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Barn owls captured on Castlemartin Range camera

Ranger Lynne Houlston explains the different ways she’s been monitoring barn owls on the Castlemartin Range for more than a decade.

In January 2018 I installed a motion camera in a ruined farmstead on the Castlemartin Range to see if barn owls were using this location as a nesting or breeding site.

I’ve just been looking through the 5,000+ photos the camera captured between then and the end of September and amongst all the blurred shots and blank images I found this one from July!

The barn owls that were captured on the motion camera.
The barn owls that were captured on the motion camera.

I’ve been working with Swansea University to monitor barn owls on the Range for more than ten years on and off.

My work with the university began in 2006 when I was asked to collect and send barn owl pellets for the students to analyse. Then in 2015 one particular student said that he was studying the pellets and asked if he could visit the range to have a look at the areas where the owls were living and feeding.

The motion camera was installed in this type of building in a ruined farmstead.
The motion camera was installed in this type of building in a ruined farmstead.

So I went around all the known barn owls sites and was quite worried to find that jackdaws were now using some of the sites. I only found evidence of owls at two of the five sites I had collected pellets from. As a result I decided to use a motion camera to try and find out how the barn owls were doing.

I was given permission by Natural Resources Wales to install the camera in January but had to leave it in place until September so not to disturb the birds during the breeding and nesting period. You need to acquire a special licence to be able to access such sites during this time.

Having confirmed barn owls are successfully using this site to breed, I now plan to move the camera to other sites to find out if they are being used. I have previously tried a few others for short periods of time but one only picked up jack daws, while the other filmed nothing.

Fingers crossed I’ll have some more good news next year!


National Park Ranger Blog
Published 02/11/2018



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