At Woodcock Gardens on the lower slopes of Robin How, Exmoor Natural History Society manages 7.85 acres (3.18 ha) of land as a nature reserve,by agreement with the landowner.
The woodland section has been tidied up, a pleasant walk with a number of benches has been created, there are nest boxes for birds and small mammals and a former bracken covered area has been returned to grassland with wild flowers. There are regular working parties here and a record is kept of all the wildlife seen. (Booklet available, see Publications section).
At Luckbarrow, West Luccombe our team cares for a collection of Sorbus (Whitebeam) trees. This collection includes all the rare British species. Regular working parties take place here.
Nest Box Surveys, Birds
ENHS Members set out on annual check of bird nest boxes. Yes that’s the chairman carrying the ladder.
Since 1976 the Exmoor Natural History Society has maintained and monitored a number of nest boxes by arrangement with the landowners in various Exmoor locations as under:
|Horner Woods Complex||Cloutsham-Horner: 1976 – 1990 – c15 boxes. |
Pool Bridge: 1985 – 10 boxes. Currently 20 boxes.
Prickslade Combe : 1990 – 11 boxes Currently 20 boxes
Boys Path: 1990 – 6 boxes. Still current.
Stoke Combe: 1990 – 11 boxes. Still current.
|Malmsmead Field Centre||Since 1978 up to 6 boxes currently|
|Treborough Wood||1981 – 25 hole and 13 open front boxes. Currently 20 (hole) boxes.|
|Upton Cleeve||1984 – 1990 – c18 boxes.|
|Farley Wood||1985 – 2002. 12 boxes.|
|Hawkcombe Woods, Porlock||1987 30 boxes. Currently 24 boxes.|
|Woodcock Gardens||1990 – 12 boxes. Gradually increased to 38 currently.|
|Luckbarrow||2000 – 6 boxes.|
Most of the boxes are designed for hole nesting birds and are placed in woodlands which have been coppiced and are short of the nest-holes particularly sought by Pied Flycatchers, which have to compete with the many tits. To quote from member Jonathan White’s book Exmoor Birds (1994) “Before 1970 there were less than 30 pairs but with the introduction of nestboxes from the late 1970s onwards numbers have greatly increased. In 1990 148 boxes were up – 38 were successfully used by Pied Flycatchers.” For this reason, the Pied Flycatcher was chosen for the Society’s logo. There are also a few (seldom used) open fronted boxes, and one or two special boxes for owl, treecreeper, etc. The boxes are checked every autumn and the results computerised.
Birds which have nested in our boxes are Pied Flycatchers, Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Willow Tit (Once), Marsh Tit (Once), Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Owl.
Other creatures sometimes find the boxes useful and we have found the following inhabitants: Dormouse, Field Mouse, Bat, Bees, Wasps, Hornets.
Nest Box Surveys, Dormice
We also have 50 dormice boxes, some of which are used by breeding dormice. These are monitored by members who have trained and obtained a Licence from English Nature. This is necessary as Dormice are a protected species. The results are fed into the National Dormouse Recording Scheme.
Nest Box Surveys, Bats
We have tried a few bat boxes, so far without success. (Our only bat so far turned up in a bird box!).
In 1982, a mile-long Nature Trail was created at Treborough Woods and maintained until 1998 when the area was closed to the general public.
The Trail is still used by children who visit Treborough Camp Site and ENHS also monitor a number of nest boxes here. Our picture shows the official opening by the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
From 1987 to 1994 ENHS did work at Minehead Warren to create a wildflower walk on a piece of waste ground leased to Minehead Town Council by Butlins Holiday Camp. Unfortunately, this had to be discontinued when the lease ran out and renewal was refused. The picture shows initial work in progress.
On several occasions we have acted to move plants threatened by road widening or forestry work e.g. hundreds of primroses were transplanted at Fair Cross on the Brendons, and primroses (pictured), moschatel and Early Purple Orchids moved back from edge of path to be widened in Tivington Woods.
Regular surveys of birds and flowers keep our records up to date and these are consulted by Planning Authorities via Somerset Environmental Records Centre and Exmoor National Park Authority. Yellowhammers, pictured, were surveyed in year 2000.
On many occasions we have been asked by Landowners, including the National Trust and Exmoor National Park to carry out a specific survey. We have done this at Ashton Brake, Glenthorne, Oare, Culbone Woods, Horner Woods, and many small plots of land.