JIM DENHAM, who died suddenly at his home in Watlington on February 3, was well known by the local farming community for his barn owl conservation work.
In 1995, Jim was asked by South Midlands Barn Owl Conservation Group, which had been operating in parts of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire since 1983, to carry out barn owl conservation work.
This included the release of pairs in his home area using methods which had been employed successfully by the group.
Previously, Jim had been studying tawny and barn owls but in 1995 he knew of only one pair of barn owls breeding in the Watlington area.
In 1996, Jim and his brother John began constructing barn owl breeding boxes which were fitted in barns, trees and on telegraph poles.
They also constructed small sheds (known as cabins), which were set on four poles three metres off the ground. All these types of nest site were used successfully by barn owls.
Between 1996 and 2001, 13 pairs and their young were successfully released under government licence, which was stopped in 2002 when it became illegal to release barn owls into the wild.
Despite this, pairs of barn owls continued to breed successfully in the Watlington area, with 15 pairs raising 70 young in 2002 and 17 pairs raising 72 young in 2007. Between 1996 and 2012, 219 pairs raised 680 young.
During this time, the results of Jim and John’s work, together with work carried out in the two other areas, were published in three scientific papers on barn owls, their release, habitat and food.
These results clearly demonstrated what can be achieved when correct conservation measures are put into place.
On February 15, a packed congregation of family and friends at Lewknor Parish Church paid tribute to Jim and his dedication to barn owl conservation which will be continued by his brother John and John’s son Steven.
Both Jim and John’s families wish to thank all those who have contributed financially and assisted in any way to the running of the project and all the landowners and farmers who have given permission for conservation work to be carried out on their land.
A collection was made at Lewknor Church in memory of Jim Denham.
This and any further donations will be used to continue the barn owl conservation work.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution should write to: John Denham, 24 Watlington Road, Lewknor, Watlington, Oxon, OX49 5TT.