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Surveys to monitor the elusive Long-eared Owl in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset are already showing some interesting results.
Teams of volunteers, led by Chris Sperring from the Hawk and Owl Trust are carrying out surveys of these rare nocturnal birds in Forestry Commission forests to attempt to discover just how many breeding pairs there are in the South West.
Thus far the surveys have confirmed the presence of Long-eared Owls in forests on Bodmin moor and on Dartmoor. More surveys are yet to be carried out at Haldon Forest and selected Exmoor forests.
The Long-eared Owl is Britain’s rarest owl species and notoriously difficult to survey. It is thought that there is a UK population of just 1,500-2000 pairs. Strongly associated with conifer plantations, the Long-eared Owl actually requires a dual habitat; dense forests in which to roost and nest, and open rough grassland for hunting; particularly favouring Upland and Moorland areas.
Chris Sperring says:
“What the results of these surveys are showing so far is how important conifer forests are for these rarely seen, nocturnal owls. Due to their elusive ways we don’t know much at all about the Long-eared Owl and this lack of knowledge has meant that it isn’t afforded any special legal protection or conservation status and is entirely omitted from the UK Birds of Conservation Concern List (BCC). That is why I believe it is so important to carry out these surveys and try to find out where they are and what habitats they prefer.”
Steve Minton, Planning Manager at the Forestry Commission adds:
“Our forests provide important habitats for a range of species and it is important that we know whether long eared owls are one of these. Modern forestry is not just about trees but the spaces in between them and the species that live in them. The more we are aware of which species are using our forests the more we can tailor future land management to meet their needs.”
There will be further summer surveys during May and June. All data recorded will be submitted to both the Forestry Commission as well as The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). During the surveys, recordings of any other birds will also be recorded and data will also be submitted to the BTO for inclusion in their national survey as Roving Records.
For more information please contact Chris Sperring on 01275 843701 or Kirstie Smith on 01392 834249.
NOTES TO EDITOR
1. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england
2. For more information about the Hawk and Owl Trust go to www.hawkandowl.org
Kirstie Smith, Communications Manager, Forestry Commission on 01392 834249.