From badgers, owls and otters
The River Brue is one of the last places in Somerset where the native White-clawed Crayfish still flourishes. Signs of otters are regularly found along the riverbanks and there have been several sightings in broad daylight in the last couple of years. Kingfishers are present throughout the year, whilst in the winter months, noisy flocks of Siskins feed on the seeds of riverside alders. Grey wagtails have bred in the specially provided nest boxes under one of the bridges, where a number of bat boxes are also installed.
- We also have large populations of glow worms, slow worms and grass snakes in carefully managed areas.
- Nest boxes are provided to attract birds, including a large pole box (Hootie Towers) for barn owls, tawny owl boxes, a grey wagtail box under the bridge alongside bat boxes, and tit and robin boxes throughout the grounds.
- The River Brue which runs through our grounds, has the endangered native white-clawed crayfish, which have been monitored by the Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC) plus otters, kingfishers, and dippers; the riverside alders have winter flocks of siskins and redpolls.
- A large badger sett onsite ensures frequent sightings for all. Foxes, moles, voles, deer range undisturbed.
- We cultivate wild life attracting plants in our gardens, using a range of biological controls ranging from ladybirds to nematodes, to combat pests.
The nationally rare Rugged Oil Beetle which only inhabits a handful of UK sites is present and can be found on the open, south facing banks in late autumn. This insect has an extraordinary life cycle. We work with Buglife to discover more about this little known invertebrate.
The beetle lays its eggs in bare earth in autumn. The eggs hatch the following spring to produce a larva or “triungulin”, which immediately clambers up onto the nearest flower. When a solitary bee visits the flower, the beetle larva grabs hold of the bee and eventually gets flown back to the bee’s nest burrow, where it spends the summer eating the bee’s stored pollen. The larva changes into an adult beetle in the autumn, whereupon it digs its way out of the bee’s burrow to search for a mate. We keep some of the banks in optimum condition for the colonisation of solitary bees and oil beetles, in order to increase numbers of both species.
New wild flower habitats have been created around the site to help these and other insect species. For example, the “snake”, the raised area that winds its way across the fairway, was planted with a mixture of native nectar rich flowers including wild marjoram, birds foot trefoil and wild basil. Other scarce insects such as the glow worm have been quick to make use of these habitats.
At the other end of the food chain many badgers inhabit the slopes of Mill on the Brue, these plus foxes regularly check out our hens, rabbits and guinea pigs. Since we have re-established hedgerows this has attracted back many types of voles and mice and even the odd deer.
In the effort to improve our environment it will be interesting to see how many other visitors come to Mill on the Brue.