WOODHALL ESTATE

HERTFORDSHIRE

Barn Owls
A seasonal update from our Forestry Manager.

The Higher Level Stewardship Scheme has been an incentive for the Woodhall Estate to remove some areas of intensively farmed land from production, to be replaced with grassland and field corner habitats.  The reduction in chemical and fertilizer use has provided an environment with a range of native grasses and broadleaved plants which would not be found in commercially cropped fields.  This creates a very important habitat to sustain beetles, insects, spiders and butterflies throughout the summer and over the winter.

Now the grass has matured, it is able to provide a home for small mammals.  Field mice, shrews and voles are able to tunnel underneath the tussocks of grass and mosses where they feed on the shoots and seeds from the above vegetation.  A combination of field corners, newly planted areas and naturally regenerated woodlands have increased the habitat suitable for small mammals.  In turn, this has increased the hunting areas for kestrels and barn owls which have become more numerous on the Woodhall Estate in recent years.  As an additional incentive, we are putting up barn owl nesting boxes to encourage them to expand their range and we are hoping to hear reports of more barn owl and kestrel sightings this Autumn in the area of the recently planted Jubilee Wood to the east of Watton-at-Stone.