Posted on 26 June, 2016Comments (0)

Wildlife Support and Conservation

Wildlife Support and Conservation

Cemeteries and Churchyards: In addition to our beautiful British countryside and roadside verges, cemeteries and churchyards can often provide an important refuge for wildlife. Not only are they a final resting place, but also a living, and fully functioning haven for wildlife. Bentworth and Chawton church yards, and Medstead cemetery immediately spring to mind as they all have wild flower areas where the grass also grows slightly longer, so excellent for butterflies and other pollinators.

Medstead Cemetery can be found near the recreation ground. We note that Badgers are also present, but are not causing any visible damage. Badgers are a protected species. Their setts can only be closed down under licence from Natural England. This happens occasionally if an outlying or annex sett happens to inconvenience plans for a new development, and there is a suitable, alternative site nearby.

However, if an artificial sett is created, not only is this very costly, but the animals may try to return to their former home, or excavate another Badger hole elsewhere which could potentially cause damage to graves and memorials. Badgers prefer well drained, sandy soil, so will often dig holes on a slope near a hedgerow which also affords more protection.

Medstead Cemetery is extremely attractive with a mass of Bluebells and other wild flowers in early May. The long grass also provides excellent cover for fledglings and amphibians. Adjacent gardens and paddocks are also of interest. We noted several mammal paths used by Badgers. They are obviously attracted to one site due to the plentiful supply of dry food, and hay for bedding. A well established sett is noted beneath an outbuilding.

Swallows are designated as SPEC (Species of European Conservation Concern) and on the RSPB Amber list.
Other wild birds noted on site are the Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, and Wren. The Cuckoo was heard in Medstead last Spring, but sadly no one I spoke to can recall hearing it calling this year. There are also Foxes in the vicinity which usually help to keep the Rabbit population in check.

The cemetery will also be an important foraging area for Swallows, and for bats. Cemeteries can be a haven for wildlife. They are also tranquil and peaceful, and a very attractive final resting place. It should be noted that some people pay thousands of pounds to be laid to rest in a nature reserve, wildlife haven, or near a Badger sett.

Garden Birds: In addition to church yards and cemeteries, gardens also provide food, shelter and nesting opportunities for many birds. We can make them more welcoming by putting up nesting boxes, creating suitable habitats, and putting out a variety of bird food. Birds come into our gardens when weather conditions deteriorate and we are then able to supplement their natural diet with assorted bird seed, fat balls, fruit and nuts.

Decline in numbers: In 2015 the RSPB noted that farmland birds make up the largest number on the Red List. The Curlew, Dotterel, Grey Wagtail, Whinchat and Merlin were added bringing the total to twelve. The Woodcock, Nightingale and Pied Flycatcher are three more woodland birds added to the Red List, so the number is increased to sixteen. Seabird numbers on the Red List have increased and show that the Kittiwake, Shag and the Puffin are in decline. Worryingly the number of seabirds on the Red List has almost doubled, and includes four species of UK seaduck. The House Sparrow and Black Redstart are also on the Red List for urban bird species. We note that there is some good news as Nightjar and Bittern numbers have improved, mainly due to better forest management.

The RSPB also reminds us that Hedgehogs are in serious decline and that better habitat and connection between gardens would make an enormous difference. It is vital that space is made the size of a CD case in fencing on all new developments in the area.

We have a number of RSPB leaflets, ‘Giving Nature a Home’ if anyone would like one. These are presently being distributed to new residents on the Medstead Farm development, Four Marks, as part of their ‘Wildlife Welcome Pack’.

Diana Tennyson

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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