What do the new wardens really think?
A few weeks ago, I managed to convince the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership to recruit me as a Seasonal Warden. Result! New to the area and new to the role, I want to share some of the things that have most surprised and intrigued me since I started.
There are so many people out there interested in wildlife
When we’ve been out on the heaths, some visitors have seriously put me to shame with their wildlife knowledge! I’ve been really impressed, and I’m sure they will teach me a thing or two over the season. As I’m new to Surrey, it has been helpful to hear from the locals how the area has changed over the years. It’s clear to me that people care a great deal about protecting their local greenspaces.
The Ministry of Defence acquired swathes of heathland in the 1850s for use as training grounds. Since then, we’ve lost much of the surrounding heathland to housing developments. Now in 2019, Ministry of Defence training areas make up approximately half of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, providing a much-needed home for wildlife such as birds and reptiles. Amazingly, these animals co-exist successfully alongside the troops. As long as the land continues to be managed by the Ministry of Defence, the heaths and their wildlife remain safe.
There is no perfect way to manage heathlands
Heathland management is a tricky balancing act as there are so many different species to care for. Some birds nest on bare ground, while others nest in low-lying gorse. Invertebrates and lizards need exposed sand, but some reptiles prefer dense heather. It’s almost impossible to cater for all species on a single heath, but it’s easier to do when land managers work in partnership across the whole Special Protection Area.
Some rare heathland species, particularly nightjar and woodlark, are so well camouflaged that even the most frequent walkers have never seen them. It’s no wonder some people are perplexed when they hear that heathland birds nest on the ground! It will take time to spread the word to everyone, but I feel happy knowing I’m part of this ongoing journey to protect the heathlands.
It’s a privilege to warden the heaths
Sometimes when I’m out showing someone a rare bird for the first time, I smile to myself about how lucky I am to have this job. Every day I’m learning new things that I can pass onto the public. Perhaps my favourite fact is that the song of the coal tit sounds just like a teeny tiny bicycle pump – adorable.
Well, now you know what’s been on my mind for the last few weeks! I hope I’ll meet some of you out on the heaths this summer.