Ecology and biodiversity

March 7, 2020

We have previously described the scope of the environmental monitoring programme carried out in and around the site. In this article, Shane Tompkin, who has worked on the site for the last nine years as quarry development and operations manager, gives us just a taste of some of the astonishing ecology and biodiversity to be found on the site.

“Seen from the air, or close-up, Mountsorrel Quarry appears to present a very barren prospect, seemingly devoid of any form of life, just rock, no animal or vegetable.

“However, those privileged few of us who work here recognise that the quarry is full of unexpected wildlife, including a wide range of birds, mammals and plants.

“We are all very conscious of the effects we could have on the local ecology if we don’t treat it with the respect it deserves, and we are always looking to enhance that diversity, not just maintain it as it is.”

Ecological surveys of the site are regularly carried out by both Shane’s team and specialist external consultants – not just to check on current species, but also to discuss planned enhancements.

Where possible, Shane and his team take proactive action to enhance the biodiversity on and around the site. For example, the soil screening mounds (bunds) and verges around the offices and car parks are being seeded with a wildflower meadow mix to provide a more welcoming environment for both staff, visitors and wildlife, providing nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies.

As part of a habitat creation programme, every year, sand-like granite dust from the quarry stockpiles is used to create south-facing vertical faces for nesting sand martins. From March to October, this ready-made habitat regularly attracts over 100 nesting pairs of these rapidly darting birds.

The site team, supported by specialist external consultants as and when necessary, oversees a restoration programme which reflects the ever-evolving nature of the quarry operations, and the changing landscapes and biodiversity opportunities created by them. This flexible approach has been designed to work not just for the quarry today, but also looks forward towards the long-term future.

As part of the site’s natural resource management programme, as little as possible is wasted on the site. Rainwater is collected and then slowly released back into the environment when needed. Most of the soil on top of the granite is conserved on site for use in restoration and landscaping schemes across the quarry.

We also have an ongoing tree and shrub planting programme on and around the site. The planting schedule includes traditional trees and shrubs such as silver birch, oak, aspen, willow, holly and field maple. Willow is particularly good at putting nutrients back into the soil very quickly – providing a new habitat for invertebrates and insects. The quarry team has also painstakingly translocated hundreds of bluebells – all by hand!

Shane adds; “My team and I are extremely proud of the way we support the site biodiversity, actively encouraging new species into the area by appropriate planting and habitat creation.

“We all get a real kick out of seeing the sand martins nesting in the habitat we have created for them and watching the buzzards soaring into the sky on the thermals generated by the quarry.

“We are looking forward to seeing all the new wildflowers coming into bloom from seeds we have planted on the verges and bunds. We will continue to support the existing wildlife on-site and do our best to create further opportunities to attract new species.”

Did You Know

There are an amazing range of habitats found within and around Mountsorrel Quarry …….

  • Clean, running water
  • At least three different types of woodland
  • Still, brackish water
  • Maintained grassland
  • Settling and attenuation ponds
  • Wet meadows
  • Reedbeds
  • Sand faces
  • Scrub

There are also a wide range of breeding species, as identified from field surveys, found on and around the quarry. Here are just a few of them …

  • Bats – roosting, commuting and feeding
  • Moths and butterflies – at least 10 species
  • Birds – at least 15 species, including Skylark, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl, Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer and Buzzard
  • Amphibians – frogs and toads
  • Small mammals – rabbits, Muntjac deer, mice and voles – who forage for food and shelter within the quarry
  • Rare/uncommon species of craneflies, soldierflies, hoverflies and beetles and a new to the UK species of trueflies (Dipteran), found on a quarry bench
  • A range of invertebrates which prefer bare, open habitats like the quarry floor, include solitary bees and wasps