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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Barn Owls down the road.

One of the success stories for me this summer has been at West Hall Farm, Rickinghall. The farmer, David Pettitt is very keen on his wildlife and shares the same view as us that modern, intensive, profitable farming and nature conservation can go hand in hand. David has 4 Barn Owl boxes up around his farm and in previous years has had the disappointment that I have with plenty of Stock Doves and being able to watch Barn Owls all winter to find that they have gone elsewhere to breed. This year however there has been success!

David had a good feeling that the Owls were present as he had seen a pair hunting throughout the hay making over his meadows and on the first visit to the boxes this year, on the 6th June this is what I saw:

By my rough guestimations there was at least 3 chicks and they were between 1 and 2 weeks old. David continued watching the adults hunting morning and night until 12 July when I felt the chicks should be about the ideal age for ringing.

I revisited the box on the 12th July full of anticipation and it was a pleasant surprise to find that there was actually 4 healthy baby Barn Owls present. They all felt well fed and well looked after by the adult both of which were making the most of the good weather by hunting as much as they could. I was able to ring these chicks so we will know what happens to them after they fledge the nest if they are found or caught again.


On 2nd September I returned to the farm to see whether the chicks had fledged and to check for any evidence of second broods. There was nothing in the box, so all 4 made it out into the world and just to top off a fantastic breeding season at the farm, the box on the adjoining meadow contained two adult birds which is fair to assume were the parents and maybe were thinking about breeding again. I have booked in a visit in early October to check but for now we know that one live and well pair raised 4 healthy chicks, all 6 now with rings on so any movement, dispersal and longevity data will all add to the database and ultimately add to the pool of knowledge we have about Barn Owls. With the success of the Barn Owl project we are getting to a stage where many of the Barn Owls in Suffolk are ringed so the dataset that is being built up is enormous. Using this data in the future we will learn so much about the movement, size and weight changes through their lives, distribution and longevity of this species and the more we know about them the more we are able to do help them.

The success of the Barn Owls at this farm is testament to the hard work that David Pettitt puts into his conservation. Species like Barn Owls can only thrive if there is a good population of voles, mice and shrews which are only present through good management of his grassland. Only taking a hay cut, no unnecessary topping and not over-grazing all allow the meadows to benefit both his business and his wildlife. PJB

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous story should be front page in the EADT. A great picture of David with the birds too. That should be front page of all NFU/CA publications.

    Congratulations to all!