Taking care of our woodland habitats

 In Farming & land management, Nature & wildlife, Volunteering

Summer has well and truly arrived! The temperatures are reminiscent of last year’s heatwave, but we have certainly had more rain, and as such, a lot more growth from trees and plants around the local area.

autumnal woodland

Castle Neroche woodland. Photo: Liam Marsh

More light means more time to get out into the countryside and explore, and that’s exactly what we at Forestry England have been doing this spring and summer. We have been running a series of surveys linked to our Big Forest Find centenary celebration, a nationwide citizen-science project aimed at improving the level of knowledge we have about our forests and what actually lives there! This might sound strange, but given that much of the forest is large, inaccessible and away from the public eye, it’s often surprising what can turn up in the far-flung corners of our woodland. Just last week I was conducting an inspection in one of our forests and stumbled across one the strangest fungi I had ever seen – dog vomit slime mold! Not the most pleasant name, but a beautiful fungus.

Working with  Somerset’s Reptile and Amphibian Group (RAGS for short) we conducted a series of surveys targeting adder populations in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Similarly, we have been working alongside the team from Butterfly Conservation to carry out surveys for the Duke of Burgundy. Most recently we worked in partnership with the Blackdown Hills AONB, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Somerset Ornithological Society (SOS) to carry out the first-ever survey for nightjar on the Blackdown Hills. All surveys have produced some fascinating data showing signs of most of these species thriving and benefiting from individual landowners’ management of habitats in and around the northern escarpment of the Blackdown Hills.

We are encouraging the local community to get involved with these surveys and volunteer time. This year we have a full allocation of volunteers, but we are hoping to conduct a similar round of surveys next year to build an richer picture of our wildlife.

Knowing these beautiful, and in some cases rare, animals use our land to nest, feed, reproduce or simply visit goes a long way towards helping us manage our sites much more sensitively. As ever, we are all stretched in the modern world with far too much to do and too little time to achieve it. Working in partnership with established experts and organisations allows us to build better understanding of the sorts of wildlife our forests provide for, and in turn, allows us to reciprocate and manage the land more sensitively to provide for their needs. It’s a complex set of information and knowledge needed to ensure any part of the countryside is managed in a balanced and sensitive fashion, and we strive to do our best in this respect. Therefore, we would encourage anyone who sees or hears anything of interest out there to feed it in to us here at Forestry England or similarly to the team at Blackdown Hills AONB.

We would encourage you to log any finds you make on either the BirdTrack (bird specific) or iNaturalist (general nature interest) apps which are free to download and register. This data is held by governing bodies who have the power to support landowners and their management plans keeping our countryside healthy and always improving.

Enjoy the summer, visit the forest and stay cool!

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