Dorset Wildlife Trust is launching an urgent appeal to provide help for threatened barn owls in the county.
Numbers have plummeted following their worst breeding season for 30 years last year.
The barn owl was once a common sight in our countryside, but the UK population fell by 70% between the 1930s and the 1980s, with just 4,000 breeding pairs surviving by 2000. DWT is hoping to raise £27,000 to give the species a fighting chance to survive.
Changes in weather patterns and farming practices are the two most crucial factors responsible for the decline.
DWT's Director of Conservation, Imogen Davenport said: “These iconic birds are under threat, having suffered four successive years of unusual weather, with long winters, cold springs and wet summers.
“We must act now to improve their habitat, provide nest boxes which they readily take to, and raise awareness of their plight.
"97 per cent of the UK's rough grassland that harbours field voles and other small mammal prey and so is a preferred hunting ground of barn owls has declined; many old traditionally managed hay meadows have disappeared, and there has been a huge loss of their traditional nesting sites, such as hollow trees, old barns and derelict farm buildings.”
Support is urgently needed to complete the project over the next two years.
Part of the work will include constructing barn owl boxes in suitable habitats, visiting landowners to offer advice about how to manage land to benefit the barn owl, and delivering educational talks and guided walks for schools and communities, to encourage recordings of barn owl sightings, so we can monitor their progress.
With just a couple of better breeding seasons, the population should rise again. Every penny of funds raised will go towards this vital conservation work.
Dorset Wildlife Trust is fortunate in having a breeding pair of barn owls in an owl box at its Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve, which can be watched on its webcam by clicking here.
To help vulnerable barn owls, information about the project and donations can be made by completing the form online at www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/barnowl or by sending a cheque/postal order/CAF charity voucher, made payable to Dorset Wildlife Trust.
You can also text HOOT44 followed by the amount you want to give (£...), to 70070.