This year, Oxford Nature Conservation Society kicked off with a guided tour of the wonderful Wytham Woods from Head Forester Nigel Fisher.
After a cycle up to the woods from Balliol College (well, in my case a cycle and a walk because you can always rely on your bike to break down mid-cycle!) in the surprisingly nice British weather, a mixture of Undergraduates and Graduates were ready to learn all about what was occurring under the branches.
If anyone knows what is going on in the woods, it’s Nigel (Although our very own President, Abigail, wasn’t too shabby herself!). First we talked about the management of deer within the woods and how nobody, no matter what techniques they used (from scat counting to high-tech infra-red helicopter tracking), really knows the exact amount there. However it remains clear that an annual deer cull is necessary in order to allow for the rejuvenation of woodland.
We got to scratching our heads when asked why some bird eggs are spotted (it’s the calcium levels!) and how studies in the woods have showed how the eggs are becoming spottier (due to lower calcium levels) within the past years. We were showed how, even though Bluebells have spread throughout the UK in a relatively short amount of time, they are unable to make a jump of less than 30 feet for hundreds of years.
Our President talked to us about the studies on the Bat and Badger populations within the woodland, from her own experiences in working on these projects during her degree.
Finally we called in on the Wytham Woods artists in their little wooden hut, who explained how they try to use art depicting nature to generate discussion from members of the public on the larger issues facing the environment today, such as Climate Change.