When Stephen Honeywood was a lad roaming the land his family has farmed for a century, he never saw a barn owl.
But thanks to a partnership created by the breakfast cereal firm his Norton farm supplies, the owls are now a star species supported by their carefully managed habitats, with four or five breeding pairs.
Stephen’s is one of 40 farms in Jordan’s Farm Partnership which works with Wildlife Trusts, Linking Environment and Farming and The Prince’s Countryside Fund to promote sustainable farming.
Stephen, who farms 320 hectares, said: “Jordan’s put time in with the Wildlife Trusts to go through your farm and identify the species.
“The link with Suffolk Wildlife Trust gives us access to people to do the specialist surveys – we’ve had specialist bat surveys, dragonfly surveys, bird surveys.”
Those have revealed rarities including only the second record of the scarce emerald damselfly in Suffolk.
Stephen is proud of such rarities: “It’s terrific – if you’ve got something like this species of damselfly, why has it come here? We think it is because we’ve got ponds that dry out.”
That means they need to look after and improve the ponds in the right way.
But Stephen points out conservation efforts must be structured. With the owls nest boxes alone would not have been enough.
He explained: “You have to understand what food the barn owls need, which is primarily voles, and you have to provide a source of food for the voles.”
But he points out just having an isolated area of vole-friendly grassland is not enough so the partnership encourages ‘integrated headlands and hedges’.
“You need the corridors to link the wildlife habitats and we do that with neighbours and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust,” he added.
His hope is to pass to his three children a landscape that sustains even more wildlife than it did when he took it over from his father.