"Regarding the more general water quality issue which you raised, the overflow does not have any significant impact on water quality, chemical or biological, of the Lathkill. "
My Father told me the other day that when he was a boy out playing, Partridges were very common. The Grey Partridge is an indicator of balance between farming and nature. Since then the balance has swung towards an intensive style of farming, at the cost of our natural history. I am 39. Although I grew up on a lowland farm I have never seen barn owls. I began work on a country estate 20 years ago and have never seen them here either. Until two years ago when I caught one in the head lights late at night, they might as well have been as extinct as the Dodo.
Since then these fantastic creatures have been making a remarkable comeback. The most significant thing we have done to help is to provide boxes in barns and out-buildings. Of course the land needs to be right. Silage has a lot to answer for. The grass isn’t dried out like hay (which is turned at least three times). Hay is made by killing the grass under the heat of the sun. The constant turning and drying causes the seeds to fall and be left behind providing food for the short tailed vole. Barn Owls feed almost entirely on these small mammals and their numbers are directly linked. Thick, dark green rye grass, waving in the wind spells starvation for Barn Owls. Artificial fertiliser is spread onto the land to enable three and four cuts of silage during the growing season. All excess nutrients find their way into the water table and to our rivers.
Having spent a couple of fascinating hours with a licensed bird expert one thing became apparent. He must have handled hundreds of birds but couldn’t fail to be impressed by the colours and the markings on the face and head of this female. The Barn Owl is dressed in the most superb livery and seeing them bouncing along in the lessening light of dusk, dropping down occasionally into standing hay, is a spiritual reward of the highest order.
My friend put her back on her eggs and let her settle before we made our way off to check the other boxes.