Conservation update – winter 2015/16

Nick Carter summarises FBOG conservation work in the area and beyond over the last few months, and explains the vital role of the new conservation committee

Winter is traditionally the time for carrying out maintenance and management work that is best avoided at other times of the year for fear of disturbing breeding birds and other wildlife, and the work parties have concentrated mainly on the Dams in recent months (along with a few away days assisting with habitat management in neighbouring areas).

Great Crested Newt (Dan Lombard) - a key species which needs careful consideration in any local management work

Great Crested Newt (Dan Lombard) – a key species which needs careful consideration in any local management work

This has included managing the willows by the boardwalk, both to open up access and to prevent encroachment into more valuable habitat (including reedbeds); they’re very fast growers and while it may initially appear severe, it;s important to perform periodically. We’ve also created two new ponds by the East Pool hide which will hopefully become valuable habitat for dragonflies, damselflies and amphibians – indeed The Dams’ star amphibian, the Great Crested Newt, has already given the ponds its seal of approval, with several having recently been seen in the ponds as a result of the mild winter we’re experiencing. The nearby pond-dipping platform at the Burr Marigold Pool has had a bit of a face-lift, along with ongoing repairs to sections of the boardwalk, and we’ve addressed the drainage issue at the car park with the laying of pipes and drains underground.

In addition to work on FBOG sites the work party also occasionally teams up with neighbouring like-minded groups, for example building a close relationship with Butterfly Conservation volunteers who often help us on our reserves. In return we assist them at some of their local sites and have recently been helping with scrub clearance at Gundale, a lepidoptera species-rich site near Pickering which requires some serious management to return it to its full potential. The majority of the group’s work takes place on Tuesday mornings and volunteers are always welcome; one positive from 2015 has been the recruitment of several new volunteers but more are always welcome!

Water Vole (Mark Pearson) - another key species, particularly at the

Water Vole (Mark Pearson) – another key species, particularly at the Dams

Conservation Committee
Although FBOG will always be centered around the study, recording and conservation of birds, we’re an increasingly more multi-disciplinary group, expanding our coverage to include other taxa such as invertebrates and plants etc. A look at recent annual reports reveals comprehensive sections on dragonflies, mammals, butterflies and moths amongst others, and inkeeping with this wider approach, our reserves and the areas we manage need to be managed holistically to take them all into account. It’s important that any management work that takes place allows for the needs of as wide a range of wildlife as possible, and that none of the work inadvertently damages or compromises habitat for other important species (Great Crested Newt, for example).

Male Red-veined Darter (Mark Pearson) – our management work at East Lea helped this rare dragonfly breed successfully here in summer 2015

Male Red-veined Darter (Mark Pearson) – our management work at East Lea helped this rare dragonfly breed
successfully here in summer 2015

In order to ensure we’re getting it right, th creation of a Conservation Committee – consisting of people with experience in a wide range of aspects of wildlife management – was proposed and agreed at the last AGM. The purpose of the new committee is to agree and oversee the writing of a management plan for each site we own/manage, and to monitor and review the ongoing work against this plan. The first draft plan for the Dams has been written and others will follow soon. An added advantage of having a site-specific management plan is that as FBOG dips its toes into the modern world of external funding – it is often a requirement of a potential funder that a group has a clear, cohesive management plan to back up its proposals.