Voluntary conservation projects

Re-introductions of dormice into Warwickshire

In recent years records of dormice in Warwickshire have been scarce and Swift has been actively involved in re-introductions of this appealing and endangered species into two woodlands in the county, one near Alcester and the other near Earlswood.

The Alcester woodland was identified as a potential release site by Lisa while carrying out an unrelated ecological survey. Aware that the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) was looking for potential release sites, and having a good relationship with the landowner, Lisa suggested that this site might be appropriate and following landowner agreement approximately 40 dormice were released in 2012 using specially designed release cages and a network of dormouse nest boxes throughout the wood. Initially the nest box checks, carried out by Lisa, Mike and a number of keen volunteers, found dormice in a few boxes, but they have not been seen for a couple of years. We hope that this means that they have found natural nest sites in the wood and therefore do not need boxes, but obviously there is no easy way of telling! Monitoring of the boxes is continuing.

Releases into the Earlswood site took place in 2009 and 2010 and Lisa usually leads one of the box checking teams over the summer months with help from other Swift staff. Numbers of dormice here are very encouraging, with nests of mothers and young found on numerous occasions in recent years. The site also has a good population of yellow-necked mice.

Lesser horseshoe bat monitoring

One of the most important lesser horseshoe bat maternity colonies in Britain is monitored by Swift Ecology staff at a secret location in a private residence high up on the Malvern Hills on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border. Since its discovery in 2003 the number of adult bats occupying the roost has risen from a June peak of 337 to around 700, and it now takes the bats about an hour to emerge through the single roost entrance via a gap over a cellar door.

With the kind cooperation of the owner of the property, three emergence counts are conducted each summer as part of the Bat Conservation Trust's National Bat Monitoring Programme; these annual counts provide an opportunity to share this amazing wildlife spectacle with small groups of volunteers, who can sit beneath the roost entrance as the bats light-sample and then stream by just over their heads on their way to forage in the nearby woodland.

Because of the lesser horseshoe bats' dependence upon safe commuting routes, in 2014 Swift Ecology staff supported the Malvern Hills Conservators (MHC) in a study of the routes followed by the bats post-emergence, so that these could be maintained under the new (MHC) management plan.

Pine marten recovery project

Ex-Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) employee Johnny Birks is still involved in providing advice on mustelids to his previous employer. Recently he and his scat detection dog Dooley have been volunteering with the VWT on their exciting Pine Marten Recovery Project: this involves restocking the sparse and struggling populations of pine martens in England and Wales with animals live-trapped and translocated under licence from the Scottish Highlands.

Johnny was involved in autumn 2015 in trapping the first 20 animals, ten males and ten females, and has since assisted with radio-tracking them as they established new home ranges around the carefully selected release site in mid-Wales. In spring 2016 Johnny and Dooley headed north to the Highlands again to assist with scat surveys of a new set of donor sites prior to the next batch of martens being trapped and translocated to a new Welsh release site in autumn 2016. So far the project has proved very successful, and there are high hopes that some of the females will rear young successfully soon.

Grafton Wood Bat Box Scheme

In association with the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and members of the Worcestershire Bat Group, several of us at Swift Ecology have been involved in a bat box scheme at Grafton Wood with the aim of monitoring the woodland's Bechstein's bat population. Grafton Wood is a flagship nature reserve jointly owned by the Trust and Butterfly Conservation.

This nationally rare bat species was first discovered on the reserve in 2010 and led to a very successful radio-tracking project in 2012 (see Project Examples page).

Subsequently, 100 Schwegler 2FN boxes were installed on trees in October 2013 and since then, regular monthly box checks have been carried out during the summer. Over the first two seasons, a total of 140 bats, representing four species, were recorded using 16 different boxes. Although Bechstein's bats have yet to be recorded in the boxes, it is early days, but it is hoped that the project will provide an effective method of monitoring this species in the long-term and help to assess the species' response to changes in woodland management.