ALTHOUGH off-limits to the public, a military training area is definitely not a no-go area for nature.

Part of a nationwide network of live-firing ranges used by the armed services, the Catterick Training Area in North Yorkshire is host to many different birds, insects, flowers and other animals who regard it as home. Covering 18, 083 hectares, on any given day camouflaged soldiers, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and even supersonic jet fighters regard the area as their work place.

However it’s a closely-guarded military secret that in selected locations across the training area for many years the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation team help maintain boxes suitable for nesting birds. Owls and Kestrels are particularly abundant largely due to the efforts of the team from the MoD who in amongst their busy day jobs regard protecting and preserving the area’s resident wildlife as vitally-important.

Many of the staff are keen conservationists. Major Tony Crease is a outstanding example, he said “Conservation is very important; we take our responsibility very seriously.

“Our range wardens are very aware of what is out there and the troops who use the range are specifically briefed on what is and what is not allowed, especially any military drivers.”

The team also work with local gamekeepers and are boosted by volunteers, many from nearby Foxglove Covert who take part in the regular bird ringing sessions. This combined effort all helps to maintain over 850 bird nest boxes; of these, this year: 70 were lived-in by Barn Owls, 70, by Tawny Owls and 70 are Kestrel sites. Rare birds such as pied flycatcher and many other species including insects are also helped by the MoD’s team effort. Any military area is not open to the public as live firing often takes place. However Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve has many similar facilities which can be easily enjoyed; see the website for details.