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By CHRIS HILL, Rural affairs correspondent
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
New homes for owls have been constructed at a village nature reserve – thanks to the spirit of teamwork between like-minded conservation charities and businesses.
The seven new owl boxes at Bergh Apton are the result of a partnership between Norfolk-based bird of prey charity the Raptor Trust, the Bergh Apton Conservation Trust, carpenters at Broadland Joinery and tree surgeon Kevin Parker, who installed them.
Built from recycled timber, the boxes are tailored to the nesting needs of different species, with four for little owls, two for tawny owls, and one for barn owls.
They will provide valuable homes for the nocturnal birds whose traditional nesting sites have been lost as hollow trees are cut down and barns are converted into homes and offices.
Julie Finnis is chairman of the Raptor Trust, a Norfolk-based charity founded in 1983 and run by a management team of just eight volunteers. She said small organisations like hers could achieve much more tangible benefits for wildlife by helping each other.
“Unless you are a great big organisation with millions of pounds you cannot do it all by yourself,” she said. “If you are going to make a difference, then teamwork counts.
“It is not just the owls’ natural habitat, it is the nesting sites within their natural habitats which are being lost. That is one of the enduring problems which owls have.
“We have got more tawny owls here than anything else. People see barn owls more often, but that is because they are more likely to be visible when people are out and about. The tawny is much more common, but because they are entirely nocturnal you don’t see them. “You hear them more often though, as they are the ones that make the traditional ‘twit-twoo’ sound.”
Tony Davy is chairman of the Bergh Apton Conservation Trust – a charity formed by villagers in 1994 and funded by grants and donations – which owns and manages about 10 acres of woodland and valley marsh in the village, between Norwich and Beccles.
The marshland area alongside the River Chet was planted with willows for the cricket bat industry in the 1950s, but they are now being cleared – making ideal hunting territory for barn owls.
Mr Davy said: “We rely on donations and grants, and so we are very grateful that the Raptor Trust has given us these seven owl boxes.
“We have barn owls ranging along the valley here, as well as tawny and little owls. We can improve the habitat greatly by providing them with new homes. The last barn in this area was converted into a house a year ago, and the old hollow trees which owls would normally depend on are not so widespread as they used to be.”
The Raptor Trust is urgently looking for more volunteers to help it carry on its work. Volunteers need to be interested in birds of prey, but no experience or expertise is necessary. Contact the trust on 07931 423 695 or via www.raptortrust.org.uk.