Dawlish Garden Society welcomed another 3 new members this evening and following notices advising members to get growing for the Plant Sale on May 19th ,Flower of the month was judged to be a yellow argyranthemum ( marguerite ) from the garden of Angela Baker , the raffle of Pansies in a terracotta planter was won by Connie Hayday.

The Chairman then introduced David Ramsden – co-founder of the Barn Owl Trust – to give his talk about Restoring the Balance.

David Ramsden MBE and Mateo Ruiz

David has a connection to Dawlish as his father once taught at the local secondary school . The Barn Owl Trust is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year he stated , then dispelled some popular misconceptions about Barn Owls – they don’t hoot or live in woodland .

They are scarce in Devon , being the most declined owl species . This is due to intensive farming methods , the landscape has dramatically altered away from mixed farming which is their natural habitat .Barn Owls are beautiful birds with sensitive hearing – in fact their faces are shaped like a pair of ears . They live in barns or hollow trees and hunt over a 3 mile radius . They know their area well , remembering flight paths . When hunting they source mice , rats , shrews and voles from the longer grass . During the year a family of owls will consume.

5000 small mammals . Generally 5 eggs will be laid after mating – like swans they do mate for life – , it’s a relatively long incubation of 32 days , then 2 months as fledglings . It’s sad to say that 29% of nests fail due the weather and availability of food but by 14 weeks the surviving young are ready to disperse , learning to hunt by instinct .

Life expectancy is about 4 years , although the longest recorded owl was aged 15 .

Devon currently has about 400 pairs of Barn Owls , you are most likely to see them in Autumn after dusk in the countryside . The Barn Owl Trust works with planners to conserve wildlife habitats , advises on land management and places nest boxes in suitable sites alongside education in schools engendering respect for the environment .

Next meeting on March 29th at 7.15 at the Manor House will be the Spring Flower Show and Photo competition , with a talk by Roger Kohl entitled ” An introduction to making wine ” . All welcome , members £1 to include tea + biscuits and raffle , bring a friend /visitor £2 .