The results of the surveys in 2007 are presented as target notes in Appendix 1 with a species list included at Appendix 2.
3.1 Breeding birds
45 bird species were recorded during the surveys in 2007; of which 39 species are believed to have bred within the study area in 2007. Full results of the breeding bird survey and territory mapping analysis are presented in Appendix 3.
The surveys revealed that six species listed on the Red List of Birds Conservation Concern (Gregory et al 2002) breed within the study area. These are; house sparrow Passer domesticus; yellowhammer Emberiza citronella; starling Sturnus vulgaris; song thrush Turdus philomelos; bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula; and reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus.
In addition, nine species listed on the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern were found to be breeding within the study area.
The specialist barn owl survey did not identify any nest or roost sites. However, a barn owl was observed on 5th May 2007 hunting over fields immediately north of the existing A75 opposite Stenriesgate. This is in addition to the dead barn owl found in December 2006 on the verge of the existing A75 opposite Braemoss woods (target note 18; grid ref: NY111713); likely to have been killed in a collision with a vehicle.
The results of the barn owl nest/roost surveys at potentially suitable locations are summarised below:
Fostermeadows Farm is situated approximately 380m south of the A75. Including the farmhouse, a total of nine buildings were surveyed for their potential to support nesting/roosting barn owls.
Figure 1: Fostermeadows Farm – buildings surveyed for barn owls
The main farmhouse is occupied and appeared to be in good repair with no openings wide enough to allow access for barn owls. The four barns have very good potential to support nesting barn owls, having a number of access points and available roost areas; however searches revealed no evidence of barn owls. The large storage shed, garage and hayloft also have good potential to support barn owls. The stable building also has a number of sites which barn owls might use; however it is a busy building with both horses and stablehands and the human disturbance may discourage the use of the building by barn owls.
The farm supports a large number of breeding swallows. In excess of 30 nests were counted within the outbuildings although the true number is likely to be higher.
Oakbank House is situated in Braehill Oak Woods within 100m of the existing A75. The house appears to be well maintained with no suitable access points noted and it is very unlikely that barn owls would be nesting within this building. The property has a number of sheds and greenhouses, all of which are relatively new and all are well tended. These have low to negligible potential to support barn owls.
The now derelict Stenriesgate property has been the subject of vandalism and as such, many windows and doors have been broken or removed and there are a number of access points into the property for birds to use.
Figure 2: Stenriesgate – buildings surveyed for barn owls
The disused stable building has good potential to support breeding/nesting barn owls though no evidence was found of their presence. Both the house and garage have low-medium potential to support barn owls. Being more recent structures than the stables, there are few suitable ledges in the main house, whilst the garage appears to have been recently plastered. It is likely that the relatively recent human occupation has deterred barn owls.
There is evidence of nesting swallows in all three buildings and a dead fledgling pied wagtail was also found on site, which suggests that pied wagtails are also breeding in one of the buildings.
Stenries Farm is a large cattle farm approximately 500m north of the A75. It has a number of barns and outbuildings of varying age and size. The farm is considered to have moderate potential to support breeding/roosting owls although no evidence of barn owls was found here. The barn supports a number of breeding birds such as house sparrows, starlings, feral pigeons and house martins.
Nether Stenries is situated approximately 425m north of the A75. It is a medium-sized farm with 5 large barns housing cattle. The farmhouse itself is in good condition and is considered to have poor potential to support barn owls. The barns are of relatively recent construction and support a number of nesting birds including house martins, swallows, house sparrows and feral pigeons. The barns are assessed as having low potential to support barn owls and no signs of the species were found.
Upper Mains Farm
Upper Mains Farm was not fully accessible for survey. The landowner stated that a barn owl box was installed in a barn in the farmyard several years ago, although the landowner stated that it was not used by barn owls and was subsequently taken down.
Trees and other structures
No trees or other structures with features capable of supporting barn owl roosts/nests were identified within the study area.
3.2 Water vole and Otter
No field signs of water vole or otters were observed along any of the watercourses within the study area. Otter signs were, however, found on all the watercourses surveyed in 2003 with otters known to have been killed at Glen Burn and Carrutherstown Junction (Mouchel Parkman 2003).
3.3 Red Squirrel
Despite a specific search, no red squirrels or field signs of red squirrel were observed within the study area.
The surveys did not reveal any bat roosts within the potential roost sites surveyed. Bat activity during the surveys was relatively low with small numbers of just one species, common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus, recorded.
A single common pipistrelle was observed foraging along the northern edge of Kelhead Moss Plantation during the survey on the 5th May 2007 and a single common pipistrelle was observed foraging along the eastern edge of Whitcroftgate Plantation and the northern edge of Breamoss Wood on the survey on the 10th July 2007.