Devastation for bird ringer as nest of barn owl chicks are stolen from Norfolk mill

The nest of barn owl eggs which have been stolen from a mill in Haddiscoe

The nest of barn owl eggs which have been stolen from a mill in Haddiscoe - Credit: Archant

A licensed bird ringer who has been monitoring a nest of barn owl eggs at a Norfolk mill has spoken of his devastation after the mill was broken into and the chicks were stolen.

A Barn Owl.

A Barn Owl. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Paul Newton, a licensed ringer for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), last visited Toft Monks Mill on Haddiscoe Island on Saturday where six eggs lay in a nest on the third floor of the mill waiting to hatch.

However when Mr Newton returned to the mill on Monday, he found the door had been smashed open and the eggs had been stolen.

Mr Newton had been monitoring the nest for his neighbour who owns the mill, and believes that the chicks would have hatched by the time they were stolen.

He said: 'I am absolutely devastated. It is such a pointless crime.

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'The female barn owl is still around here wondering where her young have gone.

'The eggs would have definitely been hatched when they were taken because it was 31 days ago when I first counted them and that is how long it takes for the first chicks to begin hatching.'

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The incident has been reported to the RSBP and Norfolk Police who are appealing for information.

The break-in happened sometime between 4pm on Sunday and 10am on Monday.

RSPB senior investigations officer Duncan McNiven, said a series of cold winters and wet springs have had a catastrophic effect on barn owl populations in the UK, and any nest robbery is unacceptable

He said: 'Last year was a particularly poor year for breeding barn owls and many traditional nest sites are now unoccupied. We need as many nests as possible to be successful so that barn owls can spread back into the territories that are currently abandoned.

'Curiously, barn owls breed very readily in captivity and are relatively cheap to buy from captive breeders so it's quite unusual to hear of a nest that has been robbed of its chicks. Barn owls are fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to take them from the wild or disturb them at the nest.'

Mr Newton, who lives in Aldeby, said a pair of barn owls have been nesting in the mill for many years.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact PC Jamie Robson at Gorleston Police Station on 101.

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