When managing and enhancing sites for nature conservation benefit or public access and enjoyment, it is important to monitor whether changes have produced the desired result and to identify people’s aspirations and satisfaction levels.
Wildlife surveys are varied, but generally relate to the monitoring of populations of certain species. These can be for specific species to determine whether they are benefiting from management work aimed at maintaining/enhancing their habitats e.g. Great Crested Newt surveys at Fens Pools and Barrow Hill in liaison with the Pensnett Wildlife Group to measure the success of excavating new ponds. Surveys may be more general in nature e.g. Common Bird Census and butterfly transect at Wren’s Nest and bird ringing at Saltwells; these methods are used to monitor populations of particular groups of species and identify any positive or negative trends in their numbers. Alternatively, surveys may cover many species within a specific area e.g. recent ecological survey of Saltwells Wood by University of Wolverhampton students for the preparation of a woodland management plan.
Surveys are often part of a larger initiative e.g. Great Crested Newt is a Biodiversity Action Plan species, whilst the Wren’s Nest Common Bird Census and butterfly transect and Saltwells bird ringing are national initiatives. Therefore, data collected locally often contributes towards national and regional assessments of species’ fortunes and formulation of policies and priorities e.g. as part of the review of the Birmingham and Black Country Biodiversity Action Plan.
Site user surveys were conducted during summer 2002 at Bumble Hole, Cotwall End Valley, Fens Pools, The Leasowes, Saltwells and Wren’s Nest. The survey revealed some interesting statistics about the 233 visitors interviewed:
- Over 50% visited daily and 80% did so at least once a month.
- Nearly 50% of visitors walked their dog, whilst another 25% visited for the purpose of casual walking.
- Over 50% normally travelled on foot to the site, whilst another 33% usually drove.
- Over 50% visited with family or friends, but nearly 50% visited alone.
- 64% liked the scenery, 58% the wildlife and 52% each the open space / freedom and that the site was close to home.
- 66% felt that the level of maintenance of trees, shrubs and other vegetation was good or excellent.
- Opinions were varied over what improvements people most liked to see carried out, but the most popular were more seats (24%) and reduced litter (22%).
The site user surveys were repeated during summer 2005 across all of the above sites plus Barrow Hill.