Category Archives: FNW

Saving Swifts – the Normandy swift project

At one time swifts were a common sight in our summer skies, performing their aerial acrobatics, wheeling and screaming their high-pitched calls after their marathon journeys from Africa.  Sadly, these sights and sounds are less common nowadays since the number of these iconic birds arriving on our shores is unfortunately declining. 

One reason for their decline is the limited availability of suitable UK nesting places.  Swift conservation organisations (swift-conservation.org) are ‘doing their bit’ to counteract the problem.  Could Normandy help? FNW believed that it could! 

In 2018, the Head of the ‘Swift Conservation organisation’, Edward Mayer, had given a talk to FNW members in which he explained that Normandy should provide a good environment for swifts, and he recommended the Village Hall as an ideal building on which to site some nest boxes.  We learnt that the nearby bird reserve at Tices’ Meadow had erected a swift nesting tower.  Could Normandy do something similar?  FNW decided to take up the challenge; we would set out to attract swifts into the local area by providing, not a tower, but nest boxes on the Village Hall.  

Getting the project of the ground….

FNW committee members discussed the idea with members of the Management Committee of Normandy Village Hall who were very supportive and helpful.  We all agreed to place four swift nest boxes unobtrusively under the eaves of the Village Hall. The site selected was on the end of the building nearest to the car park.  We had to make sure there were no means of access for rats or squirrels; that the entrances were sheltered from wind and rain; and that the boxes were clear of obstructions to allow the birds to fly straight into the entrance holes. Swifts are tidy birds and the adults eat their chicks’ droppings so the set-up would be as maintenance free as possible.

Enticing the birds to their new homes….

Having bought some suitable nest boxes we had to think about how to attract some occupants.  We knew swifts had been seen flying around the area but we needed to attract them to these new ‘Des Reses’.  A recommended way of doing this is to play them swift calls, so we also mounted a small specialised ‘swift call’ mp3 player near the nest boxes.

Breeding birds arrive from Africa in early May returning to the nest sites they had used in previous years, hopefully in the local Normandy area.  Two-year-old birds return to the UK from mid-May onwards looking for a nest site, and to mate and start nest building, although they will not actually breed until the following year.  It is these birds that we hope to attract.  One-year old birds arrive in July and do not stay long, but they are looking for swift colonies to join so we could attract these as well.   With these dates in mind, calls are played from mid-May and continuing until the third week in July. 

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed and hope for success! 

It could take several years to entice the swifts to nest – this is year 2 of the project – but we know swifts have been spotted in the parish so we can hope that it is a lot sooner.  House sparrows might build in the nest boxes to begin with, but these little birds are also declining so that would be good!  We would just need to clean the boxes out afterwards.

From May onwards keep looking skywards and if you see swifts in the area please let us know.  If you see them exploring the nest boxes then that would be even better!

Top photo of swift at box by fs-phil under creative commons.

Two-hour ‘dose’ of nature significantly boosts health

The Guardian and New Scientist report a two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and well-being, research suggests, even if you simply sit and enjoy the peace.

The physical and mental health benefits of time spent in parks, woods or the beach are well known, but the new research is the first major study into how long is needed to produce the effect. If confirmed by future research, two hours in nature could join five a day of fruit and veg and 150 minutes of exercise a week as official health advice.

Why not come and join us on our next nature walk on Saturday 22 June at Henley Park Meadows, Normandy.

Photo © 2009 Pomeroy under creative commons.

Christmas Party and Competitions

Thanks to everyone who came for making our Christmas party a wonderfully fun event again.  As well as mulled cider, lashings of delicious food and great company, we had quizzes to test our knowledge on our local wildlife and our annual photo competition.

Christmas Leaf Quiz

Have a go at one of those quizzes now yourself…..

We collected and pressed 20 different leaves from deciduous trees from Normandy Common.  Can you name them all?  See below for the answers.

Leaf Quiz from 2018 FNW Christmas Party

Congratulations to Linda Pike for winning our annual photo competition, decided by votes from the Christmas party attendees.  This year’s theme was “autumn”, and here is the impressive winning photo.

Photo by Linda Pike

Answers!

The answers to the above Christmas leaf quiz are:
1. Elder (Sambucus nigra)
2. Ash (Fraxinus exelsior)
3. Rowan or Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
4. Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur)
5. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
6. Field Maple (Acer campestre)
7. Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
8. Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)
9. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
10. Grey Willow (Salix cinerea)
11. Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
12.Goat or Pussy Willow (Salix caprea)
13. Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
14. Hazel (Corylus avellana)
15. Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
16. Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)
17. English Elm (Ulmus procera)
18. Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
19. Lime (Tilia sp.)
20. Aspen (Populus tremula)

 

FNW at Normandy village fete

Thank you to everyone that visited the Friends of Normandy Wildlife stall at the Normandy Village Fete.

Nests displayed at Normandy Village Fete 2018

We had our display boards showing photos of wildlife in Normandy, and information about our past and future talks and key updates about Normandy wildlife.  We brought nature to the fete by displaying skulls and nests which people may not have seen before – all species which can be found in Normandy.

Nest made by boy at Normandy Village Fete 2018

We also had a  competition for our younger visitors.  Inspired by the real nests made by birds, they made nests of their own from clay, moss, feathers and more.  Here you can see our two winning nests: the above by Vinny, and the one below a joint effort by neighbours Sara and Brooke.  The young winners all received natural history books as their prize.

Nest made by girls at Normandy Village Fete 2018

We had a wonderful day meeting you all and we hope you enjoyed our stall too.

Friends of Normandy Wildlife

Do you love the countryside in and around Normandy? Are you interested in all the wildlife there is in the area – some of which is nationally rare? If so, then the Friends of Normandy Wildlife (FNW) may be just what you are looking for!

Formed in 2014 by a group of local enthusiasts, FNW is an organisation set up with the aim of fostering an appreciation of the beauty and diversity of wildlife in Normandy and protecting it for the future.

The parish is important within Surrey since it contains a number of Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) within its boundaries. The parish also boasts part of the Ash Ranges; this internationally important heathland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area.

We aim to record and report wildlife sightings across the parish and publicise Normandy’s wildlife to a wide audience, both in and around the village and through other influential wildlife bodies.

The Group is very friendly and welcoming and at present we have around 50 members. We are fortunate in that several of these are qualified specialists in ecology or wildlife biology who hold, or have held, senior positions relating to wildlife in national and international bodies.

Some members are local experts who belong to various Surrey and National wildlife societies; others just share an interest in nature and the environment and want to learn more about it together with friends and neighbours.