The staff at Balcas had a ‘hoot’ last week as they enjoyed a very special visitor at the Fermanagh based sawmill, the first spotting of the endangered bird in the county in over 15 years.

The main CAE mill in Balcas played host to a very young male barn owl for most of the week. Affectionately named ‘Hooter’ by staff at the mill, the barn owl was captured, ringed and released safely by volunteers from Ulster Wildlife.

A spokeswoman from Balcas commented: “We were worried he was extending his stay a little too long though and with the help of Ulster Wildlife volunteers from Belfast, he was finally captured on Friday afternoon (November 15).”

She continued: “With less than 30 to 50 breeding pairs left in Northern Ireland it was paramount that he was ringed and released safely and hopefully will only be spotted from afar again!”

“I spoke to Brad Robson of RSPB yesterday who said there have been no spottings in Fermanagh for more than 15 years!” the spokeswoman added.

Following the rescue of the young barn owl, a spokesman for Ulster Wildlife posted on their Facebook page: “Thanks to amazing volunteers David and Philip Galbraith this barn owl is lucky to be alive, after spending several nights inside the Balcas Factory in Fermanagh.

“Despite its ordeal, the juvenile bird was in good condition and was released back to the wild.”

“Barn owls are extremely endangered, so if you see one in trouble please contact us immediately so we can co-ordinate rescue efforts to ensure the best outcome for everyone -,” he added.