Mar 31 2022

Fingle Woods Volunteers – Expanding Their Range

The volunteers at Fingle Woods have many skills to combine with their passion for making the woods a better place for wildlife. Some of these skills have been brought in from their own previous experience but, in other cases, they are skills learned through being committed volunteers who have an appetite for learning something new. As well as the regular group conservation work and practical tasks, there are some self-motivated volunteers taking the initiative for planning their own tasks, forming unaccompanied and self-organised groups. In recent years, Fingle volunteers have been successfully surveying the heritage and wildlife value of ancient wood banks and boundaries, so these can be protected for the future. They put together teams to survey the volume of dead and decaying wood, a vital element of the woodland ecosystem. Some of these amateur experts work in small groups, monitoring wildlife, checking pied flycatcher nest boxes or recording butterflies along habitat transects. They are all playing their part in building up a valuable database of the status of wild species and habitats, monitoring their rate of recovery after active woodland conservation management.


Nest boxes where veteran trees stand along ancient wood banks                      Emma and Jenny setting up nest boxes in hazel coppice

In a new move, some of these skilled volunteers are now taking their expertise to other sites. One example is a group of dormouse monitoring ‘graduates’ who have been training at Fingle and, over several years, have reached the level of proficiency to gain a ‘Class Licence’ to monitor these elusive mammals in nest boxes. During this time, some of the trained volunteers have become licensed and moved away, following their work to other parts of the country, but others have kept their connection to Fingle, regularly attending ‘Dormouse Squad’ and helping with the footprint monitoring project in Halls Cleave.


Kate installing a dormouse nest box                                            Dormouse box in hazel coppice

During the winter months, the group installed a set of 50 nest boxes made from Fingle timber in another Woodland Trust site in the Teign valley known as Great Plantation. Then, starting in March, they will be arranging to meet up and inspect the nest boxes, looking for clues of the presence of dormice and, if all goes well, they will find some dormice too. As it is a woodland that is well connected by ribbons of woods, copses and hedgerows, it is likely that they may be there. Their aim is to make a record of the numbers found and whether it is a healthy breeding population. Their results from spring, summer and autumn will add to information about the Devon metapopulation or “population of populations” and, the regular box inspections and gathering of biometric information will also help them to keep their skills fresh.


Monitoring skills: Helen weighing a dormouse with a spring scale                            Weighing a dormouse with a spring scale

With all this new volunteer activity at Great Plantation, a neighbouring naturalist has also offered to monitor a priority species of woodland birds. Glyn is a wildlife champion who is ‘wilding’ his land adjacent to the woodland site and his previous time as a voluntary warden at Yarner Wood will be put to good use as he has now registered as a Woodland Trust volunteer. During the winter he has been putting up another set of nest boxes to accommodate pied flycatchers and will join a network of people monitoring this species throughout the southwest (PiedFly.Net). As with many other people willing to put their time into conservation, these volunteers will all make an important contribution to the knowledge we have on local wild species … and they will, no doubt, really enjoy the experience too!

                     Glyn setting up nest boxes for pied flycatchers at Great Plantation


Information on monitoring Pied flycatchers PiedFly.Net

by Matt Parkins

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