Monday, 16 July 2007

Barn Owl road kill in Lothian

Barn Owl road casualties are always a tragic sight, yet have clear potential for providing insight into the status of the species in particular areas. This might be particularly useful where there is no dedicated monitoring, as has apparently been the case in Lothian in recent years. Whilst casual records showed a marked increase in 2004 there were no confirmed breeding records in either 2003 or 2004 and considerable uncertainty on the current health of the population in the area.

Historical reporting rates of road-kill averaged 2.4/year between 1984-1993 and only 1.0/year 1994-2003 [from Lothian Bird Reports]. This picture is consistent with a general view that the species has declined drastically in the area over the last 40 years. However, within a few weeks of the author moving East Lothian in August 2004 increased numbers of casualties were being recorded and a personal study commenced. Despite the fact that no special effort was made to find them, a total of 51 Barn Owls were thereafter recorded as RTA’s on Lothian roads during the two-year period from October 2004.

This article presents a summary of the findings from this initial two-year study period, with the intention of providing a baseline against which future trends can be monitored. Valuable additional insights have been obtained by means of post mortem analyses of 18 casualties, all courtesy of veterinary surgeon Jason Waine of Redditch. Other reports have appeared recently in Barn Owl Link (p.6), the newsletter of the Barn Owl Conservation Trust, and in the Lothian Bird Report for 2005.

Lothian Barn Owls

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