Across the nation kingfisher numbers have been dropping. The rise in water levels has meant their habitats are being lost. To help counteract this problem, our volunteer Rangers have built an artificial kingfisher bank. This is located on the north east bank of the lake, and is visible from the cafe area, especially in winter when the leaves have gone. We have two resident kingfishers who can be occasionally spotted in the Marsh and on the Decoy Lake.
In 2015, we introduced a new raft into the upper western area of the lake, to provide a nesting platform for our resident terns. This is made of fibre glass, with clear plastic sides to deter rats and mink. We were advised to retain the original wooden raft, to avoid confusing them. They very quickly showed they preferred the "new build" and moved across, with one nest and three baby terns.
The numbers of lizards and snakes in Great Britain have declined, primarily due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. Even on protected sites, they have not always been safe, as standard habitat management techniques do not always encourage reptiles to thrive.
One way of helping is the provision of hibernacula, or winter shelters, in which these reptiles can seek shelter, generally from October to February. A major requirement is that they are on sunny, south facing site, with good drainage and sufficiently deep to give a frost free environment.
We have constructed a hibernaculum on the northern edge of the Lakeside carpark, using drain pipes, concrete blocks, gravel and mulch, covered with soil, to create a bank. Hopefully, grass snakes and common lizards will take up residence.
We have a flock of over 30 heritage breed sheep, including Wiltshire Horns, Manx and Hebridean. These are used to graze areas of the Forest where we have previously cleared scrub, such as in Old Womans Weaver and near to Forest Lodge, to encourage the final phase of regeneration. Sheep are far less fussy grazers than cattle, so will eat brambles and hawthorn. They are present all year round and cause less damage to the ground.
Our Red Polls
From early May to late October, the plains are grazed by our Red Poll cattle. They are natural lawnmowers, helping to keep down scrubby plants and so encouraging the growth of native wildflowers.
The deer herd
Over the last decade we have been carefully monitoring our deer population. Students work with our volunteers using a variety of different methods to estimate the deer populations. Thermal imaging cameras, dung counts along a transect and counting the number of paths leading into the coppices, all help us to determine how best we can manage the health of the herd.
The lake has a population of signal crayfish. This is a non-native, invasive species. We are undertaking a wide ranging study to assess their ecological impact, including trapping, removal and study.