A FORDINGBRIDGE-BASED wildlife and conservation trust has received a grant of more than £123,000 for a project to protect barn owls.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) was awarded the £123,700 grant from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The Owl Box Initiative is one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the fund.

As part of the project GWCT scientists will work with 100 farms to inspire farmers and communities to work for the conservation of the barn owl and promote a better understanding of wildlife friendly farming measures.

The grant will allow the GWCT to build on existing work with farmer groups and expand to new sites across Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

Project leader Dr Niamh McHugh said: “Barn owls are among the most iconic and instantly recognisable of farmland birds. As a recovering flagship species, they serve as a reminder of what farmland conservation measures can achieve.

"Through The Owl Box Initiative we will provide recognition for the work that farmers do for wildlife. We aim to inspire a greater appreciation of farmland conservation among local communities, through volunteering and community events, and will encourage farmers to continue to make further positive changes.”

Sixty four barn owl nest boxes will be installed and monitored during the breeding season. Adult barn owls will be GPS-tracked to better understand their use of arable habitats for foraging and enable farmers to see the effects of their conservation efforts.

A barn owl brood will also be live streamed to the GWCT website. The scientists and farmers will work with local conservationists and bird-ringers, helping to build better relationships between volunteer groups and farmers.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.