Badgers and Butterflies
The physical aspects of a SANG may be damaging to wildlife and the environment but the greatest ongoing threat, by far, comes from the visitors and their dogs. The SANG car park is to be situated some 300 metres away from the SANG, in contravention of Natural England’s ‘must have’ requirement to situate it within the SANG. This creates additional human activity, causing concern for wildlife habitats over a much larger area.
Barn owls hunt on the field where BCP is constructing the new car park (and we have the video evidence that shows this). To the west of the new car park, there is an area of particular wildlife value. In the Preliminary Ecology Report prepared by Abbas Ecology, it is referred to as Area 3a. The report acknowledges the presence of an active badger sett (a protected species), and in January 2022, there was clear evidence of badger activity in area 3a with considerable digging and foraging along the mown paths.
Area 3a is the only location in this part of the Stour Valley where this author has witnessed and photographed marbled white butterflies (Melanargia galathea) – in considerable numbers and including breeding pairs. In area 3a, this author has also observed and photographed breeding pairs of gatekeeper butterflies (Pyronia tithonus). Other species found here include small heath butterflies (Coenonympha pamphilus) and wasp spiders (Argiope bruennichi). Many other species have been recorded here; butterflies, dragonflies and numerous invertebrates.
BCP Council appears unable to provide a guide to visitor numbers but a BCP Cabinet report from 9th March 2022 indicates that BCP is likely to drive visitor numbers (Risk Assessment Item 1) and they have been very clear that they intend to drive tourism into the Stour Valley. The true biodiversity value of the surrounding areas needs to be acknowledged. During the construction stage, vehicle movements, construction work and storage of materials and equipment should not be allowed to damage these precious wildlife habitats. A credible management plan will be required for ongoing protection of wildlife and the environment, not only within the SANG but also in the areas surrounding the poorly located car park, along the route from there to the SANG and along other footpaths and cycleways created as part of this scheme.
Species That Currently Thrive At Hicks Farm
When considering the need to protect wildlife on the water meadows, ground nesting birds such as sandpipers are clearly vulnerable. With dog ownership in the UK increasing by 65% over the last 10 years (from 7.6 million in 2010/11 to 12.5 million in 2020/21), proper protection needs to be implemented. Human encroachment is detrimental but dogs off the lead are considered to be the greatest threat to all wildlife, including ground nesting birds.
Egyptian geese can often be seen on the water meadows, along with ducks and mute swans. Grey herons and Little egrets forage there, hunting for food ranging from small mammals to earthworms! Nightjars, a protected species, have also been observed here recently. The water meadows also provide a hunting ground for kestrels, buzzards and sparrow hawks – and when the sun sets, tawny owls and barn owls commence their nightly hunt for food.
Mammals also inhabit the water meadows. Foxes, roe deer and even otters have been observed in the fields. Despite their reputation as river dwellers, their holts can be a long way from the main river so the surrounding fields form an important part of the otter’s habitat.
Every species mentioned above has been observed/photographed at the site of the Throop SANG in the last eighteen months. In creating a biodiversity baseline for Hicks Farm, the presence of all these species, and many more, should be acknowledged so that they can be protected in accordance with the requirement to achieve biodiversity net gain.
Birds and Other animals Guy Finucane has observed - Not on the Hicks Farm Breeding Bird Survey Totals
House sparrow, House martin, Stonechat – male and female, Green woodpecker, Greylag geese – breeding – on riverbank with goslings, Mallard ducks, , Common teal, Goosander, Egyptian geese, Goldcrest, Jackdaw, Nightjar, Coots, Little egret, Grey heron, Kestrel, Sparrow hawk, Barn owl, Tawny owl, Redwing, Black-headed gulls, Common pheasant, Melanistic pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Little grebe, Starling, Common Snipe, Bullfinch – Male and female, Nuthatch.
Butterflies Observed, Not shown on PEA Report Small heath, Marbled white Ringlet, Clouded yellow
Dragonflies Observed – Not Shown on PEA Report Golden ringed dragonfly
Damselflies Observed – Not Shown on PEA Report Blue-tailed damselfly, beautiful demoiselle, Southern damselfly
Reptiles Observed – Not Shown on PEA Report Several sightings of grass snakes in the river. Dead specimen on Watery Lane 24th July 2021 is further evidence that they are present.
These are the surveys conducted by BCP at Hicks Farm to establish the base line for the new SANG
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