Update 8 April

Our wardens conducted a survey on Monday ahead of work commencing and as this showed an influx of spring migrants in the area overnight we have decided to delay this work until after the breeding season.

Back in February I wrote about some upcoming habitat management work to be carried out in front of Hanger View. The second phase of this work – installing the deer fence – will be starting next week.

Many years ago this area was much more open with a mosaic of scrub and grassland. Over the past 15 years or so this scrub has become very mature, starting to obscure the views over the wetland. It has also become straggly and shaded out any vegetation at the ground and field level which makes the area less suitable for nesting birds.

It is important to have a variety of vegetation ages to provide habitat for a wide range of species. New vegetation growth is particularly important for invertebrates, whereas denser scrub is important for nesting birds. Having these areas near to each other is valuable to provide feeding areas next to nesting areas. As the scrub becomes older, it degenerates and turns into poor habitat.

To create this required mosaic of vegetation ages, we cut areas of scrub on a rotation of around 8-10 years. However, due to deer eating all new growth, we have not been able to carry out this management effectively.

Fallow Deer (RSPB)

Fallow Deer have huge impacts to the habitats on our reserves. One of the key issues is that they eat young vegetation growth, in particular bramble and thorn. As a result, this stops scrubby areas developing that could provide vital habitat for species like Nightingale. By protecting areas from deer browsing, we will allow new scrub to develop, and it will also allow us to carry out rotational scrub control without deer eating the new growth. It will also create more open areas of flower rich habitat – perfect for Green Woodpeckers foraging for Ants.

Green Woodpecker by Chris Prince

We completed the first stage of the work in February, cutting back some of the scrub to allow access and regeneration, and the second stage of putting the deer fence in will start next week (Monday 8 April)

The fence will be 190cm tall to prevent deer jumping over the top. They will be made of wooden posts with wire mesh attached to them. The mesh will have gaps that are 15cm wide. This is small enough to stop both Fallow and Roe Deer, but allow movement of other wildlife like Foxes, Badgers, Stoats, Adders.

 Although this sounds like big fencing that could be an eye sore, we have designed them to have minimal impact. At the Hanger Viewpoint, there is actually a large drop down to the scrubby area, so you will be looking over the top of the deer fence and it will not obscure your view. And in most areas of this fence, there will be scrub and trees blocking your view, so most of the fence will be hidden from sight.

 The contractors will be starting the Hanger fence on Monday 8 April. They predict it will take them 3 days and say the first day will be pretty noisy with the post banger but the second two days shouldn’t be as noisy – probably mainly just the sound of their digger engine which will probably be more of a background drone.

All scrub that was cut for the fence to go in here was done over winter before the breeding season. We want to ensure this fence is completed before Nightingale arrive to breed in mid-April. This area has been surveyed for breeding birds by wardens and we are confident that the installation of this fence will have no impact.

We’ll be creating some additional ‘deer exclosures’ later in the spring – these will be installed in areas where there is currently no scrub so it will be fascinating to see how these develop over time – hopefully we’ll have more suitable habitat for Nightingales and other breeding birds in the years to come.

Nightingale by Graham Osborne