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Second Barn Owl box installed

2 Mar

The second Barn Owl nest box was installed on a local farmers land (with permission of course) way up in an old Oak tree.

A particularly intrepid Kev Noble was up the tree installing the frame and the nest box itself and even managed to get down again! The box was built by Graham Smith.

More installations of various sorts to come……

Kev Noble and Graham Smith installing the second box

Kev Noble and Graham Smith installing the second box

Kev Noble moving the Barn Owl Box into place

Kev Noble moving the Barn Owl Box into place

Finally – the WildSherston Facebook page is now live – lots more details on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wild-Sherston/804443659581246

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Their new homes are ready (almost)….

2 Mar

March heralds the start of mass migrations both to the village, with birds returning from Africa and southern Europe, and winter residents returning to Scandinavia.

The Redwings and Fieldfares are off while we should be hearing the call of the returning Chiff Chaff (named after the sound it makes) and the Blackcap. Interestingly we have Blackcaps who overwinter here and return to more northern climes in the spring and a different population who return from further south so, while we may have them all year round, they aren’t the same individuals you might see on your bird feeder

Some birds are already nesting such as the Stock Dove (which looks a bit like a drab Wood Pigeon) and the Rooks are starting to nest in their lofty colonies next to the Church.

Over the past couple of months a number of people have been busy building nest boxes which are going up in various places around the village. Some have been installed in Grove Wood and the first Barn Owl boxes have been put up. Four House Sparrow nest boxes, built by Sherston Scouts, have been installed around the village to provide communal nesting sites for this declining but much loved resident. Many thanks to Graham Smith and Rod Moyes for building the bigger boxes, and John Lloyd for helping install them and to the Scouts for their hard work.

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

We spend some time trying to find old building or barns to install the Barn Owl boxes and it became really clear why we have so few Owls these days – they have nowhere to nest. If you do know of an out of the way old building at least 3 metres high where we could put another Barn Owl box please do let me know.

Please have a look at the news about WildSherston on the 16th to 18th May with a range of talks, walks and events about our local wildlife.

Spring is in the air… isn’t this a fantastic time of year!!!

PS. This made the local paper – on Page 3!! – http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/11041678.Sherston_s_wild_event_is_a_real_hoot/

Wanted: Trees – dead or alive

2 May

The natural environment around the village is heavily managed by farmers, estate owners, gardeners, the church etc and it’s generally quite tidy with trees typically in hedgerows and along field boundaries. The environment has suffered from some ‘natural’ issues such as Dutch Elm disease which killed some 25 millions trees in the UK in the 1980’s (and we could be faced with Ash trees dying through a new disease appearing at the moment).

When the trees growing in hedgerows die they are both cut down AND not replaced which means we end up with empty hedgerows like the ones on the road towards Norton where there are no trees at all for some long sections.

Many birds, insects, fungi, lichen and plants need the tree lined field boundaries to survive. Some recent research by Butterfly Conservation found that farmers setting aside the edges of their fields to wildlife did increase bird populations the moth population only increased if hedgerow near the field edge had trees in it. Bear in mind Blue Tits eat some 35 billion caterpillars a year so we need lots of moths to sustain even the Blue Tits.

In Grove Wood there are a couple of pairs of Nuthatches (see picture) which need holes to nest in. If they find a hole which has an entrance which is too large they will use mud to line the edges of the hole to make it smaller – just big enough for then to squeeze through. This hopefully stops other birds such as Magpies and Sparrowhawks raiding the nest. On the cliff there are some Stock Doves (a bit like a Wood Pigeon but quite drab with no white marks) which also need holes in trees to nest in.

We used to have Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the area but they are locally extinct as there is little standing dead wood – which are dead trees left to rot and fall over. We see them as a hazard – birds see them as a home!! (There are some Little Spotted Woodpeckers not too far away in the Braydon Forest north of Brinkworth)

There are a couple of things we can do. Firstly more native trees could be planted in hedgerows. They could, for example, be marked with a coloured post to avoid hedge cutters chopping them in the autumn. A couple of local farmers have expressed an interest in doing this as it helps the environment but doesn’t affect the crops.

Secondly we should leave dead trees standing where at all possible. We do have the need to make things tidy – but wildlife needs it messy! If you have some hedgerows that could do with more trees let me know and I am sure we get some some planted next winter.

Lastly – please do come along to the Dawn Chorus walk on Saturday 4th May at 4.15am outside Stretchline