BARN owls suffered their worst year on record in 2013 as they struggled in the face of the bitterly cold spring, conservationists have said.
Results from monitoring schemes around the UK revealed the number of sites where nesting took place last year was significantly down in every area compared to previous years, and some surveys found no nests with eggs in at all.
Overall the number of occupied nests was down 71% on the average across all previous years, according to the Barn Owl Trust, which collated the information from 21 independent groups stretching from south west Scotland to Jersey in the Channel Islands.
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The dramatic drop in nesting was largely down to the freezing spring in 2013, which left many barn owls dead, a report by the Barn Owl Trust said. Almost four times as many dead barn owls were reported to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in March 2013 than normal and by mid-April it was possible that there were fewer alive in the UK than at any time since records began.
David Ramsden, senior conservation officer for the Barn Owl Trust said: "It's a lot to do with the fact that March was like January. Just when it should be getting warmer and mortality should have been dropping, it continued."
Meanwhile, a baby owl was saved from a cat's clutches after falling out of its nest. A member of the public spotted the six-week-old tawny owlet in woodland in Bearsden, outside Glasgow. The Scottish SPCA is looking after the bird.