A little owl on each olive tree is the project that Brinzal is developing in the valley of Tajuña (Madrid) since 2012, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Foundation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. In 2013, we continued working with the main objective to contribute to improving the state of the Iberian populations of European little owl (Athene noctua), which declined by 40% over the last 15 years.
The main cause of the alarming decline is the change in agricultural land use, so it is essential to involve in the project owners or users of appropriate lands for the little owl.
It also seeks to promote application in the future and elsewhere in these actions, as well as testing positive effect that can be exercised on the populations of this species through them. It also seeks to build on local people an environment favorable to the species and generally towards the adoption of such management measures.
In agreement with the owners and farmers we are improving the habitat to suit the needs of the Little owl, following similar formulas to those used in land stewardship projects.
For a successful management, the farmer should not see undermined their profits, but even desirable that such management increases the extracted ground rent, increase its value or decrease maintenance costs.
Once farmers join the project, we assess their fields to narrow the possible actions to be taken, which must never entail any cost to them. Depending on the type of crop, the extension of the plots and the possibilities to give us the owners, these actions have been:
Creating or maintaining natural vegetation, whether boundaries, islands of vegetation or uncultivated plots. These areas cultivated not produce most of invertebrates forming Little owl diet.
Promote, where possible, alternation and variety of uses in the plots.
Placement of nest boxes for the species.
Planting trees in some of the treatment area, namely almond (Prunus dulcis), in order to guarantee the existence of nesting sites in the long term. These trees also have the peculiarity that are well received by farmers for their produce, and favor little owls and many other species.
Installation of wooden stakes, so the little owls can use them as innkeepers or perches to hunt in places where there are no structures available for this use (fences, posts, olives, etc.).
Construction and restoration of majanos -accumulation heaps of stones from the lands of Labor- with inner cavities, so that they can be used not only as watchmen hunting, but also as nesting sites.
Promoting the maintenance of natural vegetation and for as long as possible on the floor of olive groves, advising decreased plowing or maintenance of stands of vegetation cover around each tree foot. Thus the presence of reservoirs for the little owl is aimed to avoid the use of chemicals (herbicides, nitrates …)
Promotion of stacking and neglect pruning as a refuge for many wild invertebrates, and other small vertebrates.
The evaluation of the degree of success in terms of presence of bittern obtained through habitat management will be held comparing the figures obtained by census in managed areas with adjacent areas with similar characteristics but without improvement actions.
In addition, to encourage an increase in the population of Little owl in the areas in which we are working faster, they have released dozens of Little owls rehabilitated in our recovery center. These specimens were admitted after being run over, shot, found in the soil was still very young, etc. and could be released again after assistance and rehabilitation. Only if the habitat is suitable, and provides all the requirements of the species, they will set in the place.
In parallel we are conducting an information campaign, informing and raising awareness about the project, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation.
The products resulting from these sustainable agricultural practices (oil, vinegar, wine and vegetables) have been distinguished by labeling of best practices that favor the little owl, which adds value to all these products and a showcase for the species and management measures implemented.
Furthermore, it has made an advertising campaign labeled products, in order both to enhance the sale of these (them known to the general public) and to show the benefits of participating in a project of this type to other farmers and owners.
We start from the idea that sustainable management in agricultural uses can provide multiple benefits to farmers while optimal ecosystem conducive for both the little owl as for many other endangered bird species. This strategy represents a step further in the conservation of biodiversity, by involving farmers and landowners directly in protecting wild species. The farmer gets a turn tangible benefits, such as reduced costs, the significant increase in the quality and openness to new markets.
You can find products which, for the moment, are labeled under this project and contact with producers if you’re interested in purchasing.
ENCOURAGING RESULTS IN 2012
Throughout the first year of operation, the Project “A Little owl on each olive tree” brought together twenty farmers olive lands and 6 cooperatives are working the fields to bring to the table the necessary vegetables for 230 families or groups of consumption.
In total we worked on an area of about 77 hectares, in the villages of Morata de Tajuña and Perales de Tajuña, composed mostly of cultivated land reduced extension, where the resulting environment shows a great heterogeneity.
The results of the measures implemented, observed as a package can be seen in the increased capacity of the habitat to accommodate little owls. In the first year, with many of the measures still just started, we have found through surveys are a number of owls in these places that triples the monoculture ones found in olive groves.
Despite some kind of quantification not been carried out, the increase in the abundance of Orthoptera in areas of natural vegetation was also striking.
AND WE CONTINUE WORKING IN 2013
During 2013 we also have the participation of the City of Morata de Tajuña, wich have signed an agreement for the use and adaptation of 95 rural properties.
It is unproductive farms from the economic point of view and they have not been treated with chemicals, it preserves a rich vegetation cover which houses a wide variety of invertebrates and small mammals. These islands are oasis for Little owls and even more when they are surrounded by acres of intensive olive groves, which can hardly find food.
One of the goals we set for this 2013 is to extend the territorial scope of the project to other municipalities and even other provinces. In fact, this year we have adhered to the project in Arganda del Rey and Chinchon farms in order to expand the project to other locations. Outside the Community of Madrid, and thera are interested owners in Cuenca, Caceres and Jaén.
We are sure that this conservation strategy can bring many benefits in the medium and long term, but only if we can export this model and get it established as a viable alternative to intensive production that is so damaging to biodiversity.
If you find interesting this project, you can help with your donation. Please note that any contribution, however small it may seem like it is important to try to improve habitat for Little owls and contribute to not disappear from our fields. Do you dare?