Welcome to the Devon Wildlife Warden podcast with me Emily Marbaix. In this episode, we will be talking about habitat connectivity with a special focus on the Devon Wildlands Initiative. I will also be bringing you the latest news from the wildlife warden scheme as well as dates for your diary and ideas for what you can do to support your local wildlife. But first of all, what exactly is the Devon Wildlands Initiative? Well, here is Kate Morely – one of the founders who can tell you just that…
KATE INTRO CLIP
We will be hearing more from Kate in this episode, and we will also be hearing from her co-founder Laura Fairs who was kind enough to lead a walk and talk about the initiative later in the podcast.
The Devon Wildlife Warden Scheme is run by Action on Climate in Teignbridge – or ACT for short. The idea is to have wardens in every parish or ward who can help their wildlife in a wide variety of ways. I am the wildlife warden for Abbotskerswell, but we have many others and are always looking for more! We do all sorts of things, from promoting wildlife gardening and recording local wildlife sightings to working with clubs and schools and commenting on local planning applications, and much, much more! It’s all about each warden doing what they feel is necessary in their area and which lies within their comfort zone. ACT’s Wildlife Warden Scheme would not be possible without the generous assistance of our donors, details of which can be found in the episode notes. Many thanks to them all!
So, to start us off, why is this episode focusing on habitat connectivity? Well, if you’ve listened to previous episodes, you’ll have heard me banging on about the importance of connecting habitats. This is because our landscape has become increasingly fragmented, and this doesn’t leave many options for wildlife when they need to move from one area to another. Why do they need to do this? Well, as they breed and create bigger communities – just like us humans – they need somewhere for their offspring to live and many species will need to disperse to new areas to do this because the resources on their doorstep are unlikely to support a growing population.
There is also the issue of climate change to consider – as our climate warms, many species need to move to areas which offer more optimum conditions for their survival – we are seeing huge numbers of examples of this with many species gradually moving north to cooler climes – for example, we now have moths living in the UK which were only seen as far north as France until recent years – and while that is OK for some species which can fly, terrestrial species, or those which can’t fly far without stopping for food and rest may not fare as well. This is why we need to consider HOW they will get from one area to another – and this is exactly where habitat connectivity comes in.
But how do we connect habitats to each other? Well, we need to first of all identify the habitats which have become fragmented and then find a way to connect them together. This might be done using more wildlife friendly management strategies with existing hedgerows and roadside verges, or it may involve creating green bridges or new, wilder spaces between those habitats – and this is where that buzzword rewilding comes in – by trying to rewild spaces between fragmented habitat, we can offer wildlife a fighting chance of survival in an increasingly challenging world.
And this is exactly what Kate Morely and Laura Fairs are attempting to do with their Devon Wildlands Initiative. ACT’s 4 F’s – Food, Farming, Forestry and Fisheries Group recently organised a visit to Embercombe – which is one of the core rewilding sites for the initiative – to learn all about it and I was fortunate enough to be invited along.
The day began with Laura telling us a bit about Embercombe before taking us for a walk around the site. I got some recordings but it was a wet and windy day, so as usual – please excuse the sound quality in places!
INTRO TO EMBERCOMBE CLIP
We then went off for a walk around the site – stopping first in a field to get a feel for what Embercombe is and to hear a bit more about the Devon Wildlands Initiative
INTRO TO WILDLANDS CLIP
We then went down into the woods and stopped by a small watercourse – this opened up an interesting discussion around funding opportunities for rewilding, and why Laura prefers to be a proxy beaver for now, rather than attempt to reintroduce this species at Embercombe.
As a wildlife warden myself I was interested in how to start conversations about things like habitat connectivity and land management with local farmers and landowners, so couldn’t resist getting a question in myself – which then led to an interesting conversation about the plight of farmers and how important it is to listen and understand the position of others before barreling in with suggestions for how to improve things.
CLIP OF QUESTION FROM ME
By this time, everyone was getting a bit cold and soggy, so we headed back to the yurt for a cuppa, slice of cake and a chance to ask any last questions before rounding off the day.
Huge thanks again to Laura and Kate for allowing me to come along and make some recordings, it was a really interesting afternoon and your initiative is just so worthwhile – I hope it’s a huge success and we hope to get an update from you on how it’s going some time in the future.
Moving on, there are a couple of other initiatives I wanted to mention which are related to identifying and linking up wild spaces.
One is being run by the wildlife trusts – They are creating a map of areas across the UK that shows where people want to see nature recover, or where nature needs help to recover more quickly. In the future, these areas could help form a ‘Wildbelt‘ of protected areas. These green spaces would allow nature to thrive, help soak up carbon emissions, and help with extreme weather events.
The second one is being run by the Devon Rewilding Network – they are a group of people in Devon who are interested in rewilding – you need to join up to access their materials, but they are also creating a map of wild spaces in Devon with the aim of creating more space and accessibility for wildlife.
As usual, I will include a link in the episode notes for both of these in case you’d like to take a look or get involved.
Or if you want to look closer to home and support your local parish or ward in creating joined up wild spaces for wildlife, a great place to start is by looking at maps. Satellite maps of your area can give you an idea of where woodlands, meadows and other green spaces currently exist and you can also get an idea of connectivity by looking at things like the hedgerows and verges that run between them – if you can identify areas which lack a corridor for nature to move through, perhaps you can work with local councils, farmers or landowners to figure out a way to help link up different sites for wildlife. Although this isn’t the easiest project, it is one that can add a lot of value for wildlife, so it’s well worth thinking about.
Or you can simply try to create more wild spaces yourself to provide wildlife with stepping stones – you could do this by simply leaving areas of your garden more wild, or by doing things like cutting hedges less frequently or leaving grass to grow for more of the year – there are a ton of ideas out there for wildlife gardening so I won’t go into them all now but creating your own oasis for nature can help in the fight against nature’s decline.
MOving on, and as usual I put feelers out to ask if any other wildlife wardens had anything they’d like to contribute for this podcast. I heard from Robin in Ideford who is doing a slug pellet amnesty. If you weren’t already aware, metaldyhyde slug pellets are going to be illegal from the end of this month – which is great news for wildlife because the poisonous pellets not only kill slugs, but they can also harm other animals which eat the slugs, such as hedgehogs, toads and song thrushes. So now is a great time to have a look in your garage or shed to see if you have any of these poison pellets to dispose of. If you live in Ideford, Robin is happy to collect up your unwanted pellets and dispose of them for you – and I am happy to do the same here in Abbotskerswell – but if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a wildlife warden handy to do this for you, you can simply take them to your local recycling centre where they will be disposed of safely – provided you don’t have more than 5 litres of them – which is then classed as commercial waste.
Here in Abbotskerswell we have also been busy organising an orchard tidy up and we are also working towards doing a churchyard survey as a first step in helping our church to become an eco church. We also heard back from the hedge tag trial – which you may recall me mentioning in the last episode. Sadly, the trial was not a success and hedge tags will not be created from offcuts of sails in future – this is because the fabric started to snag and fragment in the wind, posing a potential risk to other wildlife as well as a risk of dispersing plastic fibres into the environment. It was worth a go – but on this occasion it didn’t work out.
And just to finish off this episode, there are a few events coming up that I wanted to mention.
The first is being run by the Dartmoor Local Nature Partnership – they have an online webinar taking place on the 29th March from 9.30am until 11.30am and the topic is “Natures role in tackling the climate crisis”. This event is free to sign up for and I’ll stick a link in the episode notes.
Dartmoor National Park are also organising events again that you can actually go along to – a sure sign that this pandemic must finally be waning! They are running a public BioBlitz (an event where people record as much wildlife as possible at a specific location) at Haytor on Saturday the 7^th of May and another at Yarner Wood on Sunday the 8^th of May.
To take part in this, you need to download the iNaturalist app and sign up for the UKNational Parks Look Wild Project – I’d suggest doing this before the day because phone signal on Dartmoor can be patchy at best!
Devon Wildlife Trust have a host of interesting events coming up – from shoreline surveys at Wembury Beach to Bat Talks, Lichen Surveys and even a musical tribute to the beauty of the natural world – I’ll put a link to their general events page in the notes so you can have a browse if you’re interested.
Anyway – with spring well and truly sprung if the weather this week is anything to go by, there are bound to be loads of things going on so keep an eye out and feel free to get in touch if you see something worth sharing.
But for now, I am going to leave it there for this episode, and will sign off as usual by saying that I hope you feel inspired to do something, however small to help your local wildlife.
This podcast was narrated and produced by me, Emily Marbaix. Music by
by Poddington Bear
ACT’s Wildlife Warden Scheme is run by the Action on Climate in Teignbridge (www.actionclimateteignbridge.org) Ecology Group. The idea is to have Wildlife Wardens in every Teignbridge Parish who can help their local nature in a wide variety of ways – through promoting wildlife gardening, recording local wildlife, improving local habitats, working with clubs and schools, keeping an eye on planning applications and development and more! ACT’s Wildlife Warden Scheme would not be possible without the generous assistance of: Devon Environment Foundation; Teign Energy Communities’ Community Fund; Cllr Jackie Hook’s DCC Locality Fund; Dartmoor National Park Authority; the Nineveh Trust; anonymous donors. Many thanks to all.
Links referenced in episode:
This podcast was written, presented and produced by Emily Marbaix. Music by Poddington Bear