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Would you like to help the wildlife on your local Sandford nature reserve? Would you like to spend a few hours each month having a go at some practical conservation tasks? Then why not join one of the monthly volunteer work parties at Heyford Meadow Nature Reserve. Everyone is welcome!

The reserve is already a fantastic place for wildlife and I’m sure many residents have seen the site transformed from a derelict wasteground with mountains of rubbish to the peaceful wild haven it is now. My monitoring of the site over the last twelve months has produced a great variety of wildlife including 80 species of birds and 120 species of plants.

Fischotter, Lutra Lutra

European Otter

Even in the last few weeks in the depths of winter I have enjoyed some great wildlife. After thorough searching of the river bank I was excited to find fresh otter droppings or spraint as it is known. This finally confirmed to me otters are living along the River Thames in Sandford. They are very shy animals and are usually only active at night so your chances of seeing one are very slim. Their field signs, either foot prints left in mud and sand, fresh spraint or discarded fish meals, are usually the only evidence of their presence in an area.

A walk around the meadow this morning on the first sunny day for ages produced lots of bird song which is a true sign spring isn’t far away. A great spotted woodpecker was drumming from the belt of willow trees on the southern edge of the reserve and a couple of male reed buntings were holding territory in the wetter areas. These may well have been the same birds frequenting my bird feeders most of the winter.

Male Reed Bunting 3 (7314671288)

To maintain the current rich wildlife of the site and make further improvements, constant habitat management work is needed. The recent February workparty attracted six local residents who joined Andy Gunn from the Oxford Preservation Trust and Berks Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust to clear encroaching scrub from around the ponds. Without this clearance the ponds would become shaded and choked with leaves and would be less attractive to newts and dragonflies.

Andy holds regular work parties at Heyford Meadow so why not join him and have a go at some practical conservation work.

Sessions run from 10am to 1pm and the dates of the next work parties are Sunday 8th March, Sunday 12th April and Sunday 17th May. You can expect a warm welcome and tea and biscuits are provided. Please wear old and warm clothes as it can be cold and muddy!

Please contact Andy Gunn for more details: a.gunn@oxfordpreservation.org.uk, 01865 775476 (Ext. 237)

Colin Williams