Owl Watch, a major campaign that is appealing to the public to detect and help safeguard owls in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has launched.
Alice Crosby, Project Officer at The Wild Watch, said: “Numbers of owls are falling and nationally there is very little data on where they are. We’re asking people to pick up our postcards which will be in GP surgeries, shops and in school book bags across Nidderdale AONB, and return them Freepost to tell us where they see or hear an owl.”
The cards feature a guide to identify owls. The public can email or Tweet sightings to #tweettwho
Owl Watch has attracted the backing of leading nature writer, Miriam Darlingon, author of 2018’s critically acclaimed Owl Sense, who said it was of ‘national importance.’ She said: “Any public involvement of this sort has massive ripple effects for well-being and increased knowledge, and ultimately impacts beneficially on the protection of species.”
Miriam said: “Looking for owls is also a brilliant adventure, whether you’re an experienced bird watcher or not. Owl Watch is a great way to engage more with the natural world around you, and owls capture our imagination like no other creature.”
The Wild Watch project, made possible with money raised by National Lottery players, runs free professional training for volunteers to acquire the natural history skills needed to collect data on threatened species. A recent UK-wide ‘State of Nature Report’ stated a 50% decline in Britain’s wildlife in recent years; one in 10 species are under the threat of extinction.
The Wild Watch has launched a YouTube film with its Youth Patron, 13 year-old Zach Haynes, explaining how to identify the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, and Little Owl. Zach is a BBC Wildlife Magazine Young Blogger of the Year and recipient of the Unsprung Hero Award from BBC Springwatch.
Zach said: “You can hear owls more often than see them so we want people to learn their calls. Everyone is familiar with the ‘twit-twoo’ of the Tawny Owl, but female Short Eared Owls for example make a ‘ree-yow’ call, and the Little Owl can sound a bit like a small dog barking, a ‘wherrow wherrow’. It’s actually a really fun way to get children engaged with nature and help safeguard one of our best-loved creatures.”
Harrogate sculptor, Steve Blaylock, created a bespoke owl sculpture to help raise awareness of the campaign. Steve said: “Owls have inspired artists for millennia. This campaign is close to my heart as an artist and nature lover, we need to urgently act.”
Alice added: “Your detection will help us to protect them as the data will inform national wildlife protection strategies.”
To find out more, visit nidderdaleaonb.org.uk
Photo credit: Mike Whorley Photography
Pictures show: Alice Crosby, Project Officer at The Wild Watch, with owl sculpture by Harrogate artist, Steve Blaylock.