Helping homeless animals

Ranger Anna Field putting a bird box in a tree

Homeless animals searching for the right place to live or raise their young can find a little extra help at places such as Sherborne, where our ranger team do a few simple things to help.

Holes for Stoats 

Stoats nesting in the tumbledown drystone walls at Sherborne delighted viewers of the BBC’s Springwatch last year – but caused us concern since we've been given a legacy to help us repair those walls.

Stoats peeking out through the wall
Stoats peeking out through the wall
Stoats peeking out through the wall

The risk of making the stoats homeless was too much for dry stone waller Andy Chapple, who devised a way of building cavities into the centre of the wall for the stoats to continue to use. He’s also included passageways, so the stoats and other animals such as hedgehogs and rabbits can get to the other side.

" Andy came up with the idea and the design and we think it is brilliant. We have always known that collapses open up bigger spaces which animals such as stoats can use.  New walls – especially Cotswold walls – are quite tightly built so there is less opportunity and building-in the holes offers an opportunity that would not otherwise arise for quite a few years. "

The walls are being rebuilt thanks to the £100,000 bequest - which will pay for up to 350 metres of wall.

Owl boxes

You can make nest boxes for almost any bird that nests in a cavity or on a ledge. 
Barn Owls like big, open planned living spaces. Boxes can be put in farm buildings or on suitable trees. 

Little owls like a long corridor to their living space to ensure the interior is dark – mimicking cavities found in walls or old trees. 

Ranger Anna Field with a bird box at Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate
Ranger Anna Field with a bird box
Ranger Anna Field with a bird box at Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate

Garden birds will also take to boxes – blue tits and great tits like boxes with a small hole, whilst robins prefer an open front. . But more unusual species also use boxes – on the Estate we have boxes up for kestrels, swifts, house martins, dippers, willow tit and others. 

Bat boxes

The Sherborne bats have many roosts for raising families, winter hibernation and summer roosts. We help by making sure their natural homes are safe and little disturbed – but occasionally we help with some boxes too. 

Bats like a draught free and well insulated home - and a ladder to help them get in with a few slots sawn into rough timber the ideal thing. 

Things you can do as well

Even in a small garden there are a few simple things which can give wildlife a place to live.
Hedgehog boxes provide a warm spot to hibernate for the winter, and an old terracotta plant pot, left upside down, can be used as homes by toads.

Try making holes in the bottom of fences and walls to let hedgehogs through more easily.
Leaving an area of long grass helps the whole food chain and saves you work too – as it supports wildflowers, insects and small mammals, which in turn feed the birds and larger mammals. And a garden pond helps all sorts of wildlife – both as a place to live and as a valuable source of water.


Build your own nest boxes

We use many different kinds of nest boxes to encourage wildlife on our Sherborne Estate where BBC Autumnwatch was filmed. Ranger Anna shows you how to do the same in your own homes and gardens.