Thursday, 3 February 2011

Too Good to Burn

A day which started misty with ice on the ground cleared to pleasantly warm sunshine. The "Volunteer Thursday" magic had worked again. Once again today we were clearing scrubby willow from the old silt pond where we plan to make a series of small ponds for the Million Ponds Project and refurbishing the sand martin bank. When we clear trees and with the dense growth of scrubby willows and extensive areas of unmanaged landscape plantings we have to clear quiet a bit, we never burn up the brash. This is not laziness it is because dead wood is a valuable resource.
The reserve has very little dead wood habitat, not surprising as most of the woodland is very young, one of the few areas with a lot is in the alder carr south of the Centre where many trees have succumbed to phytophora disease. Dead trees harbour lots of life, the larvae of beetles are often eaters of wood and in turn get eaten by birds such as woodpeckers. Dead wood in water is favoured by lots of fly larvae and there are specialists that eat certain types of tree or diameter of branch.
The tops of cut trees provide lots of small diameter twigs and branches, as well as being food, these can be used to create dead hedges, providing low dense cover, used by nesting birds and as cover to avoid predators. They are also popular with reptiles and amphibians.
A dead hedge does not last long, the small branches breakdown in a couple of years or so, but in this time they can provide support for brambles to grow through and so make a more permanent habitat, especially popular with nesting birds. A bramble hedge also makes a great barrier and is cheaper, more effective and longer lasting than a fence.
I saw rather little today, using a chainsaw and spending too long in the office does not make for good wildlife sightings. That said I did see a bittern as I opened the Ivy North hide. The reserve was very busy though and lots of other people did see all sorts of wildlife. The great white egret was on Ivy Lake for much of the day and bittern was seen on and off all day, both the egret and bittern were seen catching fish, in both cases they looked like rudd or roach. Over on Rockford Lake at least one smew was seen and best of all a lesser spotted woodpecker was found by the volunteers as they walked along the Dockens Water path to the worksite for the morning task.

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