Posts Tagged ‘barn owl survey’

Barn owl ringing & monitoring

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

As spring turns to summer and ecologists across the land are coming to the end of Great crested newt survey season and are planning for the bat survey season, I try find some free evenings to help with my local Barn owl group. For a number of successive years I assisted the Mid-Cheshire Barn Owl Group with checking and ringing Barn owls in the south Warrington area. Members of the group hold licences from Natural England and the British Trust for Ornithology which allow them to come into close contact with these legally-protected birds.

In previous years we had selected a number of locations for Barn owls boxes, based on a number of criteria such as the number of possible nests and roosts already available, surrounding habitat and absence of human disturbance. The boxes were built and installed by the group, which consists entirely of volunteers.

An initial check of the Barn owl boxes is made in early summer. This enables us to determine which boxes are in use. If the box is inhabited then any adult owls are captured in a net and examined. The birds are weighed and measured, and the age and gender of the bird are noted along with the details of any identification rings. Birds without an identification ring are fitted with one. Whilst the adult bird is being assessed the nest box is checked for the presence of eggs. The number of eggs is recorded and a return visit to the nest is scheduled. The adult is safely returned to the box. The whole process is completed very efficiently and quickly to ensure that any distress to the birds is minimised.

A follow-up visit is undertaken to the active nests. The young birds are carefully taken from the nest and are measured to establish their age. Birds of a sufficient age and size are then fitted with an identification ring and are returned to the box.

The success of Barn owl chicks is dependent on the availability of food. Their diet consists mainly of Short-tailed field voles, and so a good vole population and good hunting conditions are essential. Wet and windy weather will affect the ability of the adult Barn owls to hunt, and so poor weather conditions in summer can have a significant effect on Barn owl numbers. In years of optimal summer weather conditions Barn owls may raise two broods.

Not all Barn owl boxes are inhabited by Barn owls. Some remain empty, in which case the Barn owl group my look to reposition or repair the box. Some boxes are found to contain other birds, with Stock doves being common occupants. Kestrels will also often use Barn owl boxes to nest.

See Barn owl ecology and Barn owl surveys for further information.

Paul, UES Ecologist


Extended phase 1 survey in Connahs Quay, Deeside

Monday, August 15th, 2011

UES have completed an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site in Deeside, North Wales in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development would have on habitats and species.

Semi-improved neutral grassland

The site was defined as semi-improved neutral grassland. The species composition and pattern of growth reflect an unmanaged and ungrazed grassland dominated by course-leaved tussock grasses notably False oat-grass, Cocks foot and Yorkshire fog.

As part of the extended phase 1 habitat survey, specific observations of wildlife were also recorded. Wildlife observations focus on protected species, invasive species or species of conservation interest. Numerous species of birds were recorded during the survey which could have been breeding on or local to site.

In terms of the surrounding area the development of the site in Connahs Quay presents only a minor loss of habitat quality. UES suggested that landscaping should aim to promote species diversity by the appropriate design of habitats and habitats mosaics which promotes natural linkages and hence dispersal of target species. Suggested ideas that may be beneficial to wildlife include, planting of berry and nut bearing shrub species when landscaping, use of nectar bearing flowers, creating a wildflower garden, creating bird feeding stations and the hanging bat and bird boxes on site.

Extended phase 1 habitat survey for Seddon Homes in Lancashire

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

UES have completed an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site in Lancashire in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development would have on habitats and species.

A phase 1 habitat survey is a standard method of environmental audit. It involves categorising different habitat types and habitat features within a survey area. The information gained from the survey can be used to determine the ecological value of the site, and to direct any more specific survey work which may need to be carried out prior to the start of work, such as badger surveys, barn owl surveys, bat surveys, great crested newt surveys, dormouse surveys, water vole surveys, breeding bird surveys, hedgerow surveys and tree surveys.

Male Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

Seddon Homes applied for planning permission for a new build housing scheme which was subject to a ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’ (CSH) assessment. The aim of the Code for Sustainable Homes is to encourage development on land that has a limited value to wildlife, and discourage the use of previously undeveloped land.

The site was surveyed and all species on site recorded. The development site was deemed to be of moderate ecological value due to the neutral grassland with associated mature trees and species-rich countryside hedgerows. Numerous species of birds were also recorded during the survey which could have been breeding on or local to site. Further surveys for great crested newts (GCN) were conducted due to a pond on site being identified as suitable for amphibians. Palmate newts were found on site.

It was decided that enhancement measures were required in order to secure an ecological benefit at site level and achieve the maximum number of CSH ecological credits. The client welcomed the suggestion of incorporating bat and bird boxes into the design of the new buildings, which could provide a real benefit to local bat and bird populations.

On the hunt for orchids

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

There are 56 species of wild orchid in Britain and Ireland (out of around 25,000 known species worldwide). In the UK wild orchids can be found in a variety of natural habitats including woodland, grassland, marshes, heaths and sand dunes, as well as in managed sites such as abandoned pits and roadside verges. Each orchid species has its own blooming season, which can run from as early as April in the case of the Early-purple orchid to as late as September for the Autumn ladies tresses.

The main threats to wild orchids in the UK are habitat change and destruction. In Britain, orchids are protected by the Wildlife And Countryside Act, 1981, which states that it is an offence to uproot them unless you have permission from the land owner.

UES spotted these wild orchids whilst completing ecological surveys in Cheshire, Liverpool, and Hampshire.