Wildlife and Conservation Group Minutes: February 2022

Upper Deverills Wildlife and Conservation Group

Notes From the Meeting Held on Thursday 17 February 2022 at the Village Hall

1 Present

REDACTED

2 Introduction

  • We confirmed that the scope of the Group was the area covered by the Upper Deverills Parish Council, which comprises two civil parishes: Kingston Deverill (which includes Monkton Deverill) and Brixton Deverill. Although this area is actually two parishes, we will refer to it as “the Parish”
  • Ted drew the attention of the group to two online maps that each contain a wealth of local information.

3 What have we seen or heard about?

Between us we have seen all sorts of interesting things including goldcrest, weasel, vole, snow bunting, frog spawn, territorial bird behaviour indicating early nesting, and greater spotted woodpeckers. Alison saw 31 species, 16 of which are red or amber listed on her walk on the morning of the meeting.

4 Projects

Surveys

  • Peter has drafted a paper setting out proposals for a series of bird surveys to be conducted from mid April to the end of June. The paper has been sent to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and the AONB for their advice.
  • The surveys will be conducted along planned routes (transects), each one kilometre long, by members of the group working in pairs.
  • The species that we will focus on are Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Skylarks in the rural parts of the Parish and Swifts and Housemartins in the more built up areas. Each of these species, although seed-eaters, feeds their young on insects during the breeding season, so together they should give an indication of one important aspect of the ecological health of our area.
  • We plan to walk each transect twice with a three week interval between the walks. Each walk should be conducted around an hour and a half after sunrise (around 07:45 in mid-April and 06:30 at the end of June). We will record sightings and identifications by call, as well as territorial and brood-raising behaviour.
  • There are six farms in the Parish, and Peter suggested that we conduct two transects per farm. However, after some discussion it was agreed that the differences in size and habitat suitability between the farms suggested that we might be best to select routes to give good geographical coverage while being mindful that there was little value to be gained by walking a route that was quite unsuitable for the target species.
  • Peter, Alison and Ted will lead for Brixton, Monkton and Kingston respectively. We will select routes and discuss them with Peter before 10 March, so that we can finalize the plans by 14 March. The outline timetable, following Peter’s paper, is as follows: (NB we are slightly ahead of schedule at the moment)
    14 February Group approval of draft proposals
    28 February Engage with AONB and WWT to seek comment and endorsement
    10 March Alison and Ted to send proposed routes to Peter
    14 March Finalise proposals. Seek funding.
    15 March Notice in Parish News. Recruit.
    28 March Develop and agree routes and survey requirements. Notify landowners.
    1 April Resource allocation. Preparatory reconnaissance visits.
    14 April Survey period starts
    30 June Survey period ends
    31 September Publish results
  • We agreed that we should keep our focus wider than birds and make sure that we also paid attention to invertebrates, flowers and mammals. However, after some discussion we concluded that a rigorous flower survey using quadrats would not be feasible at the same time as the bird survey, but perhaps we could nominate a several key flower and insect species to look out for and record while we were out on the ground.
  • We will try to walk the transects in advance of 14 April in order to take note of the habitat and confirm that there was still good access.

Churchyards

  • We agreed to start our habitat restoration work with a project based on Kingston and perhaps Monkton churchyards
  • Robert Shuler, who is both the Kingston churchwarden and chair of the Parochial Church Council and the vicar, Reverend Pauline Reid, are very much in favour of improving the churchyard as a wildlife habitat.
  • We noted that it is very important that we proceed with sensitivity and that we are not seen to threaten the solemn character or beauty of the churchyards, which are already well maintained. We therefore concluded that we should proceed with caution and an eye to the long term. (Afternote: I have had a chat with Ron Dix, who mows the Kingston churchyard. He has already planted bluebells this year and explained that he takes care to foster and protect the snowdrops. He would appreciate our interest and support, particularly if we could furnish plants and seed, and provide some practical assistance.
  • We decided to look at how others have done it. Potential sources of advice and inspiration include:
    • The Eco Church (an A Rocha UK project)
    • Caring for God’s Acre and the Beautiful Burial Ground Project
    • Eco Church South West Living Churchyards and St Giles Stanton St Quintin Living Churchyard Group
  • Ted will organize a meeting with Robert Shuler and Reverend Pauline, Cilla and Sally, to discuss how to take the project forward.

Signs of Spring

  • Sally has already got some frogspawn and the hazel catkins and snowdrops have been out for a while! However, there is still time to get the community involved in looking for and reporting some other signs of spring. This is intended to be an easy way to get people to look more closely at the nature around them and to share what they see and learn.
  • We identified the following species to look out for and report: Lesser Celandine, Cowslip, Brimstone, Holly Blue, Swallow, Cuckoo, Hare and bats. (Alison and Sally will seek out and provide some information about local bat species).
  • We will publicize this through Facebook, by email and on the Parish website, and Ted will use the Community Safeguarding List to send out an email promoting the Signs of Spring initiative (Note: work is in hand separately to compile and maintain an opt-in Upper Deverills mailing list which will be fully GDPR compliant; until then I am content to use the Community Safeguarding List.)

Talks

  • Ted will follow up with Tracy Adams, the Farm Conservation Advisor at the AONB, to find a date for her to give us a talk
  • Dave will see whether he can find somebody from the Environment Agency to give us a talk

Fair

The Village Hall Committee are organizing an Easter Craft Fair on Saturday 16th April (the day before Easter Sunday). They have invited the Group to run a stall (probably outside), at which we could provide information about wildlife and about the Group and sell, swap or give away plants, seeds, bird boxes, bat boxes, insect hotels and/or the plans to build them. Alison can share plans for bird boxes with the group. Peter already makes bug boxes and we will look for plans for bat boxes. We will make more detailed plans at our next meeting, but we resolved in principle to do something.

Tools and skills

  • We decided to use iRecord as the basis for our wildlife recording, which aligns with the advice provided by the Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre. iRecord can be used on mobile phones (iPhone and Android), tablets and computers. Ted will (a) set up the Group entry on iRecord and (b) send out some information.
  • We agreed that it would be good to get outside experts to help us to learn how to identify flora and fauna, and that the identification of grasses would be a good place to start.

Grants

Ted will make an application to the Parish Council for a grant for the Group, basing the request on purchases such as as plug plants, materials for boxes, funding for wilding the churchyard, data fees and even perhaps a trail camera.

Constitution and procedures

At the end of a long but fruitful meeting we resolved to discuss the Group’s constitution and procedures next time …

Next meeting

We did not set a date for the next meeting but it is suggested that we meet monthly on the third Thursday in the Village Hall unless there is a good reason not to. Following this principle the next meeting would be at seven o’clock on Thursday 17 March.

Ted Flint (Chair pro tem)

 

Wildlife and Conservation Group Minutes: January 2022

Upper Deverills Wildlife and Conservation Group

Notes From the First Meeting Held on Friday 14 January 2022 at the Bell House

1 Present

REDACTED

2 Formation of the Group

We resolved to form a group with the working title of the Upper Deverills Wildlife and Conservation Group. We will either confirm or change the title as time goes on. We will go public and announce the formation of the group at the Village Hall talk on February 11th

3 Rationale and objects

Parish Plan Questionnaire

The decision to form a group came out of the responses received in the Parish Plan 2022 question. An overwhelming number of people responding to the questionnaire made “Conservation and restoration of the local environment, including its ecology” a high priority to be addressed inthe 2022 Parish Plan”.

Initial objects

We will refine our objectives as the group develops, but in broad terms, we agreed that the Group’s overall ambitions are twofold:

  • To share with each other the joy that we derive from nature, and inspire and inform the wider valley community.
  • To take action to make the Upper Deverills a better place for wildlife.

4 Approach

Longer term

We provisionally agreed that our long term approach would to be to develop and execute a Community Environmental Plan, based on the Wiltshire Council Community Environmental Toolkit, which we will now all have a look at in detail.

Shorter term

In the shorter term we decided to carry out a number of activities in order to develop momentum and attract interested people to join the group:

  • The first Village Hall talk, on Animal Behaviour, to be delivered by Simon and Mandy Martyn on Friday 11 February.
  • A small and straightforward habitat project, such as creating a wildflower meadow in a churchyard. Ted will speak to Robert Shuler to see whether we might do this in St Mary’s churchyard in Kingston Deverill. (Sally grows wild flower seedlings. )
  • A field outing (perhaps a transect or survey), possibly to the chalk grassland of the Brimsdown SSSI on Cold Kitchen Hill, in search of blue butterflies. Peter will discuss this with Richard Joy.
  • Alison will speak to Tracy Adams, the Farm Conservation Advisor on the Cranborne Chase AONB team, to see whether she would be prepared to give a talk.
  • We discussed the possibility of a single species bird survey as a way of public engagement and Alison agreed to think about the choice of species.

5 Next steps

Funding

Ted will explore with Richard Munro the possibility of a grant from the Parish Council

Next meeting

We did not set a date for the next meeting but I suggest that we get as much done as possible by exchange of email and then call another face to face meeting when we need to.

Ted Flint (Chair pro tem)