Upper Deverills Wildlife and Conservation Group
Notes From the Meeting Held on Thursday 17 February 2022 at the Village Hall
- 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.
- The Defra “Magic Map”: magic.defra.gov.uk/.
- The Wiltshire ArcGis Planning Explorer. wiltscouncil.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=74a353612a934bd48fee1f2bc564cdd8&find=16/05464/WCM (Note: there is no short URL for this site. I will put a clickable link on the covering email).
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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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
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.
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 …
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)