Bonfire and the menace of Buddleia.

The plan today was to burn some willow and birch cut a couple of weeks ago by the sand martin wall. As I have previously stated the local sparrowhawks had been taking nesting sand martins through out the spring and summer so decided to remove the trees and bushes alongside the wall to make it a little more difficult for the hawks to ambush the martins. Sixteen of us quickly had a bonfire going and made short work of the pre-cut material.

Some of the group stayed on and after lunch we set about clearing tall but thin birch, willow and Buddleia from a south facing bank, helping to create a nice sun trap and basking sites for adders and bare ground dwelling insects. To the south of this, we dug out birch saplings that were encroaching on to a nice area of grassland and ephemeral pools, this will benefit scarcer species of plant like mudwort and blue fleabane. This area of the reserve is reportedly a good place to see woodlarks in the winter, a bird which also flavors open habitats. Don’t worry we have left plenty of birch for other wildlife and a patch of gorse (gorse is surprisingly scarce on the reserve).

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Hard at work

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Birch draggers

A less popular task was digging out Buddleia which has been spreading like crazy in certain areas. Why do we want to get rid of Buddleia when it is so good for butterflies you might ask? Well it is a native of central china and spreads quickly and vigorously on disturbed or bare ground. Buglife – the invertebrate conservation trust, consider it an invasive pest producing masses of seeds, rapidly smothering areas of bare ground, faster than birch, grasses or gorse, and swamps habitats important for highly endangered Red Data book flies, beetles and mining bees. When Buddleia colonizes a site it does so with great vigour and the costs of removing it can be high. Although it can be a good nectar source for several species of commoner butterflies (peacock, red admiral), hoverflies and bumblebees (all good dispersers) the damage it does to rarer habitats and species greatly out weighs this. In the confines of a garden it can have a positive effect but left unchecked in the greater countryside it can cause a net reduction in rare and specialist invertebrate habitats and faunas. The removal of Buddleia from other areas of the reserve will hopefully allow other native nectar-rich plants such as fleabane, hemp agrimony, guelder rose and knapweed to increase.

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Mattook Mike digs out a deep rooted Buddleia

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Assistant Reserves Officer Adam turning in the fire

We took away a small haul of thin birch logs for winter fire wood.

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My best sighting of the day was this clouded yellow butterfly which only allowed me one (poor) photo before flying away with the breeze.

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Blurry clouded yellow butterfly

There were no more reports of yesterday’s grey plover but green sandpiper, kingfisher, the great white egret and red crested pochard were see from the Ivy lake hides, while some of us saw three little egrets and the great white egret on Ibsley Water at 1030ish this morning.

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