A task force for nature

The COVID-19 virus outbreak is placing severe restrictions on our working lives, but the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside will continue to work, under strict controls, to ensure our nature reserves remain perfect and safe habitats for wildlife.

As wildlife wakes up from winter, there is plenty of new spring activity. Birds are building nests, spring flowers are blooming in all their glory and bumble bees and butterflies are taking advantage of the early nectar sources.

Our meadow management team – the goats, sheep and cattle - are hard at work already. We've had a number of early arrivals in the form of new kids and lambing will start soon.

A golden Guernsey goat kid standing in a pen with its mother and sibling

The newest members of the conservation grazing team, golden Guernsey kids. Image by Molly Toal

Sadly, however, we've had to make the incredibly tough but necessary decision to furlough 45 per cent of our wonderful staff. Though this will help our small charity weather the storm of COVID-19, it does mean that, in the meantime, there will be even more pressure on our nature reserves. But we're determined to continue protecting these precious wild places and their wildlife as best we can, namely by initiating a monitoring and response team approach to reserve work.

Much of our 1,300 hectares of land is going to be visited by relatively few people now that the movement controls are in. However, a few sites are likely to see more visits as they are very accessible by the local community. We have created a monitoring regime for these sites and will visit them at appropriate intervals, from daily to weekly, to ensure that they are safe to visit and that the special wildlife and habitats aren't suffering during the lockdown.

Issues may be man-made, such as broken kissing gates, excessive dog fouling, broken glass and littering. Other hazards may be natural, such as trees falling onto paths or brambles trailing onto access points.

Three wood sorrel flowers growing on the forest floor

Wood sorrel by Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

We also have a duty to the wildlife to ensure activities like poaching or new desire-line paths are not impinging upon nesting bird areas. Staff will be busy to ensure that animal welfare is maintained and will be monitoring on a daily basis by staff and key, trained volunteers.

If the monitoring team comes across issues, these will be logged and referred onto the response team to deal with. Less visited sites will be monitored on a less intensive basis.

The main tasks of the team during this period will be:

  • Daily and weekly visits to monitor issues on each of our reserves/projects.
  • Continued maintenance and creation of habitats for our wildlife, including coppicing, meadow maintenance, creating ponds and removal of some invasive species.
  • Monitoring and care of our conservation grazing longhorn cattle, sheep and goats.
  • Planting to continue work that will boost insect populations.
  • Safety measures: path clearance, removal of dangerous trees and branches, removal of dog mess and litter, reporting of major incidents to the relevant authorities.
  • Reporting of vandalism or other wildlife crimes like poaching and hare coursing. Areas will tend to be more isolated during this time, so more attractive to these criminals.

If you are on one of our sites and spot an issue, please let us know at info@lancswt.org.uk

Tim Mitcham
Head of Conservation

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Robin in flight by Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography