Last Saturday we held our first Wildlife Safari Sensory Workshop with ‘Wildman’ Stuart Mabbutt leading it. This was an opportunity for everyone, myself included, to explore the wildlife secrets of Clue Hill Farm.
The weather was quite chilly and very windy to start with, which meant that for the first use of our one of our senses: hearing, the dominant sound was that of the leaves rustling in the trees, interspersed with the sound of some very loud chiff chaffs and robins. Almost to order, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘clucked’ as Stuart was explaining how we should slightly disengage our hearing in order to be able to listen to everything around us.
Our woods abut the Woodland Trust woods of Piddington and by a strange coincidence they were holding a bat survey on Friday night. (We do not fence our boundary between their woods and ours, as this permits the free movement of wildlife). Despite the poor flying conditions on Friday night, the volunteers, led by Stuart Jenking, the Warden managed to find 38 bats in 4 boxes. These were: Common Pipistrelle, Natterer’s Brown Eared Noctule bats. It’s wonderful to know that the Clue Hill pond is the water and insect supply for these nocturnal creatures.
You can install your own bat box in your garden, but remember, once it has been installed, you need to get permission from the Bat Society to remove/relocate it, so that its residents are not disturbed.
Stuart explained how important dead wood is as an insect habitat. At Clue Hill we like to leave small piles along the woodland edge, some of the larger logs to just decompose and some actually in the pond (half in and half out of the water as it attracts dragonflies and we have these in great abundance in the summer) – just as Stuart suggests we can replicate in our own gardens.
Our sheep had done a good job grazing throughout the winter and the hay meadow leading up to the woods is now starting to come alive with wild flowers, which all attract butterflies, bees, spiders, millipedes, birds. Stuart explained that leaving small parts of your garden to go ‘wild’, along with differing lengths of grass will attract butterflies, eg Gatekeepers and Meadowbrowns
The sun then started to shine, looking especially impressive as it came in through the woods creating the beautiful dappled lighting effect. Stuart commanded silence, so that we could all hear the wonderful birdsong and learn how to relax and engage with all that was around us, explaining how different bird species require different sections of the trees to inhabit. Leaving the woods undisturbed is an important part of protecting their habitat.
‘That’s Oxford’ TV cameraman Alex visited us and filmed the morning’s activities: