Established by S.O.S. in 2000, the East Anglian Nest Box Scheme for wild owls and other birds of prey has progressively surveyed and then built, sited, erected and monitored a network of wild owl nesting boxes to replace the diminishing number of derelict barns, outbuildings and natural nesting cavities favoured by raptors in our Mid-Suffolk vicinity.
This has proved a substantially worthwhile exercise to date, so we are very pleased to now be amalgamating our efforts with another long-standing regional group - The Thornham Owl Project - in order to strengthen, consolidate & extend the important work of providing safe & secure lodgings for wild birds of prey, especially those species which are under threat.
The Thornham Owl Project was started in 1997 with the aim of achieving a very similar set of objectives further north in the county and into South Norfolk along the Waveney & Gipping Valleys and on the Thornham Estate, especially recognising that the advent of Dutch Elm disease coupled with the damage caused by severe gales in the 1960s & ‘70s had destroyed a great many of the natural cavity nesting sites favoured particularly by endangered Barn Owls in the flatlands of East Anglia.
The work of this volunteer group has flourished over the years to the point where it has erected over 250 boxes, maintains a programme of seasonally repairing and cleaning boxes and methodically records details of occupation & breeding success, in the event of which progeny are expertly ringed for census purposes.
But as the modern age of austerity has dawned, so a shadow has been cast across the survival of the Thornham Owl Project as the local authority has been forced to review and trim its budget and curtail many of the facilities which it has provided for the scheme and on which the scheme has hitherto been dependent.
So saying, it seemed logical that our two organisations pool resources in order to effect to continuance of both our programmes as a single venture, which is now under way. The arrangement is that S.O.S. will provide the vehicle, tools, materials and workshop facilities that we, together with the two principals of the Thornham Owl Project, Roger Buxton and Kevin Boyce, will continue to factor into a hands-on project which will positively benefit wildlife in general and owls in particular over the years to come.
Recently, our Conservation Officer Dean went with a couple of the Thornham Owl Project guys to commence the annual survey of existing nest boxes in preparation for the start of the new breeding season. Each box inspected was carefully examined for debris left over from last year’s nesting period and for signs of any unwanted visitors who might deter this year’s breeding pairs from nesting there, and also tested to ensure that the boxes were still secure after a year out in all kinds of unpredictable British weather.
Our combined scheme includes nest boxes for Little and Tawny Owls, but reacting to news of recent sightings of Barn Owls in the specific area being surveyed, a Barn Owl nest box was also sited in the vicinity. Once erected, the new box was numbered for record keeping purposes and a ‘do not disturb’ sign put up, with the explanation that there may be owls nesting there.
Nest box schemes like this are an extremely important part of the Suffolk owl Sanctuary's “Saving Britain’s Owls” conservation initiative as they encourage wild raptors to breed and offer safe environments for them to nest in. We are especially pleased about the opportunity to join forces with The Thornham group on this project and thank our sponsors & donors for the support they have have given us through our "Adopt-An-Owl" scheme, which make it all possible.
You may remember, back at the beginning of March, that we described how a Common Buzzard had been brought into the Sanctuary after having been shot. It’s great to be able to report that the buzzard was finally released back into the wild after just a month of treatment, rest & recuperation at the Centre. It was released into a lovely, quiet wooded area with plenty of ideal hunting ground and the land is owned by a farmer who thankfully has a great deal of respect for our native birds of prey. We are really hopeful that the buzzard will thrive here and, who knows, even settle well enough in the future to raise a family!
Readers may be interest in the short news piece which appeared on CNN recently telling of how an attempt has been made to re-locate a pair of Ospreys who had nested dangerously on a set of power lines. You can view the story here.