The first few months have flown by as I’ve been getting to grips with the detail of the project and meeting all the landowners and partners that will be involved in making it a success. Having previously worked for several years next door in Leicestershire and Rutland, I’ve bumped into a few familiar faces along on the way, as well as met lots of new ones, all of whom have a wealth of experience and local knowledge to learn from and input into the project.
As this area is new to me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time out and about, exploring the woodland sites and looking at where we can improve them with management works to benefit the variety of target species. Part of this has involved carrying out vegetation surveys at a couple of the potential Chequered Skipper reintroduction sites to assess their suitability. The surveys include looking at ride features, such as width, aspect, and height of surrounding trees, all of which influence the amount of sunlight reaching the woodland floor. I’ve also been zig zagging through the vegetation, recording the presences/absence of several key species, including False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), one of the key food plants of the Chequered Skipper larvae, which I’ve got very good at spotting from a distance!
Wandering along the rides with a drop disc (used to measure vegetation height) has instigated a lot of conversations with people curious about what I’m up to, which has been a great chance to tell them all about the project and what we’re trying to achieve.
In August I was lucky enough to be invited by Ashton Parish Council to visit Ashton Estate, a former stronghold of the Chequered Skipper and home of Charles Rothschild, one of the great pioneers of nature conservation. It was fascinating to explore the grounds and discover more about the Rothschild family and the work of Charles and his daughter Miriam, who inherited the estate after her father’s death and shared his passion for wildlife and conservation.
Our events programme got off the ground in September with a moth breakfast at Fermyn Woods. It’s hard to beat learning about moths with a coffee and croissant in hand on a lovely sunny morning. Moth identification is pretty new to me and I loved the excitement that came before opening up each moth trap – you never knew just what you were going to find hiding amongst the egg boxes.
This winter we kicked off the volunteer habitat management work parties with a trip to Castor Hanglands NNR to do some ride widening work. A few hand tools and enthusiastic volunteers made a big difference in a short space of time and we’ll be heading back out in the New Year to carry on this work. With contractors scheduled to start work, and our programme of volunteer survey training and workshops getting under way, 2018 is shaping up to be a very busy year. I’m looking forward to the challenging and exciting times ahead!
Wishing you all a fantastic winter.