By Amy Sutcliffe

Bank Vole

We have several habitats at the Chatham Green Project site and will be continuing to manage and improve these as well as creating new areas for wildlife. In order to best manage the site and make comparisons from year to year we must survey the biodiversity. Wildlife surveys are already underway with many more planned throughout the summer.

Our breeding bird survey has so far recorded species such as song thrush, chaffinch, skylark, yellowhammer and great tit. This survey will be repeated again in May to establish species and numbers throughout the breeding season. We hope that the pair of turtle doves recorded on site last year will return from migration to nest as this is an important farmland bird whose populations have declined.

Essex Bat Group visited for an initial survey last Sunday and has identified several potential roosting sites around the rewilded and woodland area of our site. The next step will now be to arrange an evening survey for the species present to be recorded using bat detectors. Hedgerows and woodland are important habitats for bats to roost and forage in.

Our butterfly survey has so far been successful in recording over 100 individual butterflies on the transect walk including peacock, tortoiseshell, orange tip and brimstone species. This survey takes place over a 26 week period and started two weeks ago, we are very much looking forward to recording the differences in species and numbers over the coming weeks. Butterflies are a good indicator of overall environmental health so an important group to record.

With the schools on holiday this week we are making the most of this time to conduct time intensive surveys including mini mammals such as mice, voles and shrews which are recorded using humane Longworth traps and released after identification. Just this morning we recorded field and bank vole in our Diamond Jubilee Woodland plantation, we managed to get a photo of this little one before it scurried off into the undergrowth.

With thanks to Writtle College Conservation Team we have also placed 50 dormouse tubes out today along one of our species-rich hedgerows in the hope of finding evidence of this charismatic and European Protected Species using the site. We have plans to improve our hedgerows by planting up gaps so that dormice and many other species of wildlife can move easily through these natural vegetation corridors.

Later in the summer we will be conducting several plant surveys including woodland, hedgerow, grass and wildflower and updating our general habitat survey of the whole site. The data from our surveys will be shared with Essex Wildlife Trust biological records office, BTO, the Mammal Society and other interested groups to help build a picture of environmental health across a much wider scale.

If you would be interested in volunteering for any of our wildlife surveys throughout the year we would be delighted to hear from you.

Please contact us for more information via email: Amy Sutcliffe (Environmental Education Officer): and/or Will Dexter (Conservation Assistant) or telephone the Wilderness Foundation UK office on: 0300 1233073.

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