Conservation Action at Squires Down in Dorset report a good year for Barn Owls

As always it was good to hear from the volunteers at Conservation Action at Squires Down in Dorset who we help with a little bit of sponsorship. The land called Squire’s Down was purchased in 2007 and was originally a stubble field. Planning permission was given to change the use of the land to encourage wildlife. Ground work was carried out during October and was completed by the end of the first week in November. During the autumn and winter months from 2007 through to autumn 2018 planting of bushes and shrubs was carried out using native species such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, Privet, Alder Buckthorn, Spindle Berry, Mountain Ash, Crab-apple, Gilder Rose, Bramble and Sallow. The habitat is now established so no further planting is anticipated. The grassland, 25% is being cut every 2 weeks during the summer, weather permitting, with the remaining 75% being left unmanaged. Bushes and shrub species are managed to restrict their height around the ponds and adjacent areas. Particular focus is given along the boundary of the reserve, to restrict their height and to provide a three-dimensional habitat that contains numerous plant species (e.g. blackthorn, hawthorn, blackberry etc.) that provide an important food resource for the migratory bird species. This is carried out reluctantly on a three/four year cycle basis to keep a thick and healthy hedge complex, last cut in October of 2018. The pond and lake vegetation has developed well, especially during 2019, so required little maintenance, however the decision was taken to remove 95% of the typha growing within the two ponds, opening it up to expose the water.

The group’s strategy is clearly working: more birds of more species are being recorded on the land with the following table included in their annual review of the Ringing Total for each species ringed between August 1st to October 31st 2019

Sparrowhawk 1 Whitethroat 220
Kestrel 1 Garden Warbler 30
Stock Dove (not previously recorded) 2 Blackcap 1619
Kingfisher 6 Chiffchaff 611
Swallow 21 Willow Warbler 153
Tree Pipit 21 Goldcrest 39
Meadow Pipit 100 Firecrest 1
Pied/White Wagtail 2 Spotted Flycatcher 1
Wren 70 Long-Tailed Tit 51
Dunnock 48 Marsh Tit 1
Robin 161 Coal Tit 3
Redstart 5 Blue Tit 77
Stonechat 19 Great Tit 46
Blackbird 35 Starling 1
Song Thrush 30 House Sparrow 7
Redwing 24 Chaffinch 9
Cetti’s Warbler 2 Greenfinch 2
Grasshopper Warbler 274 Goldfinch 14
Sedge Warbler 912 Bullfinch 4
Reed Warbler 198 Yellowhammer 1
Lesser Whitethroat 33 Reed Bunting 10
    Grand Total 4869
    Species Total 45


This year the Group took on the checking of Barn Owl boxes on some of the Dorset Council Farms in the North of the county. It was a good year for voles and thus a year of plentiful food supply for young Barn Owls so Conservation Action found themsleves busier than ever.