Homes for wildlife

27/04/22Homes for wildlife

Public interest in conservation and countryside issues has grown immensely over the years. What was once quite a niche subject – the care and preservation of our natural environment – is nowadays something we all participate in. Whether it’s through recycling at home, or more active initiatives in the countryside itself, we can all help to make a difference to the natural environment and its inhabitants.

Providing safe havens

To a certain extent, we all take our countryside for granted. But the differences humans have made to the landscape over the years has altered the habitats of many of its residents. Many animal species in the countrywide have become protected and we are actively helping them to thrive. We’re all doing more to help them and allow them, through various wildlife initiatives, and one of the ways is by building safe places for them to live.  

Two of the most threatened groups in the UK are owls and bats, both of which are predominantly active at night. Both are protected in the UK against any kind of human harm and while most species aren’t endangered globally, they are on the decline. If they are discovered in the vicinity of building developments, for example, the work will have to cease until they are safely removed and rehomed.

Protecting species

We have five species of owls in Britain – the Barn owl, Tawny owl, Little owl, Short-eared owl and Long-eared owl. The latter is Britain’s rarest owl, while you’re most likely to see a barn owl. Owls traditionally live in or near woodland, such as found at our 52 acre lodge site, or in old outbuildings, and usually in the locality of open fields, hedgerows or marshland, which are their traditional hunting grounds. Barn owls, as their name suggests, are at their happiest when they find a home in an old derelict outbuilding, while other species prefer a hole in an old hollow tree. But with the countryside changing, and many old derelict buildings becoming renovated or demolished, their living environments are in real danger.

A big way you can help all kinds of owls is by installing boxes for them to live in. Attached high to trees, or the eaves of buildings, they offer a secure habitat for the owls. But they also make it easier to monitor them and ensure they live in safety.

There are various types of box, some with pointed pitched roofs, others simple cubes with an access hole, rather like a birdbox. You can buy owl boxes online – they vary quite considerably in price – or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can have a go at making one yourself, though the more complex the design, the more complicated the construction.

Going batty

Like owls, bats are another indigenous species that are fiercely protected by law in the UK. They too will need to be rehomed if they are discovered somewhere where their habitat is to be disturbed. There are 18 species of bat active in the UK, and while most are small – about the size of a robin – the noctule bat has a wingspan of up to half a metre. Unlike the graceful, gliding owl, a bat’s flight is jerky as it rapidly flaps its wings. They’re easy to spot, as they circle at dusk catching insects in mid-air, or swooping down to skim prey off water in a pond or river.

Bats roost in hollow trees and outbuildings, but they would also benefit from having boxes installed in their neighbourhood. Bat boxes are considerably easier to construct than owl boxes, as they don’t require an access hole in the front – the bats need a slotted gap in the bottom of the box, so they can access the inside from below.

These artificial roosts will encourage owls and bats to settle and live in an area. They ensure that they have some degree of safety and the boxes are easy to monitor and maintain. Initiatives such as these habitats are a key contributor to the welfare and protection of animals throughout the British countryside. We have several owl and bat boxes at our Woodland Park Lodges site, book your stay now and see what you can spot.