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Helping Wildlife (2008)

Page updated - 02 October 2009

For further information - Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089 or Suffolk Wildlife Trust Website

Cornard News - This advice was previously published in Cornard News

2008 Spring

Issue 33

FRIENDS OF THE COUNTRY PARK

Great Cornard is fortunate indeed to have an extensive area of 'Country Park’ that includes a variety of habitats and some uncommon, even rare species of flora and fauna. In the early days of the parks’ history it was sown with a variety of now uncommon or rare wildflowers which included a cornfield mix such as corn flower, corn marigold, pheasants eye, corn cockle and yellow rattle. Resulting from poor or minimal management the latter species is currently the only survivor. The seeds were of local provenance coming from John Stevens at Sawyers Farm, Little Cornard. Trees were planted, sadly, in unnaturally straight lines and close together to allow for losses. These trees should have been thinned out a few years after planting; this process was neglected until now.

 

Inspired by a local councillor David Thomas we now have a small group of volunteers and with the valuable help of Adrian Walters of the Sudbury Common Lands Trust, there is now an active group addressing the problems resulting from lack of management. Over the last three years a local biologist, Debbie Ping, has spent many hours recording birds and other wildlife; the most surprising record was a recent sighting of a Tree Sparrow. Small colonies existed about a decade ago in Long Melford and the northwest outskirts of Lavenham but have since gone.

 

About 18 months ago Dave Thomas found a young volunteer, Dean Walton who, due to his energetic approach to any task in the field is better known as 'Hurricane Dean.' It is indeed fortunate that Dean, who cares passionately about the survival of our threatened wildlife and the environment has subsequently been elected to Great Cornard Parish, Sudbury Town and Babergh District Councils. A recent, but very enthusiastic and energetic supporter is Sudbury's deputy mayor, John Sayers. John has a lifelong interest and enthusiasm for the natural world and will fight to protect and preserve it.

 

There is now an effective working group to set the Country Park back on the course originally intended when that talented and inspirational naturalist of our time, David Bellamy, officially opened the Country Park back in the nineteen eighties for the benefit of the local community. John Sayers has suggested a 'Friends Of The Country Park' scheme to engage and encourage local people to use this wonderful facility and, if they wish, help with work parties and monitor and record the increase in birds, butterflies, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles on the site. For further details and information on the Friends of the Country Park scheme, please call John Sayers on (01787) 319006.

 

George Millins – Local Conservationist

 

2008 Summer

Issue 34

FRIENDS OF THE COUNTRY PARK

Cornard Country Park consists of approx. 35 acres including the recently acquired Danes Hole. The mown area above the allotments is purely amenity land but does still provide a grass foraging area for blackbirds, thrushes, green woodpeckers and a few other species. The un-mown margins of this area are to provide extra habitat and foraging for the reptiles removed from the Bures Road building development and released on the Country Park. The log piles were also created as refuges and basking points for these reptiles but, it is sad to note, that these habitats have suffered disruption and vandalism which may well have caused harm to animals within; I hope that education will be the answer to that problem.

 

The large areas of un-mown grass (now to be mown on a rotational basis) are the Parks’ most valuable assets for conserving many species of flora and fauna and is probably the Suffolk's rarest habit or, runs a close second to our much diminished heathland. Thanks largely to David Thomas - a Great Cornard Parish Councillor who displayed vision, foresight and a great concern for the plight of our wildlife - we aim to try to manage the park in the manner envisaged by David Bellamy when he officially opened it back in the 1980s.

 

David Thomas was subsequently supported by Dean Walton, a newly elected Parish, Sudbury Town and Babergh Councillor, Dean is very energetic in the field and has carried out valuable management work on the Park. Sudbury's Deputy Mayor John Sayers, who is also a Parish, Sudbury Town and District Councillor, has given his support at meetings and in the field. More recently Parish Councillor John Millins has joined our small band of supporters for the ‘Conservation Cause’ and has some excellent digital photos, some of which I hope can be printed in future issues of Cornard News. Parish Councillor Humphrey Todd has also been very supportive behind the scenes and we are most grateful for his ‘quiet’ efforts; it is hoped that more Local Councillors will acknowledge the desperate need to take action on behalf of our vanishing wildlife and make the Park a more attractive and interesting experience for all.

 

The above mentioned are assisted by a local biologist Debbie Ping who has spent many hours recording and cataloguing bird and many other species present. The people mentioned, myself, Adrian Walters and the Stour Valley/Dedham Vale group will endeavour to manage Great Cornard Country Park to achieve the following aims: Protect and increase B.A.P. (Biodiversity Action Plan for species) that currently exist; increase biodiversity; manage the grassland to stem the alarming decline of moths, butterflies and other invertebrates which will also benefit reptiles, small mammals and their predators such as the barn owl.

 

This should be a Community Project and there are a variety of tasks to be carried out especially during the autumn and winter months, also monitoring of wildlife so, if you would like to get involved please call David Thomas on (01787) 375558, John Sayers on (01787) 319006 or George Millins on (01787) 374874 or Mobile 07534 263 629.

 

A final note on behalf of our garden wildlife: now the weather makes it pleasant to get into the garden and carry out those chores that really should be done early spring, please check for birds nests when cutting trees, shrubs and scrub and do remember, robins, whitethroat and some other species can nest on the ground and a pile of branches and other waste material makes an excellent hedgehog, reptile, amphibian and bird nest habitat - if you must move it at this critical point in the year be very careful indeed and, please do not burn it.

 

George Millins – Local Conservationist

 

2008 Autumn

Issue 35

HELPING WILDLIFE

In an effort to stem the alarming decline of other life forms - not only in our crowded islands but globally - I will provide some information and advice which I hope will be implemented for the benefit of our local wildlife. Most species have declined over the last few decades but, we must identify those that have shown the greatest declines, most of these will have B.A.P. (Biodiversity Action Plan species) status.

 

One of the most recent to be included in B.A.P. species list is the Hedgehog, commonly seen after dark in my front garden on Highbury Way, Cornard, until the mid '90s but due to road kill and habitat loss it is now, apparently, an uncommon sight and, tragically, most recent sightings are of victims of speeding traffic; a problem our police seem unable or unwilling to act on. In suburban areas the hedgehog would need to forage for food over quite a number of gardens. In this environment its food would consist of slugs, snails, beetles, rats and mice so, the use of slug pellets by the ignorant and uncaring gardener has obviously had an impact on this animal as indeed they did some years ago on our Song Thrush population which has never recovered. In more rural locations the hedgehogs food would include the eggs of ground nesting birds, frogs, lizards and snakes including the adder to whose poison it is immune. It passes the day under a heap of dead leaves or other vegetation also inert conifers and other ground hugging growth which may also be chosen as a nest site for its young in the absence of an old shed or chicken hut under which, it and its young would be relatively safe.

 

The young are usually born in May and June but there may be a second litter during July to September so please be vigilant throughout Spring and Summer if you need to disturb piles of vegetation, brash piles or dense ground covering foliage - please do not burn; but if you must then break down the heap from the top and burn in a different location. Also, please be mindful of ground, or near ground nesting birds such as Robin, Wren, or Dunnock, these will find a pile of branches (a brash pile) a particularly attractive nest site so, please search very, carefully.

 

Most species of butterfly and moth have shown declines particularly over the past few years and the Wall Brown has, apparently, become extinct in the Sudbury area. Other species of butterfly still present in reduced numbers are, in order of priority: Small Heath, the now misnamed Common Blue, Brow Argus and Small Copper. The major cause of this decline is the same for other species of flora and fauna; habitat loss, for butterflies and some moths this is the result of most amenity grassland and verges being mown to death eradicating food plants which for many species are quite specific. It is useful to remember that a good butterfly meadow is also an excellent habitat for small mammals, reptiles and amphibians; the latter spend more time in terrestrial habitat than is generally realised.

 

Cornard Country Park and Shawlands Ave bank have very good areas of grassland and a small number of us, including four Parish Councillors, have given time on a voluntary basis and chipped in with some cash for wild plant and grass seeds to help the above mentioned species but we must try to engage the rest of the Council Members rather than do battle with them over these critical issues.

 

George Millins – Local Conservationist

 

2008 Winter

Issue 36

Allotments and Wildlife

A recent reptile survey of the Sudbury Allotments revealed a high population of slow-worm and a small to medium population of viviparous lizard. As a result of these findings we have tried to provide a better habitat for the lizards and that, of course, will also benefit the slow-worms.

 

Great Cornard and most other areas in the east and south east of the country have seen a dramatic loss of habitat for reptiles and amphibians, so I wish to thank the allotment tenants for their interest, help and cooperation in protecting and preserving these reptiles. The slow-worm in particular is a gardener’s friend, since a major part of its diet consists of slugs but this does put it at risk if slug pellets are used.

 

In recent years our County Wildlife Trust and County Amphibian and Reptile Recorder have realised that allotments provide the only suitable remaining habitat in many areas. We may well prevent local extinctions but have not been very successful in engaging other allotment associations in this project. People have set an example on other allotment sites and the Great Cornard Allotment holders could follow this example if the decline of our reptiles and amphibians is to be arrested. Help and advice is available from wildlife trusts and county amphibian and reptile groups. I would be very happy indeed to help and advise other allotment groups to embark on this very important conservation issue. For further details please phone me on (01787) 374874 or 07534 263629.

 

George Millins – Local Conservationist