During the winter of 2020/21, the Club's Clyde Branch launched their Boxes for Barnies project - a collaborative effort funded by the Branch and Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership (supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund).

Local group members worked with the Lochwinnoch community to construct and install nest boxes for breeding Barn Owls in the area, with the aim of boosting the species’ recovery and numbers in the region.

The scope of the project had originally been to install 12 nest boxes (a mixture of ready-made, bought boxes and those constructed by volunteers), but due to the tremendous efforts of the nest box construction volunteers, and the ongoing demand from people wanting to have boxes put up on their properties, the group managed to install an incredible 19 nest boxes - all in Renfrewshire, in areas identified as priority for the species. Boxes have been housed in a variety of locations, including farms and suitable private residences.

After an excellent Barn Owl breeding season in 2020, those involved in the initiative had high hopes that a few of the project’s boxes would be occupied in 2021. Unfortunately however, it was to prove a poor breeding year for the species, and only one box was used (box recipients had been made aware that it might take some time before their box was used).

This year however, the team are delighted to report that three of the project’s nest boxes have been used for breeding by Barn Owls (another was used by Jackdaw!).

Zul Bhatia, Project Lead and Clyde Branch Chair commented: “Barn Owl populations are known to fluctuate widely, mainly in relation to prey availability, and we are hopeful that this local population will increase through 'Boxes for Barnies' project”.

All three boxes used by breeding Barn Owls this year fledged three young (‘owlets’) each. Take a look at this wonderful clip of owlets, filmed from a respectful distance by Zul, at one of the project’s nest boxes

Licensed and experienced ringers from the local (Clyde) Ringing Group, ringed the owlets, with the utmost consideration for the bird’s welfare. Ringing provides useful information on the health of the species, longevity, dispersal, etc and underpins conservation work for the owls. Find out more about the practice here

Any Barn Owl sightings in the Renfrewshire area can be shared confidentially with Zul by email at zulbhatia1@gmail.com. Records will also be added to the database of bird records for the Clyde area maintained by the Clyde Branch of the SOC and BirdTrack. Breeding season records will be hidden from public view.

To find out who to report owl and other bird sightings in your area to, visit the Local Recorders' Network pages