One of the tasks that was on the agenda for the transition period between winter and spring was laying some sections of hedgerow. Hedgelaying can take many different forms and techniques vary from region to region and for what the end purpose is. Our efforts are focussed on creating a habitat for nesting birds as well as a structure to encourage other wildlife such as small mammals and invertebrates. For this reason we don't go for the technique that most people will associate with a layed hedge which does look great, but in wildlife terms it takes a few years for the hedge to regenerate.

Our approach is known as wildlife or conservation hedgelaying which is in appearance less drastic as we try to retain as much growth as possible. The idea is you make a chainsaw cut into the main stem/trunk of the hedgerow tree, far enough to allow the tree to be layed down between the horizontal and 45 degree angles. You have to be very careful with the cut as too little and you can't easily manoeuvre the tree, too much and you risk cutting through all the live wood and killing the tree. Precision cuts and some brute force make the job much easier! Younger stems can either be intertwined around the layed larger trees or cut in the same way and layed on top. As this technique requires very little removal of the lateral growth and the cut trees continue to grow, wildlife can move in pretty much straight away.

As the hedges are deciduous and leaf growth is only just starting we are able to do this with a good view through the hedge so that we can be confident we are not disrupting any nests, with the mild winter many get going very early which have to be very mindful of. We are starting to see blackthorn blossom and some leaf burst now so with bird nesting activity imminent we will only be doing this for a little while longer. The sort of species that will benefit from the hedges layed in this way include our migrant warblers like the blackcap and whitethroat as well as bunting like the yellowhammer. We would expect to see voles and mice making use of the hedge as well.

Elsewhere on the reserve we have been observing plenty of signs of spring with the first curlew arriving last week as well as oystercatcher, shelduck and ruff. However the wintering birds are still here with good numbers of wildfowl still around including shoveler, pintail and wigeon. Most people I have spoken with have been either lucky enough to have seen one of the short-eared owls that have been around or are hoping to catch a glimpse of one, they are still being seen almost daily. The hide is still well worth a look with an impressive flock of reed bunting, linnet and chaffinch with the occasional yellowhammer, lesser redpoll and brambling (although i've not found the bramblings yet myself, must try harder!). Highlight of last week has to go to a peregrine which was seen a few days in a row over various parts of the reserve but we got some great views of it out over the reedbed, wheeling around in glorious sunlight.