It has been a busy time over the Autumn and Winter at Marsh Common in Weston. The Parish Council and volunteers have been hard at work adding and improving habitat to further encourage wildlife on the common. Bat and bird boxes have been installed, as have an extensive bug hotel, dormouse houses and a hedge for wildlife.
James Shipman, Chairman of the Berks & South Bucks Bat Group, gave a fascinating talk about bats at our November Parish meeting (and fortunately for us will be giving another at our Annual Parish Meeting on 25th May 2022). During the meeting James kindly donated a bat box to the Parish Council and later helped install it on Marsh Common.
The box is designed to mimic a small crevice that certain species prefer to roost in, similar to lifting bark on natural features. It can attract a variety of species including the Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule bat, Brown Long Eared bat and also, if we are lucky, the Barbastelle bat.
Bats play an important role in indicating changes in aspects of biodiversity but unfortunately in the UK bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are under threat from building and development work that affects roosts and loss of habitat. The Parish Council has committed to acquiring several more bat boxes for the common, one of which has also been recently installed. Our hope is these can provide additional habitat for the local bat population.
To further provide for the bats on the common, slots have been cut in the trunks of a pollarded willow tree. Cut at a specific height and location, it is hoped we may get Barbastelle or Pipistrelles using the holes for their roosts.
Two dormouse houses have also been installed on the common to provide a cosy home to hazel dormice. The hazel dormouse is one of Britain’s rarest mammals with numbers estimated to have fallen by 52% since 1995. The loss of ancient woodland and hedgerows across the UK is thought to be a major reason for this decline. Living mainly in branches in the woodland canopy, they rarely descend to ground level other than to hibernate.
Our dormouse houses are sited in hazel trees with the entrance at the rear of the house facing the trunk which makes it more difficult for birds to occupy. This offers safe access from the trunk of the tree which is the dormouse’s preferred route.
So rare are hazel dormice they are protected by law in the UK, and must not be handled or disturbed without a licence.
Hedge for Wildlife
As part of the Queen's Green Canopy initiative, to mark Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee, Parish Councillors and volunteers have planted a hedge for wildlife on the common, comprising of 200 native Blackthorn, Hornbeam, Field Maple, Hazel, Bird Cherry and Hawthorn trees. The hedge should provide flowers, nuts, sloes, hips and haws. Such diverse native hedgerows are great for wildlife, providing a haven for many insects, small mammals, reptiles and even amphibians. They are also good hunting grounds for predators seeking insects and other invertebrates and hedgerow berries provide birds with high-energy food in autumn and winter.
Another new addition to Marsh Common is a fabulous 5 star bug hotel. Constructed using recycled and reclaimed materials, the bug hotel provides shelter for a wide variety of invertebrates as well as small mammals and even hedgehogs. For solitary bees, bug hotels and wildlife stacks provide a great place for them to live, lay their eggs and hibernate. Insects need safe spaces such as this to shelter, hide from predators and raise their young.
Logs have been cut and stacked in the bug house and elsewhere on the common as log piles are really important for wildlife. Centipedes, woodlice and beetles like to burrow into decaying wood and log piles may also attract birds, frogs and hedgehogs looking for sustenance.
Twigs and dry leaves have been added for ladybirds and lacewings who will love to crawl into the crevices and hide among the leaves. The tiled roof should keep the inhabitants relatively dry and provide shelter from bad weather for years to come.
All of these additions to the common are designed to help support the important ecosystem this amazing little open space provides and to help play a role in the battle against loss of habitat and climate change.
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