NEWS

SEO/BirdLife Project April 18th, 2016

Owl

PHASE ONE

After the launching of our wildlife conservation project with SEO/BirdLife just a few weeks ago, we are now following up to update our supporting consumers with the specific actions that we will be performing.

Our all olive groves are currently showing different evolution stages in their ecosystems. For the initial phase of the project, we have selected Damien’s olive groves –presenting a deteriorated ecosystem, and Sebastian’s olive groves –with very healthy ecosystems. Two opposite extremes that will help us analyze the response to our actions, and then implement practices onto the rest of our olive groves.

AN ENVIRONMENTALLY VALUABLE REGION THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE AND PESTICIDES

Before getting into the details of the project, it is important to highlight the actual climate situation of our region. About 90% of our groves are located in the Guadiana Menor river valley. This is a semi-arid area with predesert conditions and low rainfall -less than 300mm per year, where climate change has had a significant impact. In the 60s and 70s, our land was largely used for the production of rain-fed agriculture (mainly cereals, olive and almond trees), and we had wonderful harvests. This has radically changed and today we can no longer sustain our crops without irrigation systems.

In addition to climate change, the abrasive effect of chemicals and pesticides used in conventional farming has exhausted our ecosystems.

RECOVERING BIRDS OF PREY IN OLIVE GROVES WITH DETERIORATED ECOSYSTEMS

Damian's olive grove
Damian's olive grove

Only esparto grass hills can be observed in photo #1. All the green dots are olive trees with drip irrigation systems. There are no hedges and blooming borders in these groves. They are separated from other groves by the mountain slopes and walking paths.

After 5 years of working the land with organic farming practices, nourishing and growing the vegetation cover, introducing organic matter and letting wild aromatic plants grow naturally, we see our efforts have not yielded great results. It becomes apparent to us that Nature, on its own, would take centuries to recover from the earlier mentioned devastating effects. We conclude that this olive grove requires additional work in order to strengthen and recover its ecosystems, to the point of seeing wild fauna and birds of prey returning. So, here is what we will do.

From now and until September, we will:

  • Create a small pond that will serve as bird bath.
  • Protect and develop the vegetation cover in the edges. The edges will remain untouched after pruning, allowing them to grow, seed and attract insects.
  • Study the vegetation cover and available seeds in the olive grove.
  • Setup an insect hotel
  • Hang nest boxes for wild birds in the olive trees
  • Install a tall, old wooden phone post to serve as perch for birds of prey (they require great altitude in order to have good visibility).

From September (when the rain probability increases) until the end of the year, we will:

  • Introduce aromatic plants in the edges. These will attract insects which will serve as bird food as well as pest control.
  • Seed plants of long lifecycle to ensure our insects always have food and do not fly away onto other olive groves that may be using pesticides.

RECOVERING BIRDS OF PREY IN OLIVE GROVES WITH HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS

Our healthiest olive grove presenting the most optimal conditions for the implementation of our recovery project are those displayed in photos #2 and #3. This is a self-sufficient olive grove with an abandoned farmhouse (which will be great as hack site), it's located next to a river, and it has well developed hedges and blooming borders.

Sebastian's olive grove – river hedge
Sebastian's olive grove – river hedge

View of Sebastian's olive grove
View of Sebastian's olive grove

The following actions will be implemented on this grove with the collaboration of students from Quesada's high school:

  • Setup nest boxes for wild birds and bats to provide shelter for insectivores
  • Install a nesting pole
  • Owl hacking. For the hacking process, we will work with local, bird conservation agencies to help us adopt at-risk owl chicks (orphan and/or injured). We will bring them to our olive groves where they are placed in protective wooden boxes (hack boxes). The hackbox is place in a habitat that would be naturally selected by adult owls. The boxes are constructed so that the young birds can view and acclimate to their environment as they mature, but are protected from predators. While they are in the boxes, we will provide for their care and feeding, and monitor their condition, all the while minimizing contact with humans. When the owls are ready for flight, the boxes are opened and the owls are allowed to leave. They will continue to be fed and monitored at the hacksite as they learn to hunt for themselves.
  • Create and setup signboards indicating that our farm is a conservation area for the recovery of biodiversity.

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