Wanted: Trees – dead or alive

2 May

The natural environment around the village is heavily managed by farmers, estate owners, gardeners, the church etc and it’s generally quite tidy with trees typically in hedgerows and along field boundaries. The environment has suffered from some ‘natural’ issues such as Dutch Elm disease which killed some 25 millions trees in the UK in the 1980’s (and we could be faced with Ash trees dying through a new disease appearing at the moment).

When the trees growing in hedgerows die they are both cut down AND not replaced which means we end up with empty hedgerows like the ones on the road towards Norton where there are no trees at all for some long sections.

Many birds, insects, fungi, lichen and plants need the tree lined field boundaries to survive. Some recent research by Butterfly Conservation found that farmers setting aside the edges of their fields to wildlife did increase bird populations the moth population only increased if hedgerow near the field edge had trees in it. Bear in mind Blue Tits eat some 35 billion caterpillars a year so we need lots of moths to sustain even the Blue Tits.

In Grove Wood there are a couple of pairs of Nuthatches (see picture) which need holes to nest in. If they find a hole which has an entrance which is too large they will use mud to line the edges of the hole to make it smaller – just big enough for then to squeeze through. This hopefully stops other birds such as Magpies and Sparrowhawks raiding the nest. On the cliff there are some Stock Doves (a bit like a Wood Pigeon but quite drab with no white marks) which also need holes in trees to nest in.

We used to have Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the area but they are locally extinct as there is little standing dead wood – which are dead trees left to rot and fall over. We see them as a hazard – birds see them as a home!! (There are some Little Spotted Woodpeckers not too far away in the Braydon Forest north of Brinkworth)

There are a couple of things we can do. Firstly more native trees could be planted in hedgerows. They could, for example, be marked with a coloured post to avoid hedge cutters chopping them in the autumn. A couple of local farmers have expressed an interest in doing this as it helps the environment but doesn’t affect the crops.

Secondly we should leave dead trees standing where at all possible. We do have the need to make things tidy – but wildlife needs it messy! If you have some hedgerows that could do with more trees let me know and I am sure we get some some planted next winter.

Lastly – please do come along to the Dawn Chorus walk on Saturday 4th May at 4.15am outside Stretchline



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