Wildlife at Sutton Bingham

Wildlife at Sutton Bingham

Somerset

Enjoy a stroll through hay meadows

Hay meadows

There are areas across the site covered by different species of hay meadow, there is even a population of the scarce meadow saffron, which is also called Autumn Crocus as it flowers in autumn. 

Much of the grassland along the western side of the reservoir, through which you can walk, is maintained as traditional hay meadow. The meadow supports a diverse range of plants and invertebrates, such as butterflies, bugs, bees, hoverflies and flies. 

During summer, you can see flowers that used to be common on farmland, such as ox eye daisy, common knapweed, meadow vetchling, bird’s foot trefoil and salad burnett, as well as the scarcer grass vetchling and corky fruited water dropwort. 

This traditional hay meadow is of significant wildlife importance locally and is maintained by our rangers who cut the grass once a year and ensure no pesticides or insecticides are applied to the land. The hay is then fed to the horses on site as supplementary winter feed. 

Bugs 

The grassland around the reservoir is home to many bugs which are an integral part of the web of wildlife on site. A total of 632 different species of invertebrate have been recorded among the hay meadows, 21 of which are rare or threatened. 

As you walk through the meadows, watch out for speckled bush and long winged conehead crickets as well as meadow grasshoppers which may jump out from underfoot.  

Not to forget, the number of butterfly species moving amongst the grass and flowers.  

These butterflies include: the large skipper, brown argus, common blue, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, marbled white, meadow brown and ringlet. You may even occasionally spot silverwashed fritillaries. 

Along the edge of the meadows look out for mining, or digger, bees which nest in burrows in the ground. Mining bees range in size from about the size of honey bees to much smaller. The larger bees are furry and usually darker in colour than honey bees. Some are brightly striped, while others are a shiny metallic green.  

Bees are extremely beneficial insects, of considerable importance in the pollination of many different types of plants and their burrowing does not harm vegetation and may actually be of service in aerating the soil. 

Birds 

The reservoir plays host to at least 88 different bird species throughout the year, making it the prime location for avid birdwatchers. While some birds live here all year round, most are just visitors who come and go depending on the season.   

Raptors can be seen at any time of year, such as buzzards, kestrels, peregrines, sparrowhawks and during spring and summer you may even see a hobby or two. Also, keep an eye out for grey herons and little egrets around the edge of the reservoir.

In summer, the reservoir provides nesting sites for commoner birds, such as: blue tit, great tit, robin, blackbird, common whitethroat, blackcap, willow warbler, chiffchaff, nuthatch, tree-creeper, lesser whitethroat, spotted flycatcher, marsh tit and reed bunting.

Fewer water birds spend summer here but great crested grebe can always be spotted. Mallard, coot and Canada goose are here all year and are very easy to spot – with a bit of luck you may even see a kingfisher.

In August, the first migrant waders start passing through. Redshank, common sandpiper and green sandpiper are regular visitors if the water levels are low while whimbrel, little ringed and ringed plovers, black-tailed godwit and greenshank may make an appearance on occasion.

The reservoir is part of the route for many migrant birds in spring and autumn. Large flocks of swallows and house martins gather over the water to feed during their migration. In autumn and winter, look out for redwing and fieldfare in the hedges and fields.

During winter, the reservoir is very important for the variety of birds that fly in from colder climes to stay over winter, including: 

large numbers of wigeon  pochard  tufted duck and snipe  gadwall  Coot 

 

Bats

When night time strikes, a mixture of bat species appear across Sutton Bingham. So far, we have identified at least nine species of bat on or around the reservoir (with the most common at the top of the list): 

Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle  Daubentons  Natterer Whiskered/brandt Serotine  Noctule  Lesser horseshoe  Barbastelle.

Bats have been recorded throughout the site, but we have found they focus along woodland edges and several species constantly feed over the reservoir, including Daubentons, pipistrelles and noctules. 

The great expanse of water attracts Daubenton’s bats which feed on insects they take from close to the water surface. 

On the other hand, the woodland edges and hedgerows around the reservoir attract high numbers of common pipistrelles commuting from nearby roosts and feeding. 

Their cousins, the soprano pipistrelle are mostly drawn to the streams and rivers leading into the reservoir. 

The lesser horseshoe and barbestelle bats, which are some of the rarest in the country. Lesser horseshoe bats have been recorded feeding during the summer over the horse grazed fields close to the dam and a single barbastelle has been recorded in the woodland adjacent to the railway line.