Sweating the Assets!  / by Jonathan Thomson

Two of the bigger investments at UWNR have been the lake and the Barn Owl barn.  Both were done for very specific reasons. The lake was built to provide habitat for a range of species including grass snakes (perhaps they should be called water snakes), dragonflies, toads, frogs, aquatic invertebrates, damselflies, house martins & swallows, waterfowl and a drinking supply for mammals. It can be thought of as an ecological kick-start, for UWNR. As I have written in earlier blogs, the open barn was built to provide built habitat for the UWNR Barn Owl pair. 

Just in the last week, two things occurred which indicated that these habitats are being used to a degree, which is exceeding expectations. 

This happened….

With the Wessex Home Education Group I ran a 1-day session, focusing on the lake. During the afternoon slot we poked and scooped with our nets, seeking aquatic invertebrates – they came in an abundance, that was truly extraordinary. The clear highlight though – juvenile newts! 




For years, each early March – May, I have searched in vain for newts. So finding this juvenile with its external frilly gills (they develop internal lungs as they mature) was momentous. The lake habitat now feels complete. 


And then this happened….

When I arrived at UWNR last Friday, I was greeted by Jack his face beaming with excitement. His first words – ‘I have just had the most amazing experience, really unbelievable’! In a rush, he then told me that as he parked his motorbike in the Barn Owl barn, he caught sight of both adult Barn Owls perched tightly in the southwestern corner. They stock still, facing the wall, sound asleep. (They are feeding their brood at the moment, so working hard all night and sleeping soundly all day)!  They then awoke and fled, winging their way north-eastward. So the Barn Owls are using their barn to both hunt & sleep, and given this run of poor weather it is likely that this habitat is sustaining the adults and chicks. A great return on the investment!