Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Yellow-necked mice raid bird feeder (video)

21 February, 2012

Exmoor Pony foal and mother

23 April, 2011

Feeding the animals…

21 October, 2010

Feeding the Animals That Feed Us

Download the report here

This is a great accompaniment to any meal, and the animal feed report by FoE. How might organic production standards forge the way ahead when it comes to making more sustainable food systems?

A briefing and discussion of the new report by the Soil Association will take place at their office in Bristol on 27 October from 12-3pm. For more information – or if you would like to attend – please contact Amy Leech on aleech @ or 0117 987 4584 (by 25 October).

What does Daisy really eat?

20 October, 2010

Yesterday Sheepdrove’s farm manager and I went to the launch of the Soil Association’s report – ‘Feeding the Animals that Feed Us’. They produced an excellent, concise piece of work on a very big topic. It is, essentially, the invisible impact of the eggs, dairy and meat that you eat.

Others like Yeo Valley, Hi Peak Feeds and Elisabeth Winkler (food writer) think this is important. Why should you care? Everything from rainforest destruction to GM through the barn door can be slowed or accelerated by what YOU buy.

Save Our Butterflies

20 July, 2010

SOBW2010 runs from Sat 24 July to Sun 1st August. This year’s theme is PARKS AND GARDENS FOR BUTTERFLIES. Search the national events listings for an activity near you.

The lead charity for flutterbyes – Butterfly Conservation – has teamed up with Marks and Spencer to launch the biggest ever public butterfly count to date.

Big  Butterfly Count

BC says, “You can join in and help us track butterflies, so we know where they need our help the most. Find a sunny spot in your garden, local park or other open space and spend 15 minutes counting butterflies.”

For more information, to download an ID chart and submit your sightings please visit the big butterfly count website.

A beautiful cranefly!

13 June, 2010

This female’s wood-boring tool does look intimidating, but she only uses it to get eggs into wood. This species of cranefly, Ctenophora pectinicornis, spends most of its life as a grub in rotting wood.

Species dependent on deadwood are termed ‘saproxylic’. Another example of a cool insect that relies on deadwood resource is the Rhinoceros Beetle.

Blackbird nest

13 June, 2010

Nest in a sheltered porch. Footage taken 4 June… I had found 5 eggs in the nest 2 days before, but was curious to know what was happening. 

This isn’t meant to be an awesome video – actually it’s quite boring! But what’s interesting is that the father selected very small earthworms, to suit the very young chicks.


Great Tit nest in rolled-up mat

3 June, 2010

This is next to my front door, in a porch area. I had rescued the mat from going to landfill and I was going to use it for weed control… but to the birds it’s a tree hollow. Fair enough. One for the BBC Springwatch team!

Owl group session 15 May

10 May, 2010

LVBOG installing a Barn Owl box

Lambourn Valley Barn Owl Group are out on Saturday 15 May. Meet at the Swan, 10am. Session from 10am to 1pm approx.

TASK: Farm survey and hopefully installation of a box or two.

We usually have one ‘task day’ per month, but we also need extra help to monitor the nestboxes around the Lambourn Valley this summer. Barn Owls are protected by law, and monitoring has to be done under licence, so all new people would have to team up with a licensed, experienced volunteer. Fancy having a go at owl monitoring?

I’ll also run a course on conserving and monitoring Barn Owl very soon.

Details from me on 07719 225965

Jason Ball
Chair, LVBOG.

Barn Owls and house or barn renovations

28 April, 2010

I use this excellent Barn Owl Trust publication and have recommended it to hundreds of people. The authors make the decision-making process very clear for any developer or planning officer trying to figure out what to do about Barn Owl surveys and how to interpret the evidence that a Barn Owl survey presents.

Planning guidance – “Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications”

Owl Lofts

The last page has a sketch of an ‘owl loft’ which is a neat way to achieve a built-in solution to the challenge of keeping a site permanently available for Barn Owls – and complete the building beautifully.

I’m not sure that I totally approve of the sketch. The drawing portrays a massive space – which is great for owls – but if you’re ever going to need monitoring or maintenance done, consider the accessibility, safety and structural strength (could it take a roofer’s weight?).

I would also advise any architect or builder involved with the project to carefully finish the detail of the entrance. Even with a sloped shape, an occasionally fierce wind might force a bit of rainwater in towards interfaces or unprotected material.

Consider ventilation and drainage for the Barn Owl cavity. I’ve seen an example where the owl loft had its own little vents and drains to allow for the intense activity that a Barn Owl family goes through. Many hundreds of prey items are delivered to the chicks – which means plenty of waste products..!

Helpfully, specialist moths and beetles will slowly break down the pellets which the owls regurgitate, but one day the box might benefit from a winter clearout – and that’s why I highlighted maintenance earlier.

Having mentioned these details, I must say I love owl lofts. Attic spaces for owls have a tradition dating back hundreds of years, and they work equally well as part of a renovation or a new build.

Barn Owl surveys

Many rural buildings with planning proposals need a Barn Owl survey and a bat survey done. My best advice for developers is this: get advice at the soonest opportunity, ideally from somebody who has experience of a similar situation.

I am experienced in Barn Owl conservation and I can carry out your Barn Owl survey (if it’s too far from me I can find a local expert through the Barn Owl Conservation Network or my Natureheads Network). As an experienced owl conservationist and qualified BTO ringer I am able to judge the best methods for survey and if necessary I can inspect the nest during the breeding season.

When it comes to planning authorities and Barn Owls they often like to ‘play on the safe side’ and request a Barn Owl survey for structures which are ‘unlikely’ – but that’s good for the owls! Believe it or not this is good for you too – because a survey and sound advice should help you avoid delays and can conform to the legislation that protects Barn Owls and their nest sites.

One of the easiest sites I have ever surveyed was an agricultural store which was in excellent condition and after a very quick survey session it was obvious that a Barn Owl could not access the building. There was no need for a big survey effort or a complex report. My fee was correspondingly small of course!

If your planning officer requests a survey for Barn Owls please contact and we can source an ecologist with the relevant experience and skills.

Jason Ball BSc (hons) MCMI (DipMan)
m: 07719 225965

Free download: has sourced the guidance from Natural England’s website and here it is – get the Barn Owl guidance for planning authorities approved by Natural England for free.