MID SUSSEX BARN OWL CONSERVATION AREA SUCCESS.
The large barn owl conservation area created by the Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group in 2015/16 has yielded some very positive results for the species. 41 group boxes now provide nesting and roosting opportunities for the local population and the number of breeding pairs and young in the area has increased considerably.
The blue outline in the map above shows the barn owl conservation area created by The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group last year.
Through these efforts which are linked with the national barn owl monitoring programme, a nationwide matrix of conservation areas and habitat corridors has been established re-connecting the once isolated and fragile populations of this bird, farm to farm and county to county. As a result of these initiatives and the dedicated conservation work and nest box monitoring that is being undertaken by licenced volunteers, the breeding population is rising steadily.
Conservation can be measured today by the fact that three quarters of the breeding barn owls in Britain are now dependant on the nest boxes that have been provided for them. This places a considerable responsibility on those dedicated volunteers who work so hard in summer and winter to ensure they are cleaned and well-maintained to continue this progress.
The volunteers in our area of southern Mid Sussex are proud of their contribution to the national welfare of this beautiful bird through the work our group has undertaken. We are also delighted that this local area is now one of the major survival areas for the species and that they are once again commonly seen in our countryside.
One of three young owls in a nest box being recorded this summer by The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group licenced team.
Summer visits to all our nest boxes allow us to inspect and record the breeding populations of barn owls and ensure that their development and safety is ensured. The findings ranged from newly laid eggs up to six in number to large chicks nearing their time of fledging when they leave their boxes to find their way in the outside world.
From the time of hatching this normally takes about 67 days during which they are totally dependent on food being provided by the parent birds. The larger the chicks being ringed the more damage can be inflicted on the hands of those recording them as they utilise their very sharp talons to fend off unwanted attention. Goggles are worn to protect the eyes of volunteers as the chicks are gently removed and returned to their boxes. They also have been known to squirt excrement in the faces of individuals as the boxes are opened. With this containing a high ammonia content, it can be a very painful experience and is avoided if possible. This is why a dedicated team is necessary fully experienced in barn owl handling and care.
One of a pair of large chicks found in the south of Hurstpierpoint expressing annoyance at being disturbed.
Three younger fluffy white chicks found in a box in Twineham.
Six eggs found in a box in Newtimber.
A pair of very large chicks found in a box in Keymer.
Two fluffy chicks with facial disc features in formation in a box in the north of Hurstpierpoint.
Adult owls prepare a larder of food in readiness for feeding their young. A vole and a mouse were waiting here in a box in Twineham.
RESTORATION OF AN SNCI MEADOW.
The meadow restoration work being undertaken at Pond Lye Site of Nature Conservation Importance in the north of Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Common Parish has almost reached completion with only a small amount of clearance remaining. This work began in 2010 to remove the bramble and blackthorn that was destroying the previous value of this natural asset since originally being awarded SNCI status in 1992. Since The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group commenced the task with the agreement of the landowner, thousands of volunteer man-hours have been expended over many years.
The work has achieved an open meadowland area which it is hoped will provide a suitable environment for the many distinctive flora species that were originally recorded here to return. Steadily this is happening. With so much time and effort having been expended it is vitally important to keep the meadowland in good condition and free from any brush re-growth so each year volunteers undertake a complete meadow cut. The cuttings are collected and burnt on a limited number of designated bonfire sites to ensure minimal changes to meadow conditions. This has become a huge task for the volunteers as the cutting has to be undertaken by individual hand held brush cutters to preserve the scores of large anthills covering the majority of the site. These anthills were listed as one of the valuable site assets when originally given its status. Volunteers work very hard to achieve this task which has progressively become harder as more meadow is cleared each year. This year it took a very long time and had to endure large fluctuations in weather patterns.
Some of the brush cutting volunteers tackling the huge task of cutting the meadow this year.
The work undertaken by volunteers raking the cuttings into piles is invaluable in achieving this objective.
The task has become very protracted and could be completed in a fraction of the time if we could get more people interested in giving some of their time to make the positive improvements our countryside is in desperate need of. If you would like to help please contact us at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this year we were joined at Pond Lye by conservation volunteers from Brighton to remove ragwort from a newly cleared area of the meadow where it was becoming a problem. Their help was invaluable and a great deal was achieved. We were able to use newly purchased ragwort forks funded by a grant from Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Common Parish Council who try to assist us in the work we do.
Volunteers removing ragwort from the meadow.
BAT CONSERVATION. .
Our last bat box inspection undertaken around the many local woodlands continued to reveal a good occupancy of bats. A licenced team visited each of the scores of boxes erected to help these species survive in an environment of an ever decreasing suitable habitat. We found that many box fixings required loosening to compensate for tree expansion and some had to be removed for repair where damage due to falling branches etc., had occurred. All unoccupied boxes are cleaned out so that evidence of recent occupancy can be proved on the next visit. A report of all our findings is made each year and forwarded to Natural England.
A member of the licenced team inspects a bat box.
A young pipistrelle bat found in residence.
All boxes inspections are undertaken by a team of volunteers needed to carry and manoeuvre the ladders required.
WOODLAND POND RESTORATION.
Each year, maintenance is undertaken to the woodland pond In Sayers Common which was restored to from an overgrown state when found buried by many trees by The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group several years ago. Since then it has become a wildlife haven and site of attractive flora which we are committed to help flourish.
Group volunteers have worked for many years to achieve clearance of this wetland feature.
In spring bluebells appear on the banks.
This year we have discovered bee orchids on land adjacent to the pond. These haven’t been seen here before and add significantly to the natural value of the whole area.
Following the dormouse investigation exercise in southern woodlands undertaken in the last few years, a dormouse presence has been discovered. It is our aim to assist this threatened species to survive.
A dormouse being recorded by licenced personnel before being placed back in a nesting box.
Originally temporary nesting tubes were fitted in these locations to determine whether there were any indigenous dormice and now this has been confirmed we are replacing these with wooden nesting boxes. Grant funding was obtained and boxes purchased and painted. They are currently being erected as a permanent woodland dormouse conservation initiative. They will be checked regularly each year from April until November and any occupants recorded by a licenced team. Any other measures considered necessary to maintain and increase the local population will be implemented.
Permanent dormouse boxes are being installed.
NEW GROUP WEBSITE CREATED.
The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group has just created a website to keep supporters up-to-date with group activities and review previous ones. Through grants obtained from West Sussex County Council and Hurst Charity Shop the group has funded the creation of a website dossier of activities past, present and future to promote their role for the protection of local countryside and wildlife in southern Mid Sussex. It can be found on website link www.thewoodlandfloraandfaunagroup.co.uk . Please log on to learn about all our activities, project updates and how you can interact with us.
2017 AUGUST TALK CANCELLED.
A last minute cancellation by the speaker booked to give a talk on ‘The Wonders of Yew’ rendered all our months of preparation redundant. Everything had to be dismantled and an apology issued to all prospective attendees. The talk is an annual feature for the group to publicise its work, recruit more support and seek donations so this cancellation was an expensive blow to us. Hopefully we will have better luck next year.
SOME LOCAL FLORA & FAUNA WITNESSED.
A young short-tailed vole discovered at Pond Lye SNCI.
Ragwort is a threat to some but valuable to these cinnabar moth caterpillars and soldier beetles.
A cluster of brown long-eared bats found in a box this year.
One of many common spotted orchids at Pond Lye SNCI.
We thank all our supporters for their interest in our activities and valuable support. A special thank you is given to all our volunteers who make our practical achievements possible. If you would like to join us in either capacity or know someone who would, please contact Michael Nailard. Telephone: 01273 834001.
Email: email@example.com or via the group website: www.thewoodlandfloraandfaunagroup.co.uk