Farm News  |   December 19, 2022

Important Wildlife Update

Fencing protection in place for curlews and other coastal birds, plus news on wildlife cameras and a request for dog walkers…

Wildlife monitoring

The team has been monitoring wildlife at the farm over the last couple of years by mapping habitats, recording plants, annual breeding bird surveys, earthworm surveys and an invertebrate survey undertaken by a student at Napier University.

More recently, we have installed a number of webcams to get a more accurate picture of mammal activity on the site. These have captured a wonderful array of images of badgers, foxes, stoats, wood mice, brown rats, roe deer and birds including snipe, plus a selection of dogs.

Promising signs that farm management is working for wildlife

We were all surprised by the level of activity recorded on the webcams, which demonstrates how important undisturbed wetland habitat, tussocky, unmanaged grassland and woodland edge is for small mammals, and of course the predators who feed on them. This includes the barn owl, which has been captured on one of the cameras. The barn owl is clearly spending time sitting on a short post the camera is attached to, and throwing up pellets (a mix of indigestible prey remains plus fur and feathers). Our barn owl has been feasting on short-tailed field voles, which can be identified by processing the pellets. The other short-tailed field vole which made a guest appearance on camera was in the jaws of a stoat.

We plan to set some of the cameras to video from still images to capture some behaviour and will share these via social media and on the website.

Bird life on the farm – curlews return

We have recently noted the return of large numbers of curlew to the area – a species in worrying decline, and marked as the highest priority for conservation efforts (‘red list’).

We also spotted a family of grey partridge earlier this year – another red-listed species which needs the support of nature-friendly farms.

The appearance of common snipe (an amber list species) at the farm is also really encouraging. They like wetland and rough grassland habitat, using their long beaks to probe into soft ground for food. It is possible that they could breed at Lauriston and then we would have the opportunity to see their dusk aerial courtship display accompanied by ‘drumming’ as the air flows through specially adapted tail feathers.

Dogs in wildlife zones

Dogs were seen at all the cameras. These webcams are installed well away from footpaths, and are not baited (so there is no scent of food). This shows what efficient hunters dogs are – quartering the ground looking for prey species.

All this makes the case for no human or dog disturbance in the fields at the north end of the farm, which sensitive species rely on as sanctuary.

No access to north fields: fencing for wildlife protection zone

We have now put in place fencing to create a protected area, covering the curlew roosting site. The no access policy will mean we can deliver on our commitment to offer habitat for these stunning birds and for other coastal species.

We aim to balance the interests of wildlife and walkers. This restricted access policy will allow local wildlife to thrive and encourage new and more sensitive species to colonise. We still facilitate access along a network of footpaths outwith the north fields – we welcome you to walk on the paths and join us in caring for and protecting this place and all its residents.

image credit: Eurasian Curlew © Bob (CC BY-NC) some rights reserved

The curlew in the picture was logged by stalwart farm volunteer Bob Glen last week on iNaturalist – you can log your sightings by joining the project online or on the app.

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