Raptors overhead

Close up picture of swooping barn owl

The Sherborne Park Estate is a haven for birds of prey – also known as raptors. The variety of habitats on the estate mean that different species can be seen in different locations, and wherever you are the chances are high that you’re being watched by a pair of powerful eyes. Look up at the sky anywhere on the estate and you’re likely to see buzzards or kites soaring overhead.

Making a home

The reason that raptors do so well here is largely down to the way the land is managed by our ranger team and tenant farmers. Trees are maintained across the estate, which together with quiet agricultural outbuilding provide plenty of nesting sites for birds.

Areas of woodland and rough grassland provide homes for small mammals such as mice, rabbits and squirrels, which in turn become prey for the raptors. They’ll also eat frogs, toads and large insects such as mayflies, which are all plentiful in the waterways on the estate.  This varied and abundant ecosystem means that the estate can support a good number of predators.

Countryside Manager Simon Nicholas said: “We’ve identified eight species of resident raptors on the estate, We also get visiting birds who come to the estate on their way elsewhere – once I saw an osprey fly-past!

Over the winter there's always the chance of a Peregrine, Short Eared Owl or Hen Harrier"

So far the team have identified several pairs of barn owls & buzzards living on the estate, along with a couple of pairs of kites, tawny owls and little owls, and one pair each of hobbies, sparrowhawks and ravens. Kestrels are also frequently seen.

Sherborne's diverse habitats support many different wildlife species
Waterfowl on the Broadwater

Monitoring numbers

Monitoring Sherborne’s raptor populations helps us to know which types of birds are in the area, and what kind of work we need to do to help them thrive. Ranger Anna Field said: “We’ve been working with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to install barn owl boxes and to ring the young owlets for a couple of years now

“Ringing allows us to track survival rates and geographical dispersal of the birds, and we have plans to extend this form of tagging to other raptor species on the estate.

“We also collect pellets (droppings) which provide information about a bird’s diet. This allows us to track changes over time and through different seasons.”

By working with partner organisations such as Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology, we can share our findings and contribute to best practice on how to support these bird populations.