Supporters News Sheet 2013

A TALK BY MICHAEL BLENCOWE

The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group, a volunteer group dedicated to protecting local countryside and wildlife, invite you to an illustrated talk by Michael Blencowe, the butterfly and moth expert. He is the conservation officer for Sussex Butterfly Conservation who share close links with the Sussex Moth Group. He manages their two nature reserves and is involved with advising landowners across the county how to conserve and protect butterflies and moths. He collects and compiles records of butterflies in Sussex. Michael also works for Sussex Wildlife Trust as their community wildlife officer.

His illustrated talk entitled ‘The Butterflies and Moths of Sussex’ will take place on Tuesday, 20th August at 7.30 pm in the Main Hall at Hurstpierpoint Village Centre, Trinity Road, Hurstpierpoint, BN6 9UY. He provides a fascinating insight into the Lepidoptera of Sussex with some amazing photographs of these beautiful species and facts about their lives and development. You will hear about their habitats, amazing life-styles, fascinating progression through caterpillar and chrysalis stages and the locations they can be found in Sussex. Come along to learn about them and be inspired to protect and save them. With five of our native species now extinct and many others in serious decline they need our help. Entry is free and all are welcome. There is a car park opposite the building.

RESTORATION OF A SITE OF NATURE CONSERVATION IMPORTANCE

The programme of restoration work to re-establish the value of the SNCI area at Pond Lye resumed on October 2nd last year after a summer break, when 22 volunteers joined together to clear the invading brush that had virtually taken over the site since it had received its SNCI designation in 1992.

The extensive invasion of bramble and thorn since then was progressively smothering the distinctive flora previously recorded there and had to be removed. The ultimate aim is to clear the site of all the damaging brush.

Work continued throughout the winter for two days each week and ceased on 30th April to allow wildlife to breed undisturbed. It will resume again in the autumn to begin our 3rd year on this task.

WOODLAND POND RESTORATION

 

A project to restore an overgrown woodland pond in Sayers Common was commenced in May. An aquatic consultant was employed to produce a report indicating the work required to restore its condition to provide maximum benefit for wildlife. He and a staff member joined group volunteers on the first day to demonstrate and train them in the best methods to employ and safety practices.

With the kind support of the landowners the group volunteers have been allowed to attend weekly to progress the project which when finished, will bring enormous benefits to the area’s amphibious population.

Volunteers have willingly given their time to achieve this through weather that has ranged being from very wet to uncomfortably hot.

The initial stage has been for clearance of overhanging trees within the pond and along the banks. This will be followed by pond deepening and introducing indigenous plants to improve the water quality. When light is allowed on to the pond the plants will flourish and the quality of habitat for wildlife will increase. Already the improvement is significant. Hibernaculums are also being created along the banks.

DORMOUSE INVESTIGATION

One hundred dormouse tubes have been installed in two woodlands to the south of Hurstpierpoint to determine whether we have any rare dormice remaining in our countryside.

These are temporary nesting structures provided to encourage breeding use within them. They were provided in April and are being monitored every two to four weeks until November.

If any mice are found the tubes will be replaced with permanent boxes to assist their precarious survival. They now only exist in the south-east of England.

The tubes are suspended on horizontal branches in woodland and hedgerows. Each year the tubes will progressively be moved to other woodlands until all are checked. To date no nesting mice have been found in any of the tubes but we are hopeful.

Dormice are generally very sleepy creatures. If the outside temperature remains cold their hibernation can last up to six months. They achieve this by storing reserves of body fat during the summer months. If the food is scarce in the spring they will curl up in a ball and sleep to conserve energy. While awake this nocturnal animal spends most of its time climbing amongst branches foraging for hazel nuts, acorns and blackberries. Hibernation nests are built at ground level under leaves or in tree roots so we have to tread with care.

 

WATER VOLE INVESTIGATION

Endangered water voles have previously been found at Pond Lye SNCI but haven’t been recorded there for some time. To check for a current site presence an investigation was undertaken in May with cameras. Banks were scoured for evidence of holes, chewed vegetation or excreta and movement operated cameras installed in the most likely places.

The water vole is now extinct in many parts of Britain due mainly to the introduction of mink which escaped from fur farms in the 1950’s. Water voles burrow into banks making entrances above and below the water line. Inside the network of tunnels there are usually at least two resting places, each lined with shredded grass or pith from rushes. Sometimes there is an exit a metre or so inland indicated by a ‘feeding lawn’ of closely cropped grass nearby. Aquatic vegetation, grass and small mammals contribute to their diet.

Unfortunately, our investigation revealed no evidence of a presence but because the lake is so large we are being encouraged by conservation experts to repeat the exercise.

BARN OWL & TAWNY OWL CONSERVATION

We have recently installed a barn owl nesting box in a beautiful downland location at Pyecombe at the request of the landowners. Barn owls had been seen in the area but no suitable nesting or roosting habitat existed for them

The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group owl task force selected a suitable location and modified the immediate surroundings to meet the required parameters for occupation. The group continues to widen their area of operation to increase their range of wildlife and countryside conservation. The team will include this new box in their maintenance and inspection schedules in the coming year.

With the mounting pressure on our receding natural environment there is increasing urgency to undertake measures to combat it and our volunteers are continuously striving to meet this challenge. This brings the total number of barn owl and tawny owl boxes provided to 41 which is providing nesting and roosting opportunities for an increasing population of owls.

 

This year generally has been classed as a poor year for breeding barn owls by experts. Despite this our inspection recently revealed an increase in our population with the addition of a number of young owls found in nest boxes to compliment roosting adults found in others. The highest numbers of owls this year were found in the north of Hurstpierpoint in an area threatened by the expansion of Burgess Hill development.

Despite advice being given to the District Council of the high conservation value of this area, wildlife and countryside interests continue to be ignored. The pursuit of economic growth and development of countryside to make money for councils to spend continues to take precedence over all other considerations. When they finally ‘remove their blinkers’ in this respect it will be too late to redeem the calamitous situation we will all be faced with.

The inspection revealed some wonderful additions to our local owl population who were ringed, weighed and measured by licenced operatives. The pictures above show two of these wonderful creatures sensitively being recorded in this way to the south of the A2300 Burgess Hill to Hickstead ring road. Afterwards they were gently returned to their boxes to resume their growth into adulthood. This box contained two male and two female chicks and their mother. It will be a tragedy if they are to be deprived of this area for hunting, roosting and breeding.

BAT CONSERVATION

The scores of bat boxes previously erected by The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group to combat the decline of local bat species due to loss of nesting habitat have continued to achieve encouraging results.

The picture to the left shows one of the residents using our bat boxes in a woodland location. This was taken by the licenced person checking for occupancy at the end of last year.

Each year we check and clean all boxes in readiness for future occupancy and ensure woodland flight paths are cleared to enable access. This provides increased nesting opportunities and aids their survival prospects.

COUNTRY LANE LITTER CLEARANCE

Group volunteers have formed working parties to keep local country lanes clear of litter. This improves their appearance and removes potential hazards for wildlife. It further contributes to our overall care of the countryside.

FUTURE PROJECTS

The more people who are able to assist us the more we can do. Each project completed requires effort to monitor and maintain to maximise its effectiveness. This limits our ability to undertake new ones to the extent we would like. If you can help please contact Michael Nailard. Tel: 01273 834001.   Email: dralianmarine@aol.com