FIVE BARN OWL chicks were snapped by a National Trust volunteer during a recent survey in the Warwickshire parkland where William Shakespeare was supposedly caught poaching deer.
It is believed that the brood of two female and three male chicks were between 41 and 53 days old when they were checked earlier this autumn by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Charlecote Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
BTO volunteer Roger Juckes, said: “Like most barn owls, these five chicks were very docile. If you cradle them on their backs like a baby, barn owls will lie still quite happily.”
Mr Juckes, a licensed bird ringer, checked each owl chick’s age and sex before applying a lightweight ring around their lower leg. The small metal ring will help scientists carrying out future surveys establish the bird’s age and birthplace.
This has been a good year for barn owls on the Warwickshire estate, National Trust rangers say.
Seven barn owl chicks have fledged from owl nesting boxes erected in the 500 year old parkland.
Joy Margerum, National Trust Area Ranger at Charlecote Park, said: “The tussocky grass in our historic parkland is the ideal habitat for field voles – barn owls’ favourite food. Voles and other small mammals have benefited from a stunning autumn with extended growth of grasses and trees groaning with fruit and nuts.”
Evidence suggests that barn owl numbers in Britain are rising, after more than a century of decline caused by habitat loss and persecution.
Barn owls are a legally protected species; and a license is required to access a nest to ring the birds.
Ms Margerum added: “There have been barn owls nesting in our parkland for hundreds of years. But by putting up nesting boxes and grazing the grassland in the right way we can give the owls a helping hand.”