OPERATION B DAY
WORDS & PHOTOS: CAROLINE DAVIS
HE ASH STUMP that had stood in our local church grounds for as long as I can remember finally toppled during a violent storm in November 2015. Not only had we lost a landmark, but also the nesting site for the Barn Owls that came back to the old tree year after year. One late summer evening last year, I saw three youngsters fledge and soar away with their parents. How fortunate was that! I felt as though I was walking on air, it was such an amazing and emotional sight and I felt incredibly lucky to have witnessed it.
Observing ‘our Barneys’, usually when walking the dog at dusk, was a daily highlight for us, and we dubbed one the ‘nine o’clock owl’ because he always appeared at that time of night, swooping from another roosting site near his mate in the stump to go and hunt for supper. My partner Malc and I mourned the loss of the stump, and the nesting site. Where would our owls raise their babies now? What if they went elsewhere and we wouldn’t see them anymore? Well, we thought, there’s nothing else for it, we’d have to try to replace the nest site they’ve lost. But how to do this? And, crucially, how much would this cost?
After emailing company director James Bird, a qualified ecologist, explaining what I wanted doing, he came back with an extremely competitive offer, driven by conservation reasons, complete with a bespoke payment schedule that made my project viable. Hurrah! And ‘B Day’ was set for 5th February. B Day dawned overcast, but thankfully dry and calm after days of relentless rain and fierce wind. James and Ben Clarke, Greenway’s co-director and landscaping expert, rocked up at 9am sharp in Digging the hole is easier with a machine, but shovels are needed to tidy around the hole before the pole is inserted – after it’s been carefully negotiated through the garden, of course!