The Biosphere Reserve recently had a visit from Jake Sewall, Professor of Environmental Science at Kutztown University, Pennsylvania. He was visiting as part of a sabbatical study on how to effectively manage edges of land to benefit local ecosystems. Jake spent a day with Tom Hynes, North Devon Biosphere, and a day with Rob Wolton, Devon Hedge Group looking at Devon hedges, their management, wildlife value and their role in involving communities in their management.
Come rain or shine, fishermen are often beside the river and are well placed to help look after them. Here are some of the things that the Taw Fishing Club have been doing and are planning for 2017;
This year the Club will be improving access to the river and enhancing in-river and bankside habitats. Coppicing is vital technique for this and in 2017 Club members will coppice about ¾ of a mile of river-side growth.
Maize is an increasingly important crop in the Biosphere area but one that, without careful management and husbandry, can have significant detrimental effects on the local environment, especially after harvest.
Local farmers are invited to this free workshop in Merton on 26th January to meet with John Morgan of the Maize Growers Association and learn more about making the most from this crop with the minimal effect on the environment. Includes farm walk.
With funding from the Tarka Country Trust's Community Wildlife Fund, Phil Metcalfe, who volunteers with the Biosphere Service, has been making barn owl boxes to give to landowners with suitable habitat and buildings. Modern agricultural sheds are generally unsuitable for barn owls because they do not have ledges where nests can be built. But the addition of a nest box can change a new building into a desirable residence for barn owl.
The boxes follow the tried and tested design produced by the Barn Owl Trust. Most of the boxes will be going in barns but where no suitable barns can be found the boxes will be put in trees. The entrance hole on all the boxes is high up so that fledglings owlets have to be able to fly a certain amount before gaining access to the outside platform.
Phil will be making 20 barn owl boxes and although many already have an agreed location, there are still some available. If you have a suitable barn and suitable feeding habitat nearby (rough grassland) and are interested in putting up a box please contact Phil Metcalfe
The last Riverfly sampling for 2016 was completed in September. During the year, our 32 volunteers took 144 samples from 33 different sites in the Torridge catchment and, new this year, 1 on the Taw. Only 4 samples failed their trigger level test, and after investigation, the Environment Agency attributed them to the dry Autumn and low flows.
Download the full year report
Communities will have access to funds, equipment and expertise to help them manage their chosen verges and promote their achievements. Case studies and best-practice guidance will help recruit more communities and sustain he volunteer network once the project ends. The project is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with a variety of contributions from other partners.
Clare Manning has just been appointed as the Project Coordinator.
Barn owls, slurry management, soil regeneration, the importance of clean rivers and non-native invasive species.
These free workshops throw open many hiddens aspects of countryside management
A scrape is similar to a pond except that it is shallower and may dry up in summer. The muddy margins are really important at providing insect-rich areas where birds can feed. At Fremington Local Nature Reserve the management committee ((Biosphere, North Devon Council and Fremington Parish Council) have created a new scrape to improve the wildlife value of Lovell’s Field. The funding was from a section 106 agreement from the adjacent development. Guidance from the RSPB was followed for the design of the scrape and the work was carried out by a local contractor.
The muddy margins support high densities of non-biting midge larvae, aquatic insects and, around the edges, earthworms. These are important food for wading birds, like lapwings and redshanks, and for wader chicks. Two days after the scrape was completed a dragonfly was seen investigating the perimeter of the scrape.
Last week the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Andrea Leadsom) announced, through a letter to the UK Natural Capital Committee, that Defra was committed to producing a 25 Year Environment Strategy and that it would be testing the methods to deliver it in a limited number of "Pioneer" areas
The Biosphere has been chosen as the 'Landsape" Pioneer and to be one of two sites included in the 'Marine' Pioneer. Cumbrian has been selected as the 'Catchment' Pioneer and the Greater Manchester area as the 'urban'
The Biosphere's inclusion in two of the pioneer areas is testament to our effective partnership working and success in pushing forward projects to improve this area's environment and deliver the associated economic and social benefits. It provides an exciting opportunity for the Partnership and confirms the Biosphere’ role to test and develop new national policies.
We are already working with Defra, Natural England and other partners to design how the Pioneer will work in support of our strategy and bring innovative finance and methods to deliver growth in our natural environment and the social and economic wellbeing of the area. These Pioneer projects will run over 3 to 5 years initially.