Early last month, Forestry England staff and volunteers held the Big Forest Find at Savernake Forest – joined by a large number of visitors to the event.
The Big Forest Find was organised by Forestry England to mark their centenary – and to raise interest in recording the huge variety of species that inhabit our woods and forests.
The Savernake Forest event started on Friday evening (October 4) when local moth experts Dave Green and Sue Clarke were joined by Forestry England Ecologist Pete Devenport to carry out some moth trapping, which led to the first 19 species of the Big Forest Find being recorded.
Early the next morning, Matt Prior of Wiltshire Ornithological Society and his team set up a bird ringing demonstration at nearby Bedwyn Common, where members of the public learnt about how and why ringing is carried out, and were able to see nine different bird species up close.
Throughout the day, guided walks and family activities investigated a wide variety of wildlife in the forest, from lichens, fungi and veteran trees to mini-beasts, birds and bats.
The team were very pleased to be joined by local wildlife experts who led these engaging and informative activities, including birdwatcher Trevor Pinchen, fungi enthusiast Fred Gillam, Hayley Herridge of Buglife, Paul Rutter of Plantlife and Wiltshire Bat Group members Gareth Harris and Lisa Wade.
One of the organisers was Forestry England’s Abby Parravani: “Attendance on the day was fantastic, with 145 visitors of all ages taking part in these walks and activities.”
“A standout species recorded during the event was the rare and elusive barbastelle bat, which was picked up on bat detectors during the day’s last walk. Being an autumnal event, fungi were a key highlight of the day and the fungi walk was one of the most popular.”
Forestry England staff from across West District were joined by ten volunteers, including expert walk guides and volunteer facilitators who recorded wildlife observations, collected visitor feedback and generally helped to ensure the walks and activities ran smoothly.
Many of these volunteers were new to Forestry England and several are now keen to get involved in other projects: “It was fantastic to have so much support, many thanks to those volunteers who gave up their time to help deliver the event and to all the visitors who came along and took part.”
The Forestry England team received lots of positive feedback, with many visitors telling us that taking part in the Big Forest Find has increased their appreciation and knowledge of forest wildlife.
One of the Big Forest Find’s key aims was to encourage members of the public to record their wildlife observations using the free iNaturalist app. This was very successful at Savernake with 231 observations uploaded to the app to date. Behind the scenes, keen volunteers are working through these observations and helping to identify each species.
As the Big Forest Find project draws to a close nationally, Forestry England staff are now collating the data from each event in order to identify outcomes and evaluate the success of the project.