Country Corner with George Hogg

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A Barn Owl hunts over local roadside verges as vehicles speed past.

Not only are Barn Owls very vulnerable to traffic, they are also suffering very badly from prolonged periods of snow cover .

Obviously there is no chance of finding voles or mice when they are active beneath a deep blanket of snow.

Latest Barn Owl news from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) makes for depressing reading.

Anyone who finds a dead bird wearing a leg ring sends the details to BTO.

In a normal December they would receive reports of between 30 and 40 ringed Barn Owls found dead.

This December they received more than 100.

January 2010 you will recall was also spent under snow. For that month more than 80 were received.

Between these two dates there was a reasonable summer and many birds bred well.

Unfortunately the Barn Owl was not one of those species.

It is thought those that survived the winter entered the breeding season in poor condition.

This generally means fewer eggs or reduced egg fertility among other problems.

There is also a problem of rodent poison affecting Barn Owls.

As many as 80% of dead Barn Owls carry rodenticide residues. Though these residues are usually too low to affect the health of the bird, the issue has sparked debate about how this exposure can be prevented.

Unfortunately whatever warnings and conditions are added to labels on rodent poisons, the public are never inclined to read them or obey them.

This may even result in a ban on the sale of rodenticides to the public, which is not a bad idea in my view.

Here’s hoping 2011 is kinder to Barn Owls.

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