Saturday 12 December 2015

Vine House Farm wildlife towers

As a result of being invited to give a talk to the South Holland Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, we had the pleasure of staying with Nicholas & Ann Watts at Vine House Farm, where, on a tour of the farm, I was shown a number of interesting towers, built for Barn Owls, Kestrels, Tree Sparrows and other species, which struck me as being a very nice model for a Swift Tower.

by Dick

Vine House Farm is an exemplary farm for wildlife conservation. Nicholas was awarded an MBE in 2006 and he won the RSPB 'Nature of Farming' award in 2013 (see here) and just recently, the Champion Sustainable Farming Award. The keys to success at Vine House Farm are many innovative ideas for providing habitat, including creation of ponds and reservoirs, hedges in parallel rows bordering meadows and other uncultivated plant life; provision of bird food and food crops; organic cultivation; and large numbers of nest boxes for Tree Sparrows, Barn Owls and Kestrels.

The farm is a profitable going concern of about 2500 acres, much of it used for growing bird food sold to feed garden birds.

You can read about Nicholas and the farm by googling e.g. here and here

Hexagonal tower with entrances for Barn Owls, Kestrels and Tree Sparrows

Square Tower with entrances for
Tree Sparrows, Barn Owls and Kestrels
One bird that is not nesting on the farm is the Swift, but what the farm does have is 6 brick-built towers which, to my eye, are a very good model for what an effective Swift Tower could be, so we thought it worth including some pictures here, in the hope of giving people ideas.

The hexagonal tower above has entrances under the eaves for Tree Sparrows and other cavity nesters, such as tits. There are also more Tree Sparrow nest boxes in the lower half. Larger entrances lead to accommodation for Barn Owls and Kestrels.

One of the square towers, left has provided accommodation for 6 species, including Stock Dove, Jackdaw and Mallard.

These towers were built using reclaimed bricks and local manpower for the construction. Such a tower could be built for something like £3000.

At 4 metres high at the eaves, these towers would require little in the way of modification for Swifts. Though not essential, slightly higher eaves, say an additional metre, could be an advantage.

The hexagonal structure, in particular, would make an attractive addition to any project, and could accommodate a substantial Swift colony.

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