OTHER BIODIVERSITY PROJECTS.
We are working on various projects additional to those previously highlighted, to enhance Biodiversity at Wildacres. Nature Reserve.
We will list some of them here, and update as we see them having a positive effect on levels of biodiversity. There are lots more planned from Solitary Bee nesting areas to Swift communal nest boxes so check back regularly to see the latest updates.
Barn Owl Nestboxes.
Such an iconic and stunning bird, featuring prominently and frequently in Irish culture and folklore.
Said to be the origin of the Banshee legend in Irish mythology due to its habit of emitting a piercing screech in the dead of night when active. This must have in times past, scared the life out of some poor souls before it was realized that it was our native Barn Owl. .
A bird that used to be widespread nationally but now sadly is red listed with a breeding population, at the last census, estimated to be only between 500-800 pairs.. Mostly confined to the southwest of the country, with a few spotted occasionally elsewhere.
In times past nearly every farmyard would have a resident pair of Barn Owls that would keep the rodent population down and these rodents would live off the ever present spilt grain from storage silos,. As farm stores became more organized resulting in less spilt grain the rodents food supply decreased and their numbers accordingly. Though the main problem for barn Owls was the introduction of chemical poisoning of rodents in farmyards. This had a devastating effect on our Barn Owl population. This liberal use of rodenticides around farms results in the secondary poisoning of many animals, after they ingest the poisoned rodents, including Barn owls.
Loss of habitat is also a huge problem for this beautiful bird and many other of our precious wildlife species, with the clearance of trees especially old ones that would have had cavities suitable for nesting in. Barn Owls often find it difficult to find a place to nest.
Another major cause of death is our motorways and busy roads, their habit of flying at a low level hunting along roadside verges, especially on our busier roads, leads to a lot of causalities annually,.
A difficult part of the problem to solve but trees planted alongside such busy routes (as well as providing habitat for other animals) does force them up higher and out of the path of fast moving vehicles.. There have been some excellent surveys conducted by Birdwatch Ireland on our Barn owl and its catastrophic decline in numbers nationally.
What a fascinating creature, hunting from dusk nightly, flying almost without a sound with slow wing beats, quartering its territory, listening with acute hearing for the slightest rustle in the grass signaling the location of its prey. Their prey consists mostly of field and wood mice, our two shrew species, brown rats and bank voles (white toothed shrew and bank voles being non native, introduced and now established, and expanding their territories).
We hope due to our land management practices in relation to letting the grass grow in the grassland areas to develop into rough unimproved grassland,. Our new wildflower meadows we are planting and our planting and reinstatement of native hedgerows we can attract them to take up residence and breed at Wildacres., These habitats provide ideal foraging and breeding grounds for small mammals and in turn ideal hunting grounds for our beautiful raptors such as Barn owls.
To that end we have put up so far three large nest boxes designed specifically for the needs of Barn owls. What a thrill it would be to see them return some day and take up residence.
We live in hope !!
Small Bird Nesting Boxes.
We have put up over 40 small bird nest boxes which we hope to see occupied over the next few years.
Already during last spring some were occupied with nesting blue tits and coal tits .
We are seeing more and more small bird species arrive on the nature reserve as the habitat evolves. It is a joy to watch the flocks of Goldfinches feeding on the thistle heads full of seeds or the newly fledged willow warblers and wrens feeding on insects among the dock and cow parsley in the fields. Or the yellowhammers in the hedges making foraging trips into the long grass to feed on dispersed seed.
General Pollinator Bed.
We have planted up a large managed area specifically for pollinators of all sorts.
Here we have planted mostly ornamental non native plants that are proven to a be good food source in relation to providing nectar and pollen. There is a particular emphasis on planting to provide forage for pollinators both early and late in the season, in late winter/early spring and in late summer/autumn. Times of year when there is a shortage of flowering plants in the wild hedgerows and fields. Planting to provide food for our wild pollinators in these leaner times gives them a real boost as they emerge from hibernation, and later in the season, as they prepare to go into hibernation.
We have seen the planting making a real difference with hungry queen bumblebees especially feeding in late winter just after emerging from hibernation.
The plants are perennials or biennials, and include
Erysium "Bowles mauve"
Budelia "Black Knight"
Heather Erica species
Dahlia (single flowered)
Bat Roosting Boxes.
We have started to put up bat roosting boxes in a few select chosen locations, close to the wildlife pond and on trees in the riparian zone on the rivers edge. Hopefully these over time will be used as a day roost for bats.
We have further plans to put up some special maternity nesting boxes where hopefully the females might congregate to breed and rear their young. We have observed this summer most likely common Pipistrelle bats feeding over the wildlife pond which would be a good source for emerging insects