A record number of tawny owls have hatched in Dorset this year.

The county is bucking the national decline of the birds which were once a familiar site across England.

Tawny owls were placed on the amber list of birds of conservation concern in 2015 amid fears that they were undergoing long-term population decline.

Since 2014, a monitoring scheme has been tracking the fortunes of tawny owls in Milton Abbas. The scheme is being jointly run by local bird experts and Forestry England.

The project provides special nesting boxes and follows the owls’ progress throughout the breeding season to measure how many young birds successfully hatch in each.

Forestry England said this year 22 of the nesting boxes were used by the birds compared to only 13 in 2014. The number of eggs laid increased from 42 to 66, with survival rates for the young bird rising from 66 per cent five years ago to a record 84 per cent this year.

The results of the survey are submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology to help inform their on-going study into the status of tawny owls. The young owls are also ringed to help monitor their progress and development in the future.

Danny Alder, licensed bird ringer and ecologist who led the survey, said; “The record number of birds we found this year is extremely positive. It is heartening to know that these owls continue to thrive in this part of the country reflecting the perfect woodland conditions they have here.”

Mark Warn, wildlife ranger for Forestry England, said; “Survey work like this is really important. It helps us gauge whether our forests are providing the right kind of habitats for wildlife and helps shape the way we plant and manage our woods.”