A BIG increase in the barn owl population announced over the weekend is yet another indicator that Britain's wild birds are back on the increase after years of decline.
Only ten years ago, some ornithologists feared that this, the most popular of native owl species, was in steep decline for a number of reasons, including the conversion of disused barns into private homes, for little used rural buildings are their natural roosting and nesting places.
The threat was deemed to serious that several local authorities in the Yorkshire Dales introduced planning regulations insisting that in any conversion of buildings used by owls should have a built in refuge for the birds.
Now, the British Trust for Ornithology reports that there are 4,00 nesting pairs in the country and they did exceptionally well this year thanks to an abundant supply of their food prey, voles, rats, wood mice and shrews, which in turn thrived because of an exceptional crop last autumn of wild fruits.
Ironically, the latter could be a result of global warming but the BTO goes out of its way to thank farmers, foresters and other land managers for their efforts in recent years for providing nesting boxes for owls and protecting their environment.