Squires Down, Dorset: people working with nature

We’re delighted to continue out sponsorship of bird ringing at Squires Down in Dorset, a remarkable voluntary project which is playing its part in safeguarding wildlife habitats for, among other things, the Meadow Pipit pictured above.. One of those volunteers is Alan Masterton, Landscape Manager at out stockists Sydenhams, and the ethos of the project sits perfectly with our own.

The land called Squire’s Down was purchased in 2007 and was originally a stubble field. Planning permission was sought to change the use of the land to encourage wildlife and was granted in August of that year. Ground work was carried out during October and was completed by the end of the first week in November. During the winter and spring months from winter 2007 through to autumn 2017 planting of bushes and shrubs has been carried out. Grassland areas are managed to provide both short grasslands up to 2cm, and medium grassland with a height less than 15cm, while the remaining course grasslands with a height of up to 35cm that is not managed. In addition, shrub species are regularly managed, particularly along the boundaries of the reserve, to restrict their height and to provide a three-dimensional habitat that contains numerous plant species (e.g. blackthorn, hawthorn, blackberry etc.) that provide an important food resource for the migratory bird species. Many species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects are now regularly using the site in very good numbers. Further planting of bushes, shrubs and waterside plants were planned during the winter 2017 /2018, to further improve the habitat. The main studies on the reserve have focused on the bird populations, both resident breeding species, and the autumn migrant species that use the site on passage as they move from their northern breeding grounds to their southern wintering quarters, often as far south as Africa; this includes species that breed in Fenno-Scandinavia and further afield, and that visit the reserve as part of their migration route south.

The main aim of this Project is to develop poor agricultural land into a habitat that can support a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate species, with a particular focus on bird species; for the benefit of future generations, and to providing training opportunities in conservation, ornithology, mammalogy and other areas of the natural sciences. An important long-term objective s to demonstrate what can be achieved by purchasing a small area of land, in this case 11 acres, in the north of the county of Dorset, located some 30 miles inland. To the end of 2017 the project recorded several species of birds that were unexpected so far inland. The people behind Squires’s Down would strongly recommend others to consider similar projects, especially inland; if you produce the habitat, they argue, nature will follow.