Wildlife Update II
We reported in the first wildlife blog that one of the pairs of deer had had a calf; we were overjoyed today to spot it along with the other pair – and what looks like a new buck.
Also spotted at the weekend was the return of the many buzzards that come to winter in the area, sadly very close to the possible location of the wind turbine.
Buzzards do not normally form flocks, but several may be seen together in good habitat. Though a rare occurrence, as many as 20 buzzards can be spotted in one field area, approximately 30 metres apart. Last winter we counted 12 in the field adjacent to site of the weather mast.
Wildlife Update I
The stunning scenery of the Swere Valley has an incredible variety of native and introduced wildlife. The Owl Trust, The Bat Conservation Trust and The Waterfowl Sanctuary all have an interest in this area.
This area has been unchanged for many, many years and hence the wildlife has flourished and thrived in natural surroundings. Such an unspoilt, rural but not remote area of Oxfordshire with so much diversity of wildlife is a rare find.
More specifically just to the East of Council Hill (towards Wigginton) lies Withycombe Farm, a farm that has been farmed by the Cherry family for 70 years. The late John Cherry, who sadly passed away earlier this year and who had farmed the land for over sixty years, used to say that the dry stone wall along the eastern side of the field in which the mast is sited was ‘the last dry stone wall of the Cotswolds’.
To the South of the Withycombe Farm and about 200 metres from the mast is a copse that John Cherry set aside for wildlife 25 years ago. The copse has been managed over the years to provide the best possible habitat for a variety of wildlife. John always asked the neighbours not to enter it so that the wildlife would not be disturbed; this request has always been respected. To this effect the deer, owls and bats can easily been seen enjoying their habitat (weather permitting!) The copse is home to bats, owls, badgers, deer and a variety of birds and fowl.
The farm and the surrounding fields are home to two families of native roe deer. Sadly, earlier this year one of the deer was killed on the road. We assume it was the buck as we now regularly see the hind with her calf. The bucks have been seen in the spring and summer with full antlers and look magnificent in their surroundings. Roe deer are very shy, territorial and extremely sensitive to change.
An owl box was sited near to the copse by The Owl Trust. It is one of two in the vicinity and both are occupied. One of the boxes had three owlets in it this year.
The owls were very easily seen during the light evenings of the summer months. They would swoop down the Cherry’s field and sit on the fence between the field and the adjacent paddock, waiting to find their supper in the long grass.
All species of bats have been in decline over recent years due to habitat degradation, disturbance of roosting sites and some pesticides used by farmers. But bats can be a huge aid to farming in that they keep vermin under control. The Cherry family have always encouraged bats. They have a perfect habitat in the copse but also have dedicated roosting boxes on trees which border the field where the mast is sited. During the summer evenings several varieties of bats can be seen flying over the fields, swooping past the buildings and even resting on the eaves of outbuildings.
The Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum (ONCF) identified the Swere Valley as a Conservation Target Area (CTA) :
ONCF has hosted the County (local) Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) since 2000. During that time we have developed good partnerships with over 20 organisations in the county as well as other county BAP Officers. The BAP has evolved and now uses the CTA approach to deliver BAP habitat targets. The project is co-ordinated by the Oxfordshire Biodiversity Project Manager, currently the Biodiversity Project Manager and partners are working in 21 CTAs.
CTAs identify the most important areas for wildlife and therefore where targeted conservation work will have the greatest benefit. The main aim within CTAs is to restore biodiversity at a landscape-scale through the maintenance, restoration and creation of BAP priority habitats. This will help wildlife to survive and be better able to adapt to climate change.