Wildlife Recording and Physico-chemical measurements

19 July 2020
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Category Foxearth Meadows
19 July 2020, Comments Comments Off on Wildlife Recording and Physico-chemical measurements

Briefing Notes (7 July 2020) from Mark Prina, Reserve Manager at Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve

Recording and monitoring has been largely uninterrupted and is operating as follows:

  1. Weekly
  • Feral Honey Bee exit/entry rates set against weather data from the site weather station.
  • Water Testing – Temperature, pH, Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids. It is planned to add chemical testing, initially Ammonia.
  • Water Level Check against arbitrary datum at Pond#1. It is planned to construct a dip-well system west to east across the site when the winter flood enables an absolute level to be set then measurements can be taken relative to this throughout the year.
  • Hedgehog footprint tunnels (x2) are in operation with the first section surveyed at compartment#2 now completed. It is planned to build more tunnels when more materials are purchased.
  • Reptile refugia mats – a transect across compartment#6A has been monitored since late May comparing the effectiveness of roof tiles and roofing felt. 
  • Dormouse footprint tunnels – following the partnership with Suffolk Wildlife Trust for a survey in 2019 we are still operating a single tunnel as a constant effort survey and aim to make some more to continue checking for presence/absence of this species;
  1. Monthly
  • Birds – continuing monthly transect recording by Rod Bleach
  • Odonata – David Chandler’s transect counts have been suspended during the pandemic and will not now be sufficient to supply valid annual data to include in trend analysis. However, point counts will be undertaken at all water bodies during Q3 to give a comparison between water bodies on the site.
  • Lepidoptera – Butterfly transect monitoring has been delayed and will now be done at a reduced frequency through Q3 using the WCBS method. It has been found that the UKBMS weekly count methodology is not feasible as our student volunteer is unable to continue at present. I am very grateful to her assistance in setting up the transect.
  1. Seasonal
  • Amphibians – funnel trapping has been employed in another attempt to detect newts on site with zero results. Frog breeding not detected in 2020. Toad breeding very evident on Big Pond and Island Pond. To continue monitoring annually each Spring
  • Nest Box – these will be further developed with boxes being examined for occupancy and cleaned each winter
  • Mammal boxes – a single box is deployed with plans to extend (I will check whether we can continue without licensing as no dormouse have been detected in the previous survey – if they had we would need a licence)
  • Giant Willow Aphid – Tuberolachnus salignus appears each year in Q4 and a protocol is being developed to monitor the population and alate frequency. Note that the main area of occurrence is planned for extensive coppicing in winter 2020-2021 (to improve habitat for nesting birds, such as, dare I say it, Nightingale).
  • Bat boxes – we now have two boxes to be deployed in Q3. Other than this bat surveying has been limited to a single bat walk per year (currently cancelled for 2020).
  • Predictive System for Multimetrics (PSYM) to assess the biological quality of still waters. This method takes account of the Trophic Ranking Score of plantlife and the BMWP scores for invertebrate taxa (family level) in the water body. This initiative follows discussions with Rob Brown, local freshwater invertebrate specialist and consultant to EA.
  1. Land Management and Flora

In addition to the above animal surveys I am currently gaining baseline data on flora in compartments #6B, #10 & #8. This is urgent to assess the changes that ensue following mowing and grazing regimes now in place. A rigorously documented system is taking shape. We have to tailor this programme to our volunteer availability but over time I am confident we will have the data to assess the effects of our land management and the underlying hydrology on the vegetation at Foxearth Meadows. 

As an experiment, I have set up a series of twelve 5mx5m plots in four sets (I-IV;V-VIII & IX-XII) and will apply four different mowing regimes without grazing. Two of the sets are in the species-poor grassland (comp#10) and one in a sedge dominated zone (comp#8). This would have been a key component of our church demonstration day. 

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