Home for the Hole-Nesters: A Workshop on Protecting the Nest Sites of Owls in Managed Forests

“Protecting the Nest Sites of Forest Owlet in Khandwa Circle” was one of the unique workshops that witnessed active inputs from senior forest officers from Khandwa circle and frontline field staff from production divisions. The workshop was organised on 16th December 2015 at Awaliya at the behest of Dr. Pankaj Srivasatava, CCF Khandwa. 150 participants attended the workshop. The participants included, Dr. Srivastava, Mr. . B.S. Anigeri, CCF (R and E) Khandwa, Mr. Praful Phuljade, DCF Production Khandwa, ACFS and RFOs from Khandwa circle, and foresters and field staff from Khandwa, Burhanpur and Betul divisions. The ACF, RFOs, Foresters, Forest Guards who were involved in production and timber harvesting were invited for the workshop. The agenda of the workshop was to highlight the importance of protecting cavity trees and hollows for owl roosting and nesting. Since Khandwa, Burhanpur and Betul are production divisions where forests are managed for timber harvesting. Since these are not Protected Areas, it is important to create awareness about protection of cavity –bearing trees and hollows among the territorial division field staff. The workshop was arranged in 4 sessions: The first introductory session had presentations on owl ecology from WRCS team comprising of Dr. Prachi Mehta and Mr. Akshay. The participants were informed about the importance of owls, their role in owl ecology, in identifying different species of owls based on their appearance and calls, and briefed about individual owl’s breeding seasons and nest and roost preferences. During the field session, the participants were taken to field sites and trained in locating nest and roost sites and identifying signs of owl presence based on white wash, pellets and prey remains. The third session was a review session in which Dr. Srivastava addressed the participants and discussed the importance of protecting the owls and their habitat in the respective areas. The provisions of the working plan were discussed to explain how nest trees can be exempted from logging. He mentioned that if such trees are marked for felling, they will be exempted from felling by discussing with the DFO and CCF. Mr. Anigeri and Mr. Phuljade discussed the importance of using various bird books and applications for identifying the owl species and regular patrolling in the area to control illegal felling and trade of owls. In the fourth session, working groups were formed where frontline staff from East Kalibhit, West Kalibhit, Khalwa, Awaliya, Burhanpur made individual presentations on measures to be taken for protecting the owl habitat and nests. The groups came up with useful and ingenious suggestions. This included surveying the marking coups prior to felling and locating nest sites. If such sites are located then such as creating awareness on owl conservation through street plays, posters, education programs in schools. They also suggested involving EDCs and farmers in protecting the nest sites and incentivizing protection of nest trees. They suggested strict action against tantriks and owl traders in their area. The workshop resulted in generating an interest on owl ecology and conservation among all levels of the forest department. We thank Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Khandwa Circle and the concerned officers for organizing the workshop. The project is being supported by Department of Science and Technology and Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation, Mumbai.