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Looking after Foxglove Covert’s rich array of wildlife

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Environment and Ecology

Many people might be surprised to learn about the role DIO plays in looking after the environment on the defence estate.  My name is Major (Retd) Tony Crease and I now work as a Deputy Commander looking after the training estate in the North of the UK.

One of my responsibilities includes looking after Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve.  I am proud to say that this work along with support from our volunteers has won us the Environmental Project Award at this year's Sanctuary Awards.  Foxglove Covert is a very unique and important place as it is home to many unique and varied species of plants and animals.  Catterick Garrison in Yorkshire, the largest garrison in Europe, is the home to this special place.  It is a diverse 100 acre landscape, including heather moorland, ancient deciduous woodland, moorland fringe, wetlands, rivers, becks and recently created plantations.

Foxglove Covert team at 2017 Sanctuary Awards [Crown Copyright, MOD 2017]
Foxglove Covert team at 2017 Sanctuary Awards [Crown Copyright, MOD 2017]
We are incredibly proud of how popular the reserve is with local residents, families, school groups and nature enthusiasts.  Since 1992 more than 750,000 people have visited the reserve, including 40,000 school children and 1,800 community groups.  Two million pounds have been invested in the site including funding from the MOD, Natural England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Richmondshire District Council.

Wetlands on the reserve are carefully managed which means rare species such as the water vole, otter and great crested newt are allowed to thrive.  We also record the various species of beautiful flora and fauna in the area including various flowers, fungi and lichens and share these findings with the relevant groups that record this data.

The area is supported and helped to thrive by a strong and supportive community of skilled and knowledgeable volunteers.  Volunteers are both military personnel and civilians and they support staff with an extensive range of activities to preserve, protect and record the many different types of wildlife that exist throughout the reserve.  For example, the moorland is home to various upland wading birds, such as golden and green plover, redshank, oystercatcher curlew and snipe, which are ringed with a small tag around one of their legs when they are young so that we can track their migratory movements.  This work has resulted in 225,000 birds being entered into the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) database, one of the best data sets in the UK.

Foxglove Covert [Crown Copyright, MOD 2017]
Foxglove Covert [Copyright, Foxglove 2017]
In total 800 nest boxes have been built and installed by volunteers allowing a range of owls (tawny, barn and little) to breed successfully.

Our volunteers also help us to raise funds in different ways including an ‘adopt a bird box’ scheme, raffles, quizzes, coffee mornings, photographic exhibitions, dinners and seasonal events.

This year the reserve celebrated its 25th birthday with a tree planting ceremony which included special guests and a BBQ for volunteers, staff and visitors.  It was a special occasion and a great way to celebrate the partnership working that makes the reserve the thriving and active area loved by so many.

Foxglove Covert 25th birthday celebrations [Crown Copyright, MOD 2017]
Foxglove Covert 25th birthday celebrations [Copyright, Colin Lyne 2017]
I believe that this group of volunteers, staff and friends is one of the most effective and credible conservation organisations within the UK.  It fosters a real sense of community and contributes an untold amount to the natural world and to the preservation of our natural heritage.  We look forward to another 25 successful years!

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