Conservation news – spring 2015

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully become a regular review of the conservation work carried out by FBOG members, with this debut bulletin covering the first three months of 2015.

Cleaning & repairing nest boxes at the Dams

Cleaning & repairing nest boxes at the Dams

As well as having a dedicated team of voluntary naturalists and birders, FBOG also carries out plenty of practical conservation work (mainly in the Filey area but periodically also further afield).

Most of the work takes place on Tuesday mornings, ably lead by Jack Whitehead (who can be contacted at jackwhitehead(at) live.com), with occasional work on other days, including weekends. We’re a friendly team of varying ages and abilities, and new helpers are always welcome.

With the breeding season not yet underway the early part of the year gives us the opportunity to carry out lots of work that wouldn’t be possible once birds settle in to nest, and top of the list is the annual cleaning and repair of nestboxes.

The Observatory owns and/or manages several nature reserves in the Filey area, and most of these host a selection of nest boxes.

Arguably the most important in this context is Filey Dams, where there are numerous boxes for Tree Sparrows. A concerted effort has been made to prepare these for the new season, and we’re pleased to report a very high occupancy rate, making The Dams a key stronghold for this species as a breeder in Filey.

Success!

Success!

There’s more than Tree Sparrow boxes at the Dams, however, and regular visitors will have noticed the appearance of a second Barn Owl box (plus another at our nearby East Lea reserve).

Both new boxes – skillfully made by FBOG member Mick Callaghan, who lives on the adjacent estate – are very substantial and were quite challenging to erect!

Nest boxes were also cleaned and repaired at our nearby Parish Wood reserve, and Little Owl boxes (again made by Mick) were erected at our East Lea and Old Tip reserves.

Official approval (Mike Cole)

Official approval (Mike Cole)

In addition to bird boxes, FBOG have also put up several bat boxes. Working with Filey resident Phil Yardley, who founded the R2:C2 cancer support charity following the death of his wife, Phil makes bat boxes to raise vital funds for the charity, and we were happy to take delivery of the first three boxes during a work party at The Dams.

Phil produces a range of bird and bat boxes suitable for any garden, and can be contacted via his R2:C2 facbook page or via the hospice fundraising team on 01723 378406. It’s a great way to support the charity’s work.

Phil (on the right) supervises the first of his boxes going up

Phil (on the right) supervises the first of his boxes going up

As anyone involved in conservation work will know, there’s a considerable amount of routine habitat management required in order to maintain a continuing variety of habitat types.

The early part of the year offers the perfect opportunity for this, and the first part of 2015 has seen the team work on willow control at the Dams, tree-thinning at Parish Wood (to promote ground cover and a structured woodland), and hedge planting and laying, also at Parish Wood, with the assistance of Scarborough Conservation Volunteers.

Removing the old surface

Removing the old surface

FBOG isn’t just about the birds of course, and amongst other things, the conservation team works hard to improve conditions for visitors to local reserves. At the Dams, a major project currently underway involves the improving of the paths to the hides, which we hope will soon be wheelchair-friendly. Our members have dug and wheel-barrowed in excess of 8 tons of material towards this aim!

In addition to our work in the Filey area, the conservation team has also been working in partnership with neighbouring conservation groups.

This has included assisting Butterfly Conservation in their work at their Fordon Chalk Bank reserve (involving scrub encroachment clearance) and working with volunteers at Howsham Mill in creating a path to their new hide.

As a result of these collaborations, members of Butterfly Conservation are also regulars in our team working on projects within the Observatory area.

Stage one!

Stage one!

Future Projects
As we enter the second quarter of the year, we’re embarking on one of our most exciting projects to date, which involves the sowing of over two hectares of farmland at our Old Tip reserve. We’re planting a special wild bird crop, formulated to provide a natural food source for birds during the autumn and winter, and a nectar-rich bumblebee mix to help various insect populations. The land has been ploughed as we go to press, and the sowing of the mixes is due anytime now. Watch this space for further updates as this exciting project develops!

Nick Carter