2019 / 11
Overcast with some bright spells. Mild 7°C
One of the primary objectives of the FC management plan in Hut Wood is butterfly conservation, in line with the 2007 – 2017 Lepidoptera Conservation Strategy
To that end, an application has been made to UKBMS that a transect is identified in the Wood, and registered as part of the national database and monitoring scheme. Working in association with Butterfly Conservation UK, FC intend to develop last summer’s cutting work with more detailed succession management this year, including removal of mulch, clipping and trimming edges in order that food plants and nectar sources can be encouraged. Primary species targeted are the Pearl-bordered and Silver-washed Fritillaries – both of which FC are confident will be re-populating the Wood within the next 3-5 years. The clearfell with its bracken and grass should attract Pearl-bordered and the woodland edges with bramble and thistle are considered ideal for Silver-washed, once they can establish a population of violets on the rides.
The increasing re-generation of honeysuckle looks good for strengthening the population of White Admirals.
Management of deer (12 individuals have been shot on the site this season) should enable flowering plants to establish too, and the general attitude is encouraging. It’s probably a Grade C site, deemed ‘favourable’ now for further investigation and investment.
I met the Solent Wildlife Ranger by the barrier (“it’s not a gate”) just after 1pm, and we headed off down the track towards the second quarter of the wayleave after scanning for the Ravens. No sign early on, which was a little disappointing. Apparently they have showed a lot of interest in the deer shooting for obvious reasons, and he has at times left some organs and scraps out for them…
“We might open up the top section a little, but I understand what you mean about leaving this a little wilder. What we don’t want to do is encourage a sightline through from the track at the top, but I think some cutting would be beneficial. I might take some of the trees out closest to the wayleave and see what that does.”
Stepping into Q2, we start to talk a lot about the equestrian presence, and the affect this is having on the grass and ride edges here. Further action is being considered. “Aggravated trespass”. It is especially disappointing to see how all the natural barriers to screen off Q2 from the track are persistently removed. But that’s because “they got a bit heavy handed with the tractor and have opened the end up, which is not what I instructed. Hopefully though, the bramble will soon come back and the gorse can expand across the gap.”
The horse riders like circuits, and various strategies are being considered to block up certain routes more structurally and therefore break up a ‘way round’. Create a few dead ends. “We can photograph whatever we do and if we see that things are being cut or moved, it strengthens the Estate’s case to charge with wilful damage.”
A surprise awaits me as we approach Velmore. Passing the chestnuts (and planted oaks), there is what I thought was a bay cut into the herringbone of scallops all down this section of the passage. Last one on the right, and just a few metres from the Velmore path. Walking to the end of here, it turns sharply right – completely invisible on approach – and follows a new line cut northwards and then northeast behind the trees and wiggles around the holly to the northern perimeter. A few metres of high holly, birch and some yews screen the cutting from the adjacent farmland, but as we proceed behind the Douglas Firs there are several natural ‘windows’ in the edge that afford great views across the paddocks and the road that serves the buildings.
It’s a revelation.
Along this transect, a stream has been exposed that runs out onto the farmland along the hedge line. After the rain recently, it is full and the water is moving freely. Some pressure has built up, forcing through leaf blockages. The birch has been cut with a tractor and sidearm, then laid on the right around and between some of the new young oaks. In a matter of weeks, honeysuckle and bramble are starting to grow among the laid birches. Several rowans grow here and have been left to provide food, cover and shape.
It’s an example of the ‘dead end’ strategy too. 100 metres ahead, the transect bends right and comes to an end up against the fence along the road into the farm. There is a plan to cut similar back up and loop into wards the eastern clearfell, but they may be next season and the two will not be linked.
Robins singing the spring song in the warm sunshine. Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Stock Doves nest in one of the larger old oaks.
I can hear a new sound, and we pause to confirm the presence of 2019’s first calling Chiffchaff. Above us, 3 Buzzards. Two adults, and above them last year’s (much paler) juvenile.
From here its back down Lower Velmore, along the muddied path and up into Q3 from the northern belt. I enthuse about Firecrests but we hear only one. Our attention instead diverted to the finches in the canopy and a singing Mistle Thrush on the edge of the track.
In the middle of the large clearfell, we undertake a cursory inspection of the ‘crop’. Scots Pine and some Douglas Fir are still struggling to establish, and there are signs of considerable deer grazing and damage. And there are TWO ditches, running in parallel from the birch line diagonally towards the East stream. One of these, on the north side, hosts the Reedmace away to our left at the bottom of the slope. I had previously thought there was only one. Between the two, there should not be new planting, and it is frustrating to see at least two lines of failing saplings. “They won’t survive, but that’s no bad thing. We need to stay at least 3 metres clear of the watercourse on both sides.” Rather too many birch trunks and heavy boughs have been allowed to lie in the streams.
Within this strip of land, and henceforward across to the track on the south side, it is surprisingly wet underfoot. Squelchy. Surface water from the recent rain in the furrows, but high ground water that has built up and enabled moss, fern and sedge grasses to grow. It is impossible to see any of this from the edges.
“Good for Snipe perhaps, and certainly Woodcock.”
There is a flutter of bird activity from a clump ahead of us, and our attention is drawn to what looks to be a cut area, a grassy and gravel stand. Around the edge, typical hazel, birch and holly. Glittering in the sun from a rowan – three more large bird feeders, full of seed. The BTO ringing group have moved their project a few hundred metres south to the other side. There are Goldfinches calling, but only one bird on the feeder, and that’s a Lesser Redpoll. Half a dozen accompanying Siskins fly off as we get a little bit too close:
We start talking about ponds and pools, suggesting this area down by the Reedmace. Scrape out a small area, pushing the dredging up against the bank of the stream creating a hollow which can be filled with run off from the stream via a new-cut short channel. Water can find its own way out from the back of the pool to rejoin the stream course. It would certainly be quiet, out of view from the track. Undisturbed. Nice.
A similar project – as well as, and not necessarily an alternative – is on the east clearfell, cutting into the East stream. Smaller, more sedge-y and grass fringed…?
We are discussing this option and, as if to prove a point, two Mallard appear from nowhere, rising up out of the grass and heading off north east over the Aviva pines. A second – and quite unexpected year tick. An omen. “It wouldn’t take them long to find any standing water that we create”.
Finally, the Ravens. We are heading up the track towards the vehicle as four birds appear from the Southwest, grunting and whistling to one another. We watch to see if they settle at the nest site, but they choose not to and continue towards the supermarket beyond our line of sight. A second local pair has been located in the Eastern Docks. They will be rolling and performing well any time soon, before the first eggs are laid.
It’s been a fascinating circuit. I love to find new bits of the Wood and to see it differently. new places to explore in my own time, with a purpose. Butterflies will emerge during April, and I have a project to be getting on with. In a couple of weeks, staff from Butterfly Conservation UK will be on site to approve the transect that has been sketched out as we walked today. To advise, and to listen. They will benefit from my knowledge of what’s here already, and the best places to see the different species. “We’ll advise what time of day to survey, and in what direction etc.”
Three years of monitoring perhaps, to see how the colonisation works, the succession management. The food plants and egg laying sites.
Warblers will love some of the sunny edges now exposed, and there should be some improvement in numbers there too.
“Oh, and snakes too. yes, bound to be. Leave your binoculars at home one day and I’ll meet you on a sunny morning for a snake survey. In the meantime, keep checking all these ditches and puddles for spawn. Even in the temporary water frogs and toads will lay eggs. We can always pick them up in a bucket and move them around a bit.”
I am so blessed to have this place, and these opportunities.
And this gull. Another yeartick (the third today) as an adult Lesser Black-back moves purposefully up the Bournemouth Road.
Check your email – I’ll send some dates.