Rarely seen, rarely heard, yet everyone knows the Barn Owl, with its heart- shaped disc face and its forward facing large eyes designed to focus on its prey. David Hall explains the importance of this iconic creature to the Roseland Landscape.
The Barn owl is a bird valued by farmers because of its ability to kill vermin, such as rats and mice, which it can detect in the total dark because of its amazing hearing. It hunts carefully, flying low and often following a repeated route along field margins and hedges each evening, beginning its search around sunset or earlier in winter. It’s a bird with a beautiful, gentle, silent flight, like a moth, white breasted, and with a sandy light buff back and yet is dynamically aerobatic. Although it is usually silent its call can sound frightening as it communicates in the dark to its mate with screams or screeches. It does not hoot or “to- whit to- whoo” like the slightly larger Tawny Owl. Pairs are loyal and often use the same site and territory, year on year, laying from 3 to 7eggs or more on a flat surface. They are not great nest builders. Farmers encourage them by leaving a way into barns or outbuilding, ideally with a box or a roosting ledge!
Sadly, the number of ruined buildings and old large trees in which Barn Owls could succeed and the field margins and hedges are disappearing. The Barn Owl is still in decline in Cornwall as it loses more of its habitat to changes which do not benefit it. However in some parts of the country it is stabilising, thanks, it is believed, in some part to the increased provision of nest boxes. Perhaps it can be improved here too. So we went ahead and did this.
One of the first projects that Wild Roseland undertook was to build Barn Owl boxes with the children of the Roseland Primary Schools. We were grateful for the Roseland Academy’s offer to allow us to use their workshop as a base. Thanks to all involved these boxes were then erected in various secret sites in outbuildings or barns with the kind permission of local farmers and landowners. We ensured that there was at least one box in each Parish, so that if a box was successfully occupied we could link it with a school nearby. Now we can tell you the early results! The Veryan School box has resident Barn Owls. The Gerrans School box and the St.Mawes School box also have signs of occupation. 3 other boxes, one each in Ruan parish, Philleigh Parish and St.Just in Roseland Parish also appear to have been used.
Wild Roseland Orchard Project News
Traditional orchards have been among the chief beauties in the English landscape for many centuries and hold a special place in people’s affections. They are also hotspots for biodiversity in the countryside, supporting a wide range of wildlife. Wild Roseland is collecting information about the condition and location of old or established orchards in the Roseland area. Contact Graham Webb firstname.lastname@example.org who is coordinating the project if you would like to provide information about your orchards or would like to help collecting information.
And while we are talking fruit trees, did you know about the Apple Day at Trelissick on September 29th? Take your apples along to get them identified.
Upcoming Wild Roseland Walks and Talks – dates for your diary
Note that all events are free but a small donation of £3 would be welcomed.
Wild Roseland Open Meeting
Tuesday 12th September 2017, 7.00pm, Ruan Lanihorne Reading Room.
Our business meetings are open to all. They are informal, friendly affairs. They provide a good opportunity to meet those involved and find out a bit more about what is going on and how to get involved. This is the first time we have had an evening meeting which we hope will enable those who are busy during the daytime to attend. We look forward to welcoming you.
Thursday 21st September 2017, 7.00pm, Philleigh Community Centre.
Grey seals are one of the world’s rarest seal species, making our populations globally significant. This talk covers all aspects of the life of grey seals, their habitat and behaviour, and is presented by Sue Sayer, founder of Cornwall Seal Group.
Future diary dates:
Wild Roseland Open Meeting
Tuesday 7th November 2017, 10:00am, Ruan Lanihorne Reading Room.
Our Bi-monthly business meeting (as above). All members welcome to join and take part.
David Hall, Colin Hastings
Edited by Sarah Vandome.
References and links
Enjoy more Roseland wildlife and landscapes – visit Sarah Vandome’s Heart of Roseland Facebook feature:
Wild Roseland is on Facebook.
Wild Roseland is a group of volunteers who care passionately about looking after the nature and landscape of the Roseland peninsula in south Cornwall. Through a number of initiatives and projects, the aim is to inspire and enhance the conservation of this special place for all.