The Wicklow Barn Owl project initiated last year as part of efforts to raise awareness of this bird of conservation concern and to enlist the help of the wider public in Wicklow to collate sightings has been a great success.
Thanks to funding from The Heritage Council and Wicklow County Council through the County Heritage Plan fund, the project was able to engage a field officer in 2022 to visit sites of both historic and new sightings, make contact with landowners and interested individuals and follow up on queries from the public.
Members of the Wicklow branch of Birdwatch Ireland also assisted greatly with surveying and promotion.
Local National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff supplied and installed artificial nesting boxes as part of the project. This is a considerable contribution given that the specially designed boxes can weigh from 10-20 kgs depending on their location (indoors or outdoors) and require specialist climbing expertise to install.
In 2022 over 25 boxes were installed, with more due for installation in the coming weeks.
Cllr Lourda Scott, Chair of Wicklow County Council’s Climate & Biodiversity SPC, welcomed the project stating: “The provision of Barn Owl Nesting boxes greatly benefits the breeding potential for this threatened species, compensating for a lack of other suitable breeding sites in the countryside such as mature trees and abandoned farm buildings. Nesting boxes also provide the focus for planned monitoring efforts in 2023 and I especially welcome the citizen science element which allows members of the public to contribute directly to scientific data gathering.”
Cllr Tommy Annesley, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, welcomed the success of this project stating: “At the start of 2022 there were only 2-3 records of Barn Owls in county Wicklow, but thanks largely to the ‘eyes on the ground’ of the public we now have over 40 reported sightings which is a fantastic result”.
Mr Brian Gleeson, Chief Executive, commended all involved stating that the project is a great example of partnership between the council, statutory bodies and interested individuals to achieve conservation gains for wildlife in Wicklow.
As part of the project a Wicklow Barn Owl calendar for 2023 has been produced and is full of photographs and fun facts and contact details for the Wicklow Barn Owl group. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your postal address to request your free copy. Contact Wicklow Barn Owl group on Facebook, email email@example.com or telephone 087 2339280.