Every year we look to carry out some bare ground creation across our site and this year has been no different. Bare ground is an essential habitat for a host of invertebrates including beetles, spiders, solitary wasps and bees. These invertebrates often forage and make their homes by burrowing down into the exposed sandy soil, and these excavated burrows can be seen in abundance along the sandy trails across the reserve or at the bee amphitheatre, located near the Visitor Information Centre. These areas come to life during spring and summer with all the emerging solitary wasps, bees and spiders fascinating to watch.
Across our heathland we create an array of bare ground, ranging from our smaller ‘Dinosaur footprint’ scrapes (so called due to their appearance from the air) to large scraped areas. All these features have had the shallow topsoil and vegetation scraped away by a digger to expose the sand beneath. The scraped material is then piled on the North side of the scrape and compacted down to create an ‘invertebrate bank’ with a predominantly steep south facing aspect. This is designed for the steep aspect to capture the most sunlight and create warm conditions which favour invertebrates, basking reptiles and amphibians.
This management also resets the vegetation succession on a localised scale and provides opportunities for colonising plant species and lichens to develop, as well as creating a diverse heather structure with plants of various ages within the heathland. We hope that this management will also have the added bonus of helping attract Woodlark to the site as this species like to forage and feed in shorter, open swards.
Invertebrate surveys were carried out in the spring and summer of 2019 on some of the bare ground scrapes created the previous winter. Results included several nationally scarce species of solitary wasps and bee including a first for Bedfordshire (Nomada Zonata). Contact: The Lodge warden Alan Kell for more information.
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