Fly-rise living

A nuthatch nesting in a tree.

When it comes to setting up home, like humans, birds and other animals often have to share their space. Taking to the trees for safe nesting spots is not unusual. But when choosing some of the estate’s ancient trees to nest in, Sherborne birds are finding themselves with unexpected neighbours.

A 70 year old willow is currently home to a barn owl family. Nothing particularly special in that. Barn owls love the hollows and nooks in very old trees. But ranger Anna Field has spotted that in the same tree, 5m off the ground, a mallard has moved in. ‘High-rise living is unusual for mallards who generally nest in vegetation near water’, she says, ‘so this family may be trying to avoid ground predators.’

Hatching a potential brood of 12 ducklings so far off the ground can be risky - They will need to leave the nest soon after hatching to find water and that means only one thing - a leap into the unknown……

Looking up into trees, behind the leafy branches, you could discover other house shares. Many bird species live in relative harmony, choosing different niches to avoid competing for food. Jackdaw, stock dove, kestrel, nuthatch, treecreeper and starling are just some of the birds nesting in holes in Sherborne’s ancient trees. While bats, squirrels, bees and hornets happily share the spaces too. Holes in the bases of the trees provide ground floor homes for rabbits and badgers. And the foxes living in the base of a veteran tree were a hit with Springwatch last year.