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What we do...

The Montgomeryshire Barn Owl Group (MBOG) work to try and improve the environment for Barn Owls in the county. We do this through a number of activities including:

  • talking to land owners and farmers about how they can encourage Barn Owls
  • putting up nest boxes in buildings, trees and on poles
  • advising owners, developers and builders on how they can mitigate for owl disturbance
  • monitoring and recording Barn Owl breeding success

  • Twenty Years of Ghost Hunting (or monitoring Barn Owls) - The history of MBOG

    For over twenty years, The Montgomeryshire Barn Owl Group (MBOG) has worked to conserve the Tyto Alba, the Ghost Owl, or, as we know it, the Barn Owl.

    Barn Owls have been in decline throughout the UK. Pressures on this beautiful bird of prey come from the loss of old trees and buildings for nesting sites, and the over-grazing of pasture which has resulted in lower numbers of field voles.

    A survey to establish the number of pairs throughout Britain was carried out by the Hawk and Owl Trust in the mid ‘80s. This indicated a decline of some 70% compared with a similar survey by the RSPB in the 1930s. The total number in Montgomeryshire in 1985 was estimated at only 20 pairs and, considering our rural landscape, that was very low.

    Montgomeryshire wildlife celebrity Iolo Williams congratulates Bob Formaggia on 20 years of MBOG
    Two very concerned enthusiasts living near Llanidloes decided to take action and try and stop, and even reverse, the sad decline in the county’s population of Barn Owls. In late 1989 an appeal was made in the County Times for information on any sightings and known breeding sites. Information from the public, Iolo Williams (then working with the RSPB in Newtown), and the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust resulted in identifying just two breeding pair sites in 1990. Undaunted the team continued their enquiries and visited many farms, old buildings, and potential trees, and, in 1991 a total of seven breeding pairs were recorded.

    As knowledge of the activity spread, invaluable help was received from the National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency) and 20 nest boxes were installed in trees along the upper reaches of the river Wye. Another sponsor at the time was B.T. and they erected the telegraph poles on which the boxes were mounted.

    MBOG was now growing and with determined effort throughout the ‘90s more sites were identified and recorded. By 1999 a total of 36 breeding pairs were being monitored.

    Following another appeal in the County Times ‘new blood’ was recruited and by 2005 nest boxes had been installed in over 300 sites and were being monitored throughout the breeding season. Sites included natural tree cavities, tea chest boxes in barns, hand-built tree boxes, and boxes mounted on poles. At that time 73 pairs were recorded with nearly 250 young fledging. Now, twenty years after the group started, over 350 sites are being monitored.

    MBOG receive invaluable support and help from a number of sources. The Environment Agency has recently supplied 25 nest boxes for erection in trees along the water courses in the county. The Forestry Commission has also supplied boxes for use in the forestry areas and some of the group’s enthusiasts are Forestry Commission staff.

    However, some twenty years on, a few of the Group’s members are no longer in their youth! New members and enthusiasts are always needed. Anyone wishing to participate, actively in the field or helping with the organisation, is very welcome.

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