Owls are a favourite UK wildlife species for many people; magical and mysterious as well as beautiful. As an apex predator in the food chain, owls are incredibly important to biodiversity.
Any conservation measures we put in place to protect owls and their main food sources will have a beneficial effect on many other species. Protecting rough grassland will encourage voles, ensuring owls have a good food supply. Rough grassland will also be beneficial to other species of birds, including kestrels and skylarks. Reptiles and flora not currently common in annually mown wildflower or hay meadows will also be encouraged.
The Owl Conservation Project is in place to combat the potential loss of habitat elsewhere in the borough, in particular, at Warren Farm. Warren Farm is an area of rough grassland habitat which is council-owned land, previously utilised as sports pitches. Following many years of reduced mowing, this site has become quite wild. The area now supports hunting Barn Owls and Short Eared Owls at certain times of the year.
Sadly, the future of this habitat is precarious. QPR football club, for instance, were keen to develop the area for their training ground. Whilst QPR have now pulled out of its plans, Warren Farm could easily be lost in the future. The Owl Conservation Project is ensuring that owl species have other habitats within the borough where they can thrive.
The Owl Conservation Project’s overall focus is to help more to owls breed in Ealing. We hope to promote a better mosaic of diverse grassland habitats across the borough – bringing wider benefits for all manner of biodiversity.
Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) and the Ealing park ranger team are working together on their ‘Help an Ealing Owl’ project. We are aiming to provide similar habitats in other locations should Warren Farm be developed. The project has been possible due to £2,000 funding from the Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ scheme. The project has two key elements:
2) Change borough-wide grassland management regimes to allow for better feeding habitats for owls and many other species
20 owl nest boxes are now in place across the borough. New grassland management regimes are also in place and are part of a longer term project implementing habitat changes on a large scale.
There is ongoing monitoring of boxes and habitat for hunting, resident or breeding owls. The monitoring also covers important non-target species which may use the boxes like kestrels and stock doves.
Excitingly, we have had owls in our boxes but, due to their sensitivity to disturbance during the breeding season, we will not be disclosing locations until the breeding season is over.
Ealing’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is in development, in consultation with EWG. Barn Owls and Skylarks are a focus, with their own Species Action Plan (SAP) currently being drafted.