It has been a good year for Barn Owls in Glen Nevis this year with at least two sets of chicks successfully fledging in nesting boxes built, installed and monitored by Nevis Landscape Partnership (NLP). In this case the breeding success was in boxes located on Jahama Highland Estates land within the Glen and other monitored boxes in the Glen on Forestry and Land Estate and Glen Nevis Estate have showed signs of continuing active use as roosts by Barn Owls and Tawny Owls.
The owl boxes were constructed by NLP trainee rangers as part of the Pinewood Restoration project. This was a joint, match funded venture by Forestry & Land Scotland and NLP in Glen Nevis and one of 19 projects run as part of the Nevis Landscape Partnership programme during 2014-19, which was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund. The nesting boxes were initially sited on Forestry and Land estate and then at other sites in the Glen including Glen Nevis Estate, Jahama Highland Estate and John Muir Trust estate. Since the programme end in 2019, they have been continued to be monitored by staff from the Nevis Landscape Partnership, in conjunction with local Barn Owl and raptor specialist Lewis Pate, a member of the Scottish Raptor Study Group. This has included ringing of chicks and adult birds to increase knowledge of their distribution and habits.
In the UK Barn Owls, Tyto alba, have been the focus of conservation efforts after a drastic decline in numbers during the 20th century, due to factors including loss of prey species habitat, a decrease in suitable nesting sites such as derelict outbuildings and roadkill. The provision of nesting boxes together with monitoring and ringing programmes such as this one are important measures to support species recovery and increase our knowledge of the species habits. Records of breeding success are submitted to a national conservation database to help provide a picture of the species current status.
A crucial factor in the continuance of the programme is the support of Forestry and Land Scotland, Glen Nevis Estate and Jahama Highland Estates. Julia Stoddart, Chief Operating Officer, Jahama Highland Estates commented: “JAHAMA Highland Estates is committed to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity across our landholding. The breeding success of protected species such as barn owls is an important indicator of the health of the environment, so we are overjoyed that barn owl chicks have fledged in Glen Nevis this year. The owl box project is a great example of what can be achieved through partnership working in the land management sector.”
If you are out in the Glen in early morning or late evening take some time and keep an eye out over the meadows and grassy lower slopes of the valley: you might be lucky and spot the pale spectral form of a Barn Owl as it glides effortlessly in its silent hunt for prey.
Please note that wildlife species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Barn Owls have extra protection under Schedule 1 of the act which protects them whilst nesting. Only appropriately licensed persons are allowed to access nesting sites for purposes such as monitoring or ringing.