An environmental organisation has called for urgent action over the preservation of barn owls, one of Northern Ireland's most iconic but endangered species.
Ulster Wildlife says there are fewer than 50 breeding pairs left in Northern Ireland and without urgent action they could be lost forever.
The organisation has teamed up with BBC Northern Ireland to raise awareness for the species' dwindling numbers.
Volunteers from Comber Rotary Club and DIY enthusiasts from Knockevin Special School have been busy making barn owl nest boxes, while the Ulster Wildlife Barn Owl Survey has been recording sightings and potential nest sites to help determine where the nest boxes can be best placed.
In the last few years, four active barn owl nest sites have been identified across the province. However, in 2018, two of those were lost – one when weather downed a tree and one due to a road traffic accident – causing the tiny barn owl population to plummet.
When asked about the future of the species, barn owl project manager Conor McKinney said: "The present is pretty bleak but I think with a little bit of conservation work, the erection of barn owl boxes, a call out for sightings to make sure we can undertake the conservation work where we currently have barn owls, it can look much more promising.
"Certainly we've had a lot of activity around the barn owl boxes that we've erected. We're always looking for some funds to help erect the boxes, which are around £40 just to create, and these provide homes for these lovely animals and where they have homes, we can expect chicks."
McKinney also put out a call for volunteers who he said make all the hard work possible.
A fundraising campaign set up by the environmental organisation has so far reached a sum of £9,970 of the £20,000 target.
If you give a hoot about barn owls, you can donate at uk.virginmoneygiving.com