The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is running a pilot programme to monitor hedgehog populations (NHMP). For this programme, a large number of cameras are deployed at specific sites across the country at specific dates, with 5 sites having been selected in Wiltshire this spring/summer. Volunteers are needed to help deploy the trail cameras at the site and check the images obtained. The Tisbury and District Natural History Society has its own independent trail camera project (more info here) but we would like to assist two neighbouring areas with their participation in the PTES pilot project.
If you would like to take part in the camera deployment aspect, take note of the dates and get in touch with us so we can coordinate our participation with the organisers of the sites.
Deployment day Thursday 4th April
Collection day Saturday 4th May
Barford St Martin
Deployment day Saturday 20th July /Sunday 21st July (TBC)
Collection day Monday 19th August/ Tuesday 20th August (TBC)
If you would like to help with image checking (identifying animals in the pictures taken by the trail cameras), please follow these instructions:
1. Register in the portal MammalWeb first.
2. Following registration in MammalWeb, please fill in this PTES form, using the same email address that your MammalWeb account is linked to. This will register you as a PTES NHMP volunteer, and you will receive instructions on how to take part.
For image checking, you don’t need to wait until the camera season is over, as there are already images from 12 previous sites across the country.
(c) Natural England (male hen harrier)
The talk last week given by Flemming Ulf-Hansen and Sofia Muñoz from Natural England was illustrated with photographs and videos from their project headquarters near Salisbury Plain where their captive hen harriers from France have spent a year acclimatising to their new location, surrounded by species rich grassland. The deliberately low maintenance management of the land on Salisbury Plain makes this location ideal for hen harriers as it is richly populated with voles and farmland birds like corn buntings, linnets, pipits and skylarks, which are the mainstay of their diet.
Hen harriers nest on the ground, preferring deep heather on moors or tucked down amongst high arable crops. It is thought that 50-60% of the young die in any year as they are vulnerable to predators such as foxes, badgers and stoats. Early harvesting in arable fields also brings danger if the nests remain undetected. The captive hen harriers in France and Spain have typically been rescued as fledglings from abandoned nests.
Male hen harriers are polygynous so they may need to supply several females with food, which adds another precariousness to their young’s chances of reaching adulthood. With 5-10 journeys to each nest per day, bringing food in the first 15 days, a male hen harrier has the sole responsibility for nourishing the chicks before the female begins hunting for supplementary food. With no parental lessons in hunting given, the juveniles have to adapt fast to survive when the time comes to leave the nest. Since hen harriers like to return to their natal area, it is hoped that any juveniles born this year will provide the breeding stock for the future.
For further information about this interesting breeding project and Natural England’s outreach work with gamekeepers and the farming community, please go to their Project blog.
Water vole (c) Steve Deeley
The Wiltshire Mammal Group have sent us information about an event showcasing the projects in Wiltshire for controlling American mink, as part of a wider Water vole recovery strategy. The event is being held at the Wiltshire Scout Centre, Potterne Wick, Devizes on Wednesday 27th March. Doors open at 18:15 hrs for refreshments and 18:45 - 21:00 is the timing for the presentations.
Professor Tony Martin of the Waterlife Recovery Trust will be their keynote speaker, sharing his experiences and successes. This will be followed by a series of rapid-fire presentations from projects within Wiltshire, providing a platform and route for potential volunteers to get involved, and for projects to learn from each other.
Full details about reserving a free ticket can be found here
You can listen to the interview Debbie and Andrew Carter gave on TisTalk episode 4 for 2024, about the Lifetime Achievement Award they received from Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in December. Tune in at
We are running another hedgelaying session at the Community Field (below the Nadder Centre and Skatepark) on Sat 10th Feb starting at 9:30am and finishing at 11:30am. We shall be providing tools and guidance. Just bring a pair of tough gardening gloves and weather appropriate clothing! No prior experience necessary. We'd love your help...
(c) Caroline Legg
On Thursday 8th February, we start our evening earlier with the AGM at 7.00pm. Doors and the bar open at 6:30pm. We hope that all our members will be able to attend the AGM.
Sofia Muñoz and Flemming Ulf-Hansen from Natural England (see below) will start their talk on the Hen Harrier Southern Reintroduction Project at 7:30pm. They will share updates about the conservation breeding programme for hen harriers and how the project team are working with local farmers, landowners, game keepers and conservation groups to alleviate concerns about hen harrier recovery in the region.
Having disappeared from the mainland as a breeding species by the late 19th century, hen harriers recolonised naturally in the uplands from the northern isles, but continuing illegal persecution of these birds of prey has hampered recolonisation in the south. In August 2022, ten captive hen harriers from a rescue centre in France were transported to the UK and they have spent the last 17 months settling into their new home and adapting to each other. It is hoped that in 2024 these hen harriers will breed and their progeny will be released wild into the arable landscape of Wiltshire.
If you'd like to read up about their project in advance, please see the Project's blog
Flemming Ulf-Hansen, Lead Adviser Salisbury Plain and Hen Harrier Southern Reintroduction at Natural England [B.Tech. Environmental Science, MSc Plant Science, PhD Ecology]
Sofia Munoz, Senior Adviser Hen Harrier Southern Reintroduction Complex Case Unit [BSc (Hons.) Biology, specialization Zoology, MSc Biology Conservation]
Do come and help with hedgelaying in the Community Field on Saturday 3rd February from 11am to 1pm.
You'll learn traditional techniques for hedge laying and help in the development of a healthy habitat for wildlife.
No prior experience needed and tools will be provided. It's forecast to be fine, so bring weather appropriate clothing and some tough gardening gloves.
Rob Farrington, Wilder Dorset Project Manager at Dorset Wildlife Trust, came to give us a talk about the development of the Wild Woodbury community rewilding project, from land acquired by Dorset Wildlife Trust at Bere Regis in 2021.
It used to be an intensive arable farm, with some square areas of woodland, but was very difficult to farm due to excessive water which prevented access to farm machinery during great part of the year. Huge drainage ditches had been historically installed to try to alleviate the situation.
Since its acquisition, the management practices by DWT have consisted in the restoration of natural processes, with inspiration from the rewilding movement and the Wicken Fen project. For example, the natural hydrology of the site is in process of being restored by removing ditches and drains, artificial fertilisation has stopped and extensive grazing by cows and ponies at low stocking levels has been implemented… Pigs will be introduced at a later stage.
According to Rob, the rate of change has been enormous and unexpected processes have been observed, such as the creation of spoil heaps from mice and voles. The site has a very varied geology, which makes the changes very interesting. We were shown pictures of before and after to demonstrate the changes. Biological surveys have shown that the numbers of invertebrates have increased (for example, butterflies have increased 62%), and therefore the number of predators of invertebrates (for example, harvest mice and birds such as nightjars and short-eared owls). The colonisation of the former arable land by heathland and acid grassland species suggests that the site may revert into a wet heath. The river leaving the site used to be brown with run-off; now it is clear, the site retains a lot of water which prevents flooding in the surrounding roads.
We are looking forward to our visit of the site when we resume our outings this spring. In the meantime, you can follow the news on Dorset Wildlife Trust website’s blog:
Between 11 am and 1 pm on Saturday the 3rd of February, we shall be hedgelaying in the Community Field, below the Nadder Centre. All helpers gratefully welcomed! No prior experience necessary.
On Thursday 11th January at 7:30pm in the Victoria Hall on Tisbury High Street, we shall be hearing from Rob Farrington, who has been managing the Wild Woodbury Project from the outset.
Rob will describe the work carried out to date, and discuss the prospects for the future and lessons to be drawn from this project for the countryside more widely.
As always, our events are free if you’re a member of the Society or under 21, and you’ll be very welcome to come as a guest visitor for the payment of £2.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
The headers display photos taken by our members. Do get in touch via the Contact Form if you'd like to submit a photo for selection.