Mammal Feeding Station
Mammal Feeding Station The project to encourage barn owls to breed at Alton inevitably lead us to take a closer look at the local small mammal population as these constitute the bulk of their diet. Using 60 Longworth traps we only managed to capture a single water shrew over a period of 3 days. Although it was fantastic to confirm the existence of this important species it was disappointing that the potential food supply for barn owls appeared to be at such a low level.In an effort to boost the prey population a simple feeding station for small mammals was designed using standard hollow concrete blocks.
The intention was to provide a protected food supply over the critical winter period that wouldn’t attract rats. By so doing it was hoped that the population loss over the winter would be reduced and an enhanced breeding population would be present in the spring. The stations also proved to be an excellent location to site traps and hence monitor what species were actually using the feeding stations. Initial trials indicated that black sunflower seeds were preferred over grain or a wild bird seed mix. Wood Mouse
Checking Mammal Feeding Station A variety of species quickly started to use the stations and trapping success was consistently over 50%. Bank voles, wood mice, yellow-necked mice and water shrews were all shown to regularly use the stations. By simply measuring the drop in level of the seed over a two week period a quantitative measure of activity could be obtained without the need to trap or disturb the mammals in any way. We are now entering our second year of feeding and are linking mammal activity with habitat management. Early indications are showing that the mammal activity level this year is indeed higher than last and hopes are high that barn owls will once again find Alton Water to be an attractive site to breed.