A Site of Special Scientific Interest
In 1992 Haldon was the first man made forest to be designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in its own right, rather than because of the value the site had before it was planted as a forest. The designation was made because of our nationally important breeding population of nightjars, the range of butterfly and moth species, and the array of bird of prey species.
Designations are made on the recommendation of Natural England (formerly English Nature), with whom we have an agreed management plan for the SSSI.
Find out more about our Heathland Grazing Project to restore some SSSI area to heathland.
Today’s Butterfly Trail started life simply as a cleared area beneath the power lines which cross Haldon Forest Park. The wide low-growth corridor that was created on a south-facing slope became an obvious location for butterfly management. Volunteers began work in 1978, creating wildflower meadows primarily for the butterflies, but also hedgerows to shelter birds and small mammals. The number of breeding species has increased since the reserve’s creation from 12 to 34 butterfly species.
The reserve was increased in 1989 with the support of the National Grid Company. It was extended to a three quarter mile s-shape, preventing the corridor acting as a wind tunnel.
The trail was extended recently with the development of Haldon Forest Park, and is now almost three miles long. Work is still carried out by volunteers, mainly in the autumn and winter months.
Haldon is also home to the tiny dormouse. A protected species in Britain, you need a license to handle them. They feed on flowers, pollen, leaves, fruit, insects, and hazel nuts. They like a habitat that provides a variety of shrub and tree species, to ensure a continuous supply of food from spring through to autumn. This enables them to build up sufficient energy reserves to see them through their winter hibernation period.
Dormice are nocturnal and spend much of their time up in the tree canopy, so you are unlikely to see a dormouse in the wild. However, you may find discarded hazel nuts which have a small neat round hole nibbled in one side – an unmistakable sign of a dormouse.
We have provided 50 nest boxes for dormice in Haldon Forest Park, and these are monitored on a regular basis. Besides dormice we also find woodmice, shrews, and other small mammals using the boxes.
Nightjar Habitat Management
Nightjar spend their winters in sub-Saharan Africa, migrating to Britain in May to breed. They nest on the ground preferring clearfell areas, as their superb camouflage makes them almost undetectable on a floor of scattered brash and bark chippings. So confident are they of not being spotted by predators they will not leave the nest unless they are about to be stepped on!
They are most in evidence at dusk, and their amazing ‘churring’ calls can be heard across the forest from May through until August. You might be lucky enough to see one fly close overheard as it catches insects.
We carefully plan the felling cycle at Haldon to ensure that nightjars always have a suitable habitat available.
Birds of Prey
Haldon is home to a great number of bird of prey species, including buzzard, sparrowhawk, peregrine, kestrel, hobby, and goshawk. The occasional migrant has also been spotted passing through, such as osprey and red kite. Recognising this the Bird of Prey Viewpoint was created in 1990s. It provides a view over the Teign Valley and the surrounding forest, where the birds regularly ride the thermals to survey the area in search of prey.
During spring 2008 we embarked on a new project to place a camera on a goshawk nest and hopefully film the chicks growing up and fledging. We were successful on both counts, and you can view the Goscam footage and find out more about the project.
The felling cycle is also planned with these birds in mind, ensuring that there are areas of older taller trees available for them to nest in.