MOD Bicester project
St George’s Barracks, Arncott Bird and Butterfly Project – 2015 to present
The site has an excellent amount of scrub and rough grass, which provides the ideal breeding habitats for a wide range of breeding birds, including seven species of warbler (Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler) and one of the last remaining Nightingale populations for the region. The site is also home to 3-4 pairs of Turtle Dove.
Without intervention, it may no longer be suitable for warblers and nightingales within a few years. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have asked us to actively manage the scrub, ensuring that there is variety in age and height, so that the breeding bird assemblage will continue to thrive in future years.
With the help of volunteers and other groups, we carry out some significant scrub management and also manage some of the oak and provide the MOD with a management strategy for future years to ensure that the scrub is rotationally rejuvenated. One example of our work includes clearing vegetation along a linear avenue of disused military pipework to ensure the ‘ride’ is flooded with light to promote the growth of existing wild strawberry, the larval food plant of the Grizzled Skipper. As well as the more common species of butterfly, a number of less common species are frequently recorded: Purple Emperor; Purple, Black, Brown and White-letter Hairstreaks; White Admiral; Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper.
Where we have cleared dense areas of scrub, we have left occasional pollards of blackthorn, hawthorn, and willow. This will create even more age structure and diversity in height within the areas of scrub cleared by retaining the occasional pollard from which new growth will shoot.
As ever, volunteers have a significant impact on the continued success of this project. By engaging with larger groups, more scrub can be cleared and processed during the sessions and allows the group to be split into smaller teams to micro-manage the scrub in certain areas.
We work in partnership with Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch, Bucks Bird Club, Bucks UTC, Grundon Waste Management Ltd (through TOE2), and Atkins Global. We have also welcomed a team of volunteers from Bicester Green Gym. In addition, we had 10 boys from High Wycombe Rugby Football Club who volunteered as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Once again, our own volunteers are involved in the delivery of this project; from preparation of the sessions to carrying out practical conservation. Our volunteers are of mixed age and ability and benefit from these sessions in many ways, including the development of ‘soft skills’ such as communication and confidence in working with others.
Thanks to funding from TOE2 (Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment) which helped start the whole project and will also allow further sessions to take place, helping us benefit more of the wildlife on the site.
See links below for past and present work at this site.