WITH few human visitors in recent weeks, a nature reserve has seen the effects of the lack of human contact, writes Philip Sedgwick.

Although there have been no visitors to Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve at Catterick Garrison, life has continued. Denied the support of its army of volunteers, the two managers Sophie Crease and Gerry Dorrington have kept its maintenance and routine tasks up to date. Now with some lockdown restrictions easing, visitors are gradually being allowed back in small numbers.

Wandering around the 100 acre site, Gerry points out the abundant pond life which, having been undisturbed by school parties, has increased. He explained: “Normally we have several school parties every week; our only visitor was a boy who asked to come on his fifth birthday and it would have been mean to deny him.

“There are lots of tadpoles so when our young visitors come it will be a field day for them.”

The closure coincided with the spring bird nesting season which has revealed some surprises. A family of barn owls had their home invaded by jackdaws and had to be dug out from the infiltrators’ newly-overlaid nesting and were luckily still alive. Checking on this and other nesting boxes they have seen an abundance small mammals such as field voles – in one box bird ringers discovered 46 dead voles.

Doing the rounds, upwards of 200 young birds have been ringed at Foxglove with further work planned as many are too small to have a metal ring fitted. They have seen black headed gulls, great tits, blue tits, coat tits, tree creepers, yellowhammer and many more. Some species don’t use nest boxes and monitoring their success for conservation is a much more time consuming task.

As more people have use their newly-enforced leisure time to forge closer links with nature there are two schools of thought; has the natural world expanded during the lockdown or are we just more aware of it? Readers’ pictures in the D&S and social media are ablaze with the public’s stunning pictures of wildlife discoveries.

Deborah Millward of Yoredale Natural History Society, said: “I think we have had more time on our hands, we have conscientiously gone out as instructed for our exercise and just taken things more slowly and appreciatively. The scientist in me says there cannot be more wildlife, it has not had time to multiply, but it has taken advantage of less human and vehicular traffic and moved into unexpected places.”