On Wednesday 15th May, the FLOW team took 17 volunteers to Binsted Woods near Arundel for a Bioblitz wildlife recording day. We dedicated the day to our volunteers to say thank you for all the time, commitment and hard physical work that they have given the FLOW project over the recent winter season. We were spoilt with beautiful weather and the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. Some volunteers brought delicious homemade treats, including scones, cream and jam!
Our aim for the day was for the volunteers to have fun and enjoy spending time together identifying a variety of flora and fauna. Binsted Woods is cared for by MAVES (Mid Arun Valley Environmental Survey), a community-based charity set up by Binsted’s farmers and residents in 2015 to conserve the local countryside. MAVES carries out regular flora and fauna surveys, including the dormouse, which we were all very keen to see. Our Bioblitz was guided by Ian Powell, MAVES’ principal licensed surveyor, who was joined by Paul Stevens, Reserve Manager at Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and Sarah Hughes, Wildlife Officer for Chichester District Council.
Binsted Woods is a 250 acre broad-leaved ancient woodland with a high species diversity, adjoining to ancient hedgerows which serve as wildlife corridors around the neighbouring wildflower meadows and arable land. The woodland is intersected by footpaths, enabling anyone to experience the richness of biodiversity. Bluebell walks are an unforgettable experience here, and you might catch a glimpse of roe deer dashing across the fields. If you visit at dusk you can spot an owl silently soaring above its hunting ground. The woods are also home to 14 bat species, 93 bird species (including 20 Red-List species), and an increasing number of badgers, brown hares, foxes and hedgehogs. The wildflower meadows boast a multitude of insects and come alive with the sound of that glorious summer buzz.
Our Bioblitz day started with a mid-morning walk through the ancient woodland, stopping to check a few dormice boxes and finding most were empty, except for a nest of sleeping blue-tit chicks, and a busy tree bumblebee nest with a small cloud of males attempting to attract the queen bee by dancing around the nest hole. We also recorded a variety of plants, including: early purple orchid; wood anemones; primrose; bluebells; butcher’s broom (an ancient woodland indicator species); ferns; mosses, and lichen.
In the afternoon we took a different route through the woodland to an area called Paine’s Wood where MAVES has erected lots of dormice boxes. Our licensed dormice handlers checked each box carefully, and – after several were found empty or had other residents – we finally had the magical moment of seeing a dormouse, which was a first time for many of us. The dormice were delicately handled to be examined and sexed.
Dormice are delightful and fascinating small rodents and sadly they are threatened with extinction. Their decline reflects the significant loss of ancient woodland habitat and the removal of ancient hedgerow corridors over the last hundred years which are essential for their survival. Paine’s Wood is part of the National Dormice Monitoring Programme (NDMP) and is an excellent habitat for dormice. Fluctuating but good numbers of dormice have been recorded consistently here for 15 years which is an encouraging sign of continued and future presence of local dormice.
MAVES continues to gather biodiversity records in Binsted Woods to fully understand this historic environment. Their policy allows data to be shared appropriately to interested people including farmers, landowners and local authorities. Currently, Binsted is threatened by a major road bypass plan which would dissect Binsted village and cut off the ancient woodland from vital wildlife corridors, including the ancient hedgerows and other nearby woodland. Given the prolific biodiversity records gathered here, amidst a backdrop of globally declining biodiversity, it should be impossible to deliver a major road here within the current legislative framework.
Overall our Bioblitz day was a huge success! We all learnt so much about the local area and the wildlife. Our volunteers had a fantastic day and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of identifying species (and learning lots of new ones) in a beautiful, thriving ancient woodland. A huge thank you to everyone who came along, and to FLOW’s Christopher Drake who organised the event.
For more information visit: www.aruncountryside.org
Post by Emily Sabin