Posted on 29 April, 2016Comments (0)

Wildlife Support & Conservation

Wildlife Support & Conservation

Malcolm Newman: It is with great sadness that we say farewell to Malcolm Newman, one of our long-standing committee members and a dedicated wildlife enthusiast. We heard that he had become unwell again, and sadly passed away on 30th March. I last saw Malcolm in January and continued to copy him in on emails and updates on our progress, and hoped he would be pleased to hear about our conservation project for the SINC and meadow off the A31, Four Marks.

As most of our supporters are aware, we hope to purchase the SINC and meadow to retain it as an important green space, and future Nature Reserve for the village. If we succeed, we would like to name it after Malcolm. He loved the resident SINC Badger clan, foxes, hedgehogs, dormice and all the wildlife in Four Marks. We feel it would be a fitting tribute after all the work he did to record and care for the Badgers visiting his feeding station in Lymington Bottom.

Malcolm will be laid to rest at the Sustainability Centre in East Meon, Petersfield. His final resting place will be on a natural burial site, between two Badger setts, beneath a Beech tree. We are making a bird nesting box to be attached to the tree, and will be taking primroses to plant around his grave.

Hedge and tree planting: Twelve of us spent Good Friday planting saplings and infilling hedgerows on the western boundary of the Charles Church development, and around the soak away. Volunteers were members of Four Marks Parish Council, residents and myself. Heras fencing will now hopefully prevent anyone walking through and trampling on the young plants.

A space has been made for access, close to a mature, protected tree. Branches and foliage will provide extra cover for Dormice and other small mammals, so a Dormouse bridge should not be needed here. However, we will certainly need one to bridge the much larger gap by the soak away until the trees mature, or connectivity will be compromised for this endangered species.

We also planted Silver Birch saplings and an Oak on the verge at the top of Uplands Lane. They all have spiral tree guards, i.e. biodegradable, protective covers, and cane supports. We also dealt with some infill in the hedgerow on the western boundary of the cricket pitch and field off Barn Lane where I had previously pointed out several gaps. We then moved to the old skate park and planted Hawthorn saplings and an Oak tree along the border.

Councillor, John Hammond, and I then moved to Brislands Lane and planted Snowdrops along the verge. Plants had been moved prior to clearance and construction work to prevent them being destroyed. Many thanks to Jill and Maurice Shakespeare for their help.

Simon Grey of Hampshire Woodlands had kindly kept the saplings in cold storage for the Parish Council at the request of Parish Clerk, Sarah Goudie, and came to help and advise on planting. We are grateful to the Woodland Trust for donating the plants to the Parish Council.

Sheep Worrying: Sadly 116 sheep, many of them pregnant ewes, perished at a farm in West Dean, Sussex last month. It appeared that they had been herded into a tight group against fencing and a gate, and were unable to escape. Dogs are suspected as sheep usually panic if chased and it is thought that this flock probably died from shock. Many were crushed and probably suffocated. The flock was apparently worth £17,000 and the farmer then had to dispose of the corpses.

Spring is the worst time for sheep worrying as ewes are often pregnant, or have recently given birth. They can be seen in many fields surrounding our village, having been just turned out to grass with their lambs. They look delightful, but should not be approached. They are extremely vulnerable and can die from shock, although many are unfortunately savaged by other animals running loose.

We ask everyone to take great care while walking their dogs in or around fields, but it is helpful if farmers attach a sign to gates, so that dog walkers are made aware. If you are unsure, keep your dog on the lead until you can be absolutely certain there are no sheep, or other livestock visible. Last year two dogs killed an Alpaca in Bentley, and another animal was seriously wounded. In Brambridge we also heard of another sad account of two Alpacas being killed by dogs which had escaped while their owner was away. Some Alpaca farmers also keep Llamas to protect their livestock.

Tawny Owls: The Tawny Owl is the most common owl in Four Marks , Medstead and surrounds, and the most common hunting bird in gardens. Many new residents are surprised and delighted to hear owls hooting, and others are dismayed to be woken by these noisy night callers. A pair of Tawny Owls will hoot to keep in contact and young owls will repeat their calls on Summer nights.

When alarmed, the Tawny will make its body as slender as possible, but when it becomes aggressive it will puff up its feathers and widen its eyes to appear larger and more menacing. It will prey on small mammals, but will also feed on amphibians, reptiles, beetles, worms and moths. It is rarely seen by day, but will occasionally be spotted ‘sunbathing’.

Tawny Owls are usually to be found in woodland, but often visit gardens. Residents near the Watercress Line, a very important site for wildlife and protected species, often hear and see them. They can also be found in large gardens backing onto woodland in Telegraph Lane, Blackberry Lane, Noah’s Ark, Boyneswood Road and further afield.

The Tawny Owl lays its eggs in a hole in a tree or in a disused building. It will also take advantage of an abandoned magpie or squirrel nest. The eggs hatch at 3 – 4 day intervals, and the young owlets remain close to their parents until they are three months old.

An especially designed nest box for a Tawny Owl can be placed in a tree if natural sites are scarce. See www.nestbox.co.uk for information on all owl nesting boxes. The Tawny Owl nest box resembles a long, hollow, wooden tube and retails at £32.50.

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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