Research Article

Study of small mammal populations within two Barn owl corridors at Folly Farm

Alex Keene

Bath Spa University

Received:

29 Sept 2008

Accepted:

12 Feb 2009

Published:

16 Apr 2009

Volume:

2

Issue:

2

Keywords:

Short-tailed field vole, small mammal, Barn owl corridor, pellet, Longworth trap

Abstract:

This study examines small mammal populations present within Barn owl corridors on Folly Farm, an Avon Wildlife Trust Reserve located near the village of Bishop Sutton in Bath and North East Somerset. Two corridors were chosen, the primary difference between the two sites being only one has undergone management (grazing). The focus of this study was the Microtus agrestis (Short-tailed field vole) population, the most frequently taken prey item by Barn owls. Apodemus sylvaticus (Wood mice) and Sorex araneus (Common shrew) populations are also discussed as they are frequently taken. Using Longworth live traps, 600 trap-nights data were collected from three sessions in November 2006, February and March 2007. Although M. agrestis was the most abundant species in both corridors, they were more prevalent in the un-grazed corridor (comprising 19 of the 31 individuals). In the corridor that had undergone management, fewer M. agrestis were captured (eight), although a higher species diversity and richness was recorded. Unusually for a grassland habitat, there were nearly as many A. sylvaticus as there were M. agrestis (seven compared with eight) in the grazed corridor. Some small mammal species not usually found in grassland habitats were captured; explanations for these seemingly anomalous results are discussed. Differences in population characteristics between the two corridors are discussed including: sex ratio, weights, seasonal variation and age structure. Pellet analysis from the nearby pair of Barn owls showed that they were preferentially hunting M. agrestis; the pellet data largely mirrored findings of the trapping data.

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