The wildlife at Yeovil Country Park has been well documented since 1998 thanks to the dedication of the volunteers from the Yeovil Area Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust (formerly Yeovil & District Natural History Society) and the countryside rangers based at Yeovil Country Park.
Over 889 invertebrates have been recorded from the commonly seen dock bug (spotted in numerous numbers munching through dock leaves in spring) to the less common Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which may be spotted in the summer feeding on honeysuckle.
The most commonly seen insects at the country park during summer are the butterflies. You will see Peacock, small Tortoishell, Brimstone and Red Admiral whilst walking around the park on a warm summers day. Some of the best places to spot butterflies are near the café on the wildflower meadows in summer and along the main paths at riverside walk.
Down at Riverside walk if you look closely you may even spot Holly Blue and green-veined White, Clouded yellow.
Photo by Matt King Wildside Photography www.mattkingimages.com
Dragonflies and damselflies are also plentiful at Ninesprings due to the abundance of water and emergent vegetation on which they can lay their eggs. Sometimes the meadows can be heavily patrolled by hunting dragonflies, waiting to catch smaller insects on the wing. The most commonly seen species are banded and beautiful demoiselles, large red damselflies and common darter.
Although Yeovil Country Park is an urban edge country park it is not without its nationally rare and protected mammals. The most easily seen mammals (or signs of it) are badgers that inhabit the banks of Ninesprings and in the borders at Penn Hill Park. Large mounds of earth easily identify their sett and their well used paths through vegetation can be easily spotted in summer, plus scuffed turf and holes dug in the wood chipping path ways such as in the wildlife garden are caused by badgers when looking for earth worms to scoff.
The brooks, springs, lakes, ponds and river Yeo that make up Yeovil Country Park provide extensive networks of water expanses which attract mammals such as the rare and elusive otters and water voles. You can look for whether otters are present by keeping an eye out for spraints, footprints and feeding. Signs can be seen along the whole stretch of the country park from Dodham brook and the lower lakes of Ninesprings to the River Yeo at Riverside walk. If you are lucky you may spot a lone dog otter in the river or maybe even a female with her kits.
Water voles have been established in Dodham Brook for many years now and surveys are carried out each year to check on the strength of the population. Again these mammals are rarely seen in the brook but feeding signs and latrines identify their presence. The rarest mammals that you are almost guaranteed to see during the summer months are bats. Seven species of bat have been recorded feeding in the country park, the Common pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Serotine, Noctule, Daubenton’s, Brown long eared and Lesser Horseshoe. It is very difficult to identify where the bats roost but a combination of mature trees and surrounding buildings is most likely. The Daubenton’s are water specialists and their large feet enable them to take insects off the water’s surface. They provide fantastic entertainment over the lake at Ninesprings of an evening.
The country park is also home to a number of aquatic and semi aquatic animals including frogs and toads, smooth and palmate newts, roach and stickleback fish. Slow worms and grass snakes are also found across the park but they tend to be found in the quieter areas of the park as they are easily disturbed by vibrations from walking people and dogs.
We are lucky enough to have a returning visitor in the shallows of the lake at Ninesprings. A lovely Water Rail shows itself in October-November during migratory season. Little grebes are other returning winter visitors.
At the end of the year the rangers were lucky enough to have their first sighting of a Flyagaric toadstool in the park. Devils finger and the beautiful coral fungus were also in bloom.
Did you know nearly 100 species of birds have been seen at Yeovil Country Park!
Thanks to volunteers from the Yeovil & District Wildlife Recording Group, the new updated species lists for both country parks is now available to view online. The species lists are a useful tool in planning future management works at the country parks and help the rangers to look after the rare and specialist species that may need protecting through careful and sensitive management. The wealth of knowledge that this group of volunteers have about the natural world is incredible.
If you have a passion for wildlife recording and would like to help with species surveys at Ham Hill, Yeovil Country Park or Chard Reservoir please get in contact with the countryside team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org