Bicester Bird and Butterfly Boon, MOD Arncott, (£5,000 Grundon, 2016, and now awarded additional funds)

Improving the management of site for biodiversity.

Grasshopper warbler.jpg

Funded project report provided by Jake Piper:

TOE has supported land management for wildlife conservation at the MOD Arncott site over recent years.  This is a military training site with a mix of woodland, rough grass and scrub and training infrastructure.  It is not intensively farmed or actively managed by the MOD, so is rich in biodiversity with birds (including seven warbler species and Turtle Doves) and butterflies, for example, which include rare and declining species.

In order to maintain the necessary mosaic of habitats for the diversity of species, conservation management requires periodic cutting of established woodland, rejuvenating and opening up the canopy, as well as enabling ponds to remain in the landscape. This work is undertaken by Chiltern Rangers (CR:  a non-for-profit social enterprise which was established from a local authority woodland management unit), who work with the BTO on bird monitoring at the site.

On a very hot mid-July day, TOE trustees were taken around the site by Steph Rodgers of CR, Gary Becket, MOD conservation officer, and Stuart Hodges, a Butterfly Conservation species champion who also monitors the site.  We were shown, for example, areas where CR working parties have created open areas and low scrub in line with the specific breeding habitat needs of Hairstreak butterflies, as well as other sites where Gary has plans to open up other areas to increase edge habitats and light.  The CR work parties are made up of volunteers - sometimes including some military personnel - who carry out woodland operations assisted by and under the guidance of CR staff.   (TOE has subsequently been able to put Steph in touch with an Oxford Brookes University Professor who leads a wildlife conservation course who would like to offer this practical experience of woodland management to his students.)

Recent TOE funding has covered the cost of CR staff at land management days, plus tree saplings (Wych Elm for White Hairstreak breeding and feeding sites), and supplementary feed for turtle doves - in accordance with RSPB guidance - as their numbers are declining sharply in the UK.

TOE trustees were impressed by the enthusiasm, knowledge and efforts of all the conservation staff we met at the Arncott site.  Both Steph and Gary expressed their thanks for the support given by TOE.