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Deeping St Nicholas farmer sees fall in owl population

The number of barn owls in South Holland appears to have fallen.

Farmer Nicholas Watts, of Vine House Farm in Deeping St Nicholas, says that 2020 has been a "very poor" year for the birds, with only ten owlets found in his 20 nest boxes.

Mr Watts thinks that the cause of the fall could be due to less food being available.

Barn owl at Deeping Fen (39924757)
Barn owl at Deeping Fen (39924757)

He said: "Barn owls feed almost exclusively on voles and there is a shortage of them.

"The wet weather and strong winds in February was very cruel for the owls and many starved to death as they couldn't hunt successfully.

"The owls have been so busy hunting that it has kept vole numbers down so much that at least 50% of the pairs of owls have not bred - and those that have bred are only rearing one or two chicks."

Mr Watts says that this has happened before.

The year 2014 was the best for voles and owls, with his 20 nest boxes producing around 130 Owlets.

However, the young owls stayed and ate up the voles so that in 2015 no barn owls bred at all in Deeping Fen.

He added: "We can obviously see from this that food is their driver, lots of voles means lots of owls and it is the same for other birds as well.

"If a species is declining it is usually running out of food some time in the year and, very often, because of a shortage of insects."

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