Those of us who met Rachael the reserve ranger and her team on 3rd May were delighted to be witnesses to the most successful survey ever recorded at the reserve. Newts were discovered thriving in all three ponds and at the larger of the two top ponds, the largest number of Great Crested Newts ever recorded were logged, showing a very healthy population exists here.
Hopefully, this Friday 10th May, when Bourton village school will be bringing some of their pupils along to the final survey of the year, we will be just as successful!
After checking for newts, the team will go on to check the 50 Dormouse boxes that were placed on the reserve last year following the discovery of hazel nut shells opened in characteristic fashion by our most delightful and rare small mammal. Unfortunately, it is rather unlikely that any Dormice will be discovered nesting in the boxes due to an unfortunate event towards the end of last year.
Like many of our most highly endangered mammals, reptiles and amphibians, isolated reserves do no more than provide a protected habitat for individuals that are fortunate enough live there. In order to ensure their survival long term, it is essential to provide the means by which they can extend their range, bringing them into contact with other communities, and through interbreeding, strengthen the gene pool. For the Dormouse, which rarely descends to ground level, this means an uninterrupted canopy containing species providing the essential foods that they need throughout the year. In the case of Moldrams Ground, this was provided largely by a hazel hedgerow on adjacent land. This was innocently completely cut down towards the end of last year removing this vital link to other communities.
Some parishes are now recognising the importance of the need to consider how best to manage their whole area for the purpose of protecting our wildlife, so perhaps it is now time for the matter to be discussed by interested groups in all parishes in the vicinity of this important reserve. Charlton Musgrove parish is already deeply involved in this process so perhaps with the success of the newt survey, now is an ideal opportunity for Pen Selwood, Charlton Musgrove and Bourton parishes to work together to provide real benefit to our endangered wildlife?
Perhaps this is something that we can discuss this Friday 10th at 0900 when we will be meeting by the church before walking down to the reserve.
(MG volunteer coordinator)