September, 2011

Farming

Farming
Welcome to this group for all farmers and anyone with an interest in farming. Read our blog to see how we're working with farmers and to find out where you can meet us at events.

Farming

Find out more about how we're working with farmers and others to provide space for farmland nature in the landscape. Join in the discussion on farming issues and share tips for wildlife-friendly farming.
  • Strange but true

     

    I know this is an odd request, but I'd be really grateful if you could collect owl pellets and post them to us.  We need them to help educate youngsters about the importance of the UK's wonderful wildlife-friendly farmers.

    Really??  Yes....

    We use owl pellets at family fun days - children dissect the pellets as they learn about what owls eat and where they live.  Farmland is an incredibly important habitat for owls, along with so much of our wildlife.  So these family fun days are a great opportunity to educate youngsters (and their parents!) about the importance of wildlife-friendly farming, and the great UK farmers that hold the future of our countryside in their hands.

    But we are running short of supplies!  So if you are able to collect pellets without disturbing your owls, please just pop them in an envelope and send them to:

    Louise Bates
    RSPB
    46 The Green
    Southe Bar
    Oxfordshire
    OX16 9AB

    Thanks in advance!

    Photo: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

     

     

  • 34 and counting...exciting news from The Great Crane Project in Somerset

    We are now well into the second year of the Great Crane Project – and have spent the spring and summer  hatching and rearing another batch of cranes to joint the eighteen birds that were released last year.  This brings the number out on the Somerset Levels and Moors to 34.  After three weeks of ‘anchoring’ within a pre-release aviary through August, the 16 new birds are now free to come and go from the release pen.  They are entering an exciting period in their lives as they mix with  last year’s birds and explore their new habitat.  

    (Like this pic? You can see more recent photos at www.facebook.com/thegreatcraneproject)

    All the cranes are being very closely monitored using a combination of satellite telemetry, radio tags, and colour rings to establish what habitats they are using.  Last year’s birds have recently been feeding on soil invertebrates in pasture, dragonflies and craneflies, and also finding left-over grain in wheat stubble fields.  They roost at night in the safety of shallow pools within wet grassland and swampy  parts of the Somerset Levels and Moors. 

    The support of the farming community is vital in this project.  In partnership with local farmers we have established plots of un-harvested maize and barley on nearby private farm land that should provide food for the birds through the autumn.   The project will shortly be producing an advisory leaflet that outlines what farmers can do to help the cranes’ return to Somerset.  If you would like a copy – phone Damon on the number below or contact him via the website.

    The project works with local schools and community groups to raise awareness of the importance of our local wetlands for wildlife in conjunction with Somerset Art Works.  This has involved painting crane silhouettes, and making crane sculptures and wire-work  which you can read about here:  http://greatcraneart.blogspot.com/

    You can follow the progress of the project through the project teams’ blogs on the Great Crane Project website:  www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk

    The Great Crane Project is a partnership between The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, The RSPB,  Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Viridor Credits Environmental Company. Our aim is to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds.

    For more information, please contact Damon Bridge, Project Manager – The Great Crane Project on 01458 254 414

  • Barn Owls return to breed at Hope Farm

    By Derek Gruar, RSPB Conservation Science, Hope Farm

    All inspections and ringing of nesting barn owls on the farm are covered by a Natural England S1 Disturbance Licence.

    For only the second time in the eleven years since RSPB became the owners of Hope Farm, we are pleased to be the custodians of a family of barn owls nesting in one of the three special owl nest boxes that we have sited around the farm.

    Adult owls were first observed in the box in late June during a routine check of nest boxes. The first eggs were recorded two weeks later and a full clutch of seven eggs was laid.

    Incubation for barn owls takes 4-5 weeks, so during this period we didn’t disturb the birds and the first nestlings were seen about a month after we had confirmed the clutch size.

    The eggs are laid and hatch a couple of days apart, giving a range of ages within a brood. This acts as a safeguard for the owls to fledge at least one chick, as it is not uncommon for the oldest chicks to prey upon the youngest in lean times. Happily in this case when the nest was checked again, six of the seven eggs hatched and all chicks were doing well three weeks after the first chick hatched.

     

    In mid-September when the six chicks were aged between 40 to 50 days old, the birds were fitted with individually numbered rings, thus enabling us to determine the fate of these birds in the future and possibly giving us an idea of how far they disperse into the local landscape.

    For all six chicks to reach this age suggests that there is a good supply of small rodents on which these birds prey upon. Here at Hope Farm, we have created a series of different field margins that are attractive to small mammals and in turn these margins used by birds such as barn owls and kestrels.

    We expect that the first birds will fledge in late September or early October and we will keep you posted on the outcome.

    If you'd like to build an owl box to encourage barn owls onto your your farm, find out how to build it and where to site it here.