BOAG believes that barn owls will be negatively impacted by the proposed HS2 scheme and it will have implications for conservation work to help preserve and protect the species.
Allowing for a 3km boundary along the proposed HS2 route would mean a loss of an area of 21,580 ha in Staffordshire, of which, there could be potential habitat providing opportunities for barn owls. BOAG has already installed 23 barn owl nest boxes along the 3km boundary of the proposed HS2 route through Staffordshire. Data from BOAG monitoring records from 2005 to 2013 note that there have been 8 breeding pairs of barn owls producing 21 chicks in these nest boxes and 5 boxes have been used as roost sites. BOAG records are from monitored nest box sites which do not account for natural nest and roost sites so the impact on barn owls is likely to be greater than BOAG records indicate.
BOAG records of dead barn owls reported to the group, collated between 2007 to 2013 show that there have been 32 records of barn owls found dead along roads in Staffordshire; 8 found dead suffering malnutrition; 11 unknown cases and 2 dead barn owls found along railway lines. These records do not give a full picture but do give an indication of barn owl mortality where birds have been found and reported to BOAG. It is worth noting that dead barn owls along roads are more often seen and reported than those hit along remote rail lines with no public access.
From ringing records we do know that young fledge as far as 20km or more from the nest site so, dispersing barn owls from further-a-field than the 3km boundary have the potential to encounter the proposed HS2 line and may be adversely affected.
BOAG relies on barn owl records reported by the public to help build up a picture of the barn owl population in Staffordshire, providing invaluable data. Should you see a barn owl or find a dead barn owl, especially one which has been ringed, please send in the details to either BOAG or Staffordshire Wildlife Trust as it enables us to comment on proposed schemes such as HS2.
During 2014 BOAG found four pairs of barn owls in nest boxes within the 3km buffer of the proposed HS2 route in Staffordshire. The four pairs successfully reared 18 barn owl chicks in all.