Birds, bats, bees and more

10 August 2017

As a game and wildlife officer some of my duties are to manage areas of the farms and woodlands for the benefit of birds, deer and other wildlife. At Balcaskie we have 20 hectares of dedicated game cover, which is utilised by many species. This wet summer has not made things easy for ground-nesting birds like grey partridge and corn bunting, who rely on the thick grass for camouflage while nesting, and also use the same grass to forage for cereals and insects with their chicks.

Only once all the crops are harvested, a proper count can be made, which then gives us an accurate representation of the summer breeding success. The counts are done bi-annually and follow well established protocol. We also supply our figures to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Partridge Count Scheme. This is a free and voluntary scheme run by the GWCT since 1933 to collect information on the annual abundance and breeding success of grey partridges.

The wild bird cover is beneficial to all sorts of wildlife including pollinator species like the bumblebee. In the UK there are 24 species bumble bee but only eight are commonly found. The bumblebee is a familiar insect and their animated behaviour makes them a delight to watch. Sadly bumblebee numbers have been declining because of changes in agricultural practices that have largely removed flowers from the landscape, leaving bumblebees with little to feed on. Most UK species have declined greatly in recent years and two have become extinct since 1940.

One benefit of this wet summer is the amount of insects available as food for the common pipistrelle bat, which is present on the estate among the trees. Bats play an essential part in the natural world and are indicators of a healthy environment. There are 17 species of bat in the UK. Bats are mysterious creatures glimpsed at dusk darting through the night sky as they hunt for insects. The smallest bat is the pipistrelle weighing between 4–7g with a wing span of 18–25cm.

In the near future we will be adding to the wild habitat by planting more hedges, adding to the 23,000 hedge plants we have planted in the last year.

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