Ardgrain is home to a colony of Barn Owls, which live at the adjacent barns and nearby farms. A dedicated Barn Owl box has been fitted high up in the tall Dutch barn, on-site at Ardgrain, providing the Barn Owls with a permanent home. Our resident Barn Owls at Ardgrain often trip the outside security lights in the evenings, alerting us to their presence as they head out hunting once twilight falls. If we have our bedroom window open at night we hear their distinctive banshee calls as they search for mice, voles and other small mammals in the fields, and we regularly see three Barn Owls together heading out towards Ellon, hunting at dusk.
We have a webcam at Ardgrain which looks out onto the same grounds used by the Barn Owls for hunting. The camera works well in twilight conditions, so we capture events even after dusk.
Being very elusive and shy creatures, we cannot guarantee you will see a Barn Owl at dusk, but if you want to take a look at Barn Owl hunting grounds, take a look at our Ellon webcam which looks out onto the rolling Scottish countryside at Aberdeenshire. The best time to see our Barn Owls is late into the evening as light begins to fall.
Barn Owls are sometimes called Ghost Owls because of their white undersides, which flash up suddenly as the owl takes to the wing. Imagine how scary a Barn Owl can be if it should fly up in front while giving its distinctive scream (see below), hence its other name the Screech Owl. Other common names for Barn Owls used elsewhere in the world are the Church Owl, Golden Owl, Rat Owl and Stone Owl.
Barn Owl at Ardgrain
The below link is to a barn owl recording, with its unmistakable eerie scream - not for the faint hearted...
Barn Owl Call (57k file .wav)
Adult Barn Owl (Library Photograph)
Barn Owls are gentle creatures which help to control the rodent population, and are considered a farmers friend. An adult Barn Owl will capture up to seven rodents in a single evening. For their weight, Barn Owls consume more rodents than any other animal; with a young family, a pair of nesting Barn Owls can eat over one thousand rodents a year.
Adult Barn Owl (Photograph by Steve Brace)
The adjacent farms to Nether Ardgrain, at Upper Ardgrain and North Ardgrain each have Barn Owl roosting boxes to support the thriving local population. In 2007 there were 6 eggs and 5 eggs laid by Barn Owls in these two roosting sites. Of these 5 and 4 eggs hatched in each, and all the chicks are doing well.
Barn Owl box at Ardgrain
Telltale markers of Barn Owl activity can be regularly seen at Ardgrain. Owl pellets, full of rodent bones litter the barn floors, and the distinctive white droppings on high beams again confirm their presence.
Telltale markers on Ardgrain barn joists
Barn Owl pellets at Ardgrain
Today the Barn Owls throughout Scotland are in decline - they roost in the same places throughout their lives, and very often these habitats are removed, which displaces the Barn Owls. Without a habitat, the Barn Owl lines slowly die out. Barn Owls often have a few select sites as roosts, and move between these during the year depending on the seasons and the available food. The Barn Owls at Ardgrain sometimes disappear for a few weeks at a time, as they move between nearby roosts and hunting grounds.
Barn Owl Chicks (Library Photograph)
In the UK, there are estimated to be only 4400 breeding pairs of Barn Owls remaining. This makes it particularly rare to have such a well established colony of Barn Owls spread between three sites, especially when Barn Owl roosting sites are in decline throughout Scotland. For example, only five breeding pairs remain in the countryside surrounding Edinburgh.
Outdated farming practices, the removal of hunting and roosting habitats, and possibly even the building of windfarms in environmentally sensitive areas have all had a negative impact on Barn Owl numbers in the UK over the years. Government efforts and initiatives are starting to reverse the trend.
Barn Owl Flying (Library Photograph)
Barn Owl numbers have stabilised in the UK and are hoped to increase slowly over the next decade. But for the Barn Owls at Ardgrain, the future is not looking so promising. A recent planning application at Ardgrain to convert three steadings into a residential house necessitates the removal of the Dutch barn, and with it the Barn Owl roosting box. No provision has been made to re-home the Barn owls at Ardgrain, and the entire Ardgrain colony is seriously under threat. The laws sadly didn't go far enough to protect the Ardgrain Barn Owl population, and Barn Owls in the UK will continue to struggle if sensitive habitats are allowed to be converted and developed.
You can find out information on the planning application which will remove the Barn Owl habitat at Ardgrain on our historic planning pages and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch via our contact page.
Other websites with Barn Owl information can also be found below:
Ellon Webcam - Watch live pictures of Scotland from the Ellon Webcam, which looks out over picturesque rolling Aberdeenshire Countryside towards the market town of Ellon.
Gardenstown Webcam - Breathtaking views towards the secluded village harbour at Gardenstown. The Gamrie webcam also takes in the ancient fort of Castle Hill and the rugged Scottish coastline.
Inverurie Webcam -Scenic views from Inverurie and Port Elphinstone looking towards Bourtie Hill. Inverurie straddles the River Don and the River Ury, and is only 4 miles (6.4 km) from the imposing and famous mountain of Bennachie.
New Deer Webcam - See Bennachie and live Scottish pictures of the historic town of New Deer in the North East of Scotland. Stunning webcam looking over rugged countryside towards the distant scottish mountain of Bennachie and the prominent peak, Mithir Tap.
Stonehaven Webcam - Discover the historic harbour town of Stonehaven on the North-East coast of Aberdeenshire, home of Dunnottar castle which was sacked in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell to find the Crown Jewels following an eight month siege.
Gardenstown Weather - The Gardenstown Weather Station provides constantly updated weather info and forecaster prediction, making it ideal for surfers, kite enthusiasts and anyone heading outdoors.
Inverurie Weather - The Inverurie Weather Station has live weather for Inverurie and Bennachie to the west of Aberdeen, which is perfect for hill walkers, mountaineers and mountain bikers.