A LIVE nest-cam is uncovering the secret life of barn owls as part of a conservation project across Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire.

Owl Box Live is part of The Owl Box Initiative, a new project from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), a charity based in Fordingbridge.

It is giving an insight into the domestic arrangements of a barn owl family, by live-streaming nest-cam footage from a barn owl nest box.

The camera has even captured the female laying an egg. The nest cam is now streaming 24 hours a day, ‘barn wifi’ permitting, and viewers should soon be able to see fluffy owlets hatching from the clutch of four eggs laid so far by the female.

A grant from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund is allowing GWCT scientists to work with 100 farms over 40,000ha, to inspire farmers and communities to help conserve this most enigmatic and beloved British bird.

As part of the project, 64 new barn owl boxes are being installed on farms across Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Fifty are in place already and will be monitored during the breeding season, along with many more existing boxes, with a further 10 set to be installed in the Autumn.

Adult barn owls will also be GPS-tracked to better understand their use of arable habitats for foraging and to enable farmers to see the effects of their conservation efforts. The data gathered will allow GWCT scientists to develop guidance on managing land to benefit barn owls and other species.

“Although barn owl populations in the UK have stabilised after declining in the twentieth century, as a top predator, the barn owl provides an indication of ecosystem health, and conservation measures for owls also benefit wider farmland biodiversity,” said Dr Niamh McHugh, project leader at GWCT.

“It is fantastic to be able to watch this pair of owls going about their lives and preparing to rear chicks. We hope that seeing these wonderful, often elusive, birds up close will inspire people to recognise the essential work that many farmers do for wildlife and encourage farmers to continue to make further positive changes.”

Project organisers will provide feedback to the farmers, their families, and wider communities, on ‘their’ barn owls, with the aim of involving them, helping them to feel connected with farmland wildlife and improve understanding of wildlife friendly farming measures.

Viewers can peek inside the box, located on a farm in Dorset, which has been occupied by a pair of owls, by visiting owlboxinitiative.com/owl-box-live where more information about the project is also available.

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