H’Owl About It – Jérémy Lesiourd, Environmental and Wildlife Development

19 November 2021

Autumn is definitely here and with it comes the same usual jobs; preparing for the next tree planting season.

Sadly because of Ash Dieback Disease “Hymenoscyphus fraxineus” we have a lot of plantations to be replanted. The ash trees that are removed will be replaced with English Oak, Rowan and Scotch Pine amongst others. A broader spectrum of tree species will increase the biodiversity and increase resilience to disease. A total of 21,000 trees will be planted in our woodlands and hedgerow this season and the planting team this year will once again be made up of local labour.

The biodiversity on the estate was also increased this season by the autumnal visit of the rare short-eared owl, scientific name “Asio flammeus”. This blog photo was captured by Balcaskie’s trainee Dean, but another sighting of three further short-eared owls has also taken place this season.

According to the RSPB, migration studies show a proportion of the birds seen over winter in the UK, specifically on the East coast, originate from Scandinavia. Owls are amongst the birds who make the long flight to escape the winter snow.

The short-eared owls, or affectionately known as “shorties” are mottled yellow brown in colour with a very distinctive flat face on which sit two bright orangey red eyes.

At a one metre wingspan and 40cms in length, the shortie can be seen hunting for small mammals and wee birds during the day time. This is unlike their fellow companions, the tawny owls and barn owls who hunt at night, both of which can also be seen on the Estate.

These birds are usually seen flying low over moorland, grassland and salt marsh. However, their presence over the Estate’s mob grazing pastures shows that our regenerative agricultural practices, which not only benefit carbon capture, are having a direct benefit to nature. They are creating habitat to support owls, such as the shortie, which are red listed and classed as endangered.

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