A clutch of six eggs has been laid by a pair of barn owls in time for Easter.
They are now being carefully monitored via video link by a wildlife artist and avid barn owl conservationist Robert E Fuller in Thixendale.
According to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which this month launched a campaign to ‘Save the last barn owls in Yorkshire’, these birds of prey could disappear from the county altogether if the current rate of decline continues.
The first egg is not expected to hatch until May Day. But populations of barn owls across North Yorkshire are so low that each potential new bird is vital to their recovery.
In Thixendale, where barn owls numbers are still recovering from a drop of 80% in 2011 and a disastrous breeding season in 2013, the six eggs represent real hope.
Robert E Fuller is a founding member of the Wolds Barn Owl Group, which monitors barn owl populations on the Wolds and patron of the World Owl Trust. He has watched and has been putting out additional food for two breeding pairs since well before Christmas.
“Breeding success mainly comes down to a good food supply. Last year short-tailed field voles, which are the barn owls main source of food were in short supply and so barn owls had the worst breeding season since 1958. I’ve been feeding two pairs this year to help boost their chances and both have laid so it seems to have done the trick.”
“When they started looking for somewhere to nest earlier this spring, I was delighted,” he explained.
“I knew that if they laid any eggs that they would be very important, so I rigged up a video link to watch what happened,” he said.
“It was so exciting when she laid just in time for Easter. And it is not over yet – there are signs that she may go on to lay additional eggs.”
“An average clutch size is usually 5-6 eggs and are not usually laid until the beginning of May. Now I will be watching to see how many of the eggs hatch successfully”
“And with such an early start, there is every chance that these barn owls will go onto produce a ‘double brood’ this time around, which would be remarkable”
Robert Fuller also has live nest cams in nest boxes occupied by kestrels. This Easter he will be sharing live footage of the nests with visitors to his gallery. The kestrels are due to lay over the Easter weekend and can be seen live on screen at the artist’s gallery.
“I’m hoping that if I leave the screens running a visitor might get to see the kestrel lay her first egg,” he said.
Robert’s gallery at Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale, will be open throughout Easter from 11am-4.30pm. See the artist’s website for further details www.robertefuller.com