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7 May 2013

Rare habitat draws the raptors

Below is a photo of a section of grassland, taken in Duhallow last week. 

A farmer, who owns a large farm near Newmarket, has managed the field specifically with wildlife in mind. He has allowed the edges to go ungrazed for several years, and other areas have been left to regenerate to thickets of whitethorn, bramble and other shrubs and trees. The main fields are not fertilized and grazing or mowing is more limited.

Tussock grassland, near Newmarket, with Bank Vole burrow (M.O'Clery).

As a result, this farm is a haven for wildlife. The small hole in the grass in the photo is most likely a Bank Vole tunnel, and there were many of these along the field margins. Wood Mice will also tunnel and would also be utilizing this rough grassland edge for breeding and foraging.

The end result is that, thanks to recent survey work in the area, we know Long-eared Owl, Barn Owl and Kestrel all nest within a few hundred metres of these fields. Coincidence, perhaps, but the abundance of small mammal prey in this unusual type of habitat in Ireland must surely mean it is highly favoured by the three raptor species.