the region.”
Robin Arundale from the Wolds Barn Owl Group said: “The barn owl breeding season started early this year and we’re pleased to say that the chicks at Tophill Low are doing really well. The site has a good number of breeding pairs which seem to be bouncing back from a really tough season last year. The picture is looking good for East Yorkshire as a whole and we’ve already ringed four times the number that we did last year.”
Rob Stoneman, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The cold winters and wet springs of recent years had a big impact on our barn owl numbers here in Yorkshire. Therefore it is extremely promising to see them bouncing back this year, following the mild spring and current warm summer.
“The breeding success at Tophill Low is excellent news and adds to a number of other reports we’ve received from members of public and on other nature reserves, including our own North Cave Wetlands. It is heartening to see companies like Yorkshire Water doing their bit to help this magnificent bird and I hope that they continue to be successful in attracting breeding pairs to their site in years to come.”
There are several reasons for the struggles experienced by barn owls in Yorkshire, namely the colder temperatures experienced in the north. As relatively delicate animals, they are susceptible to the cold temperatures experienced in the county.
Cold weather in recent years has subsequently hit owl numbers, as has loss of habitat due to the disappearance of natural grassland and nesting sites.