Once again we were lucky with the weather and it stayed dry for our Thursday volunteer task. Each year we cut some the willows near the Centre car park, either low down, as coppice, or higher up as pollards. This makes for a flush of new growth in the following season, providing a dense habitat full of insects. When the stems are pollarded it provides a supply of long willow “whips” which can be used for weaving and if we leave them for three or four years they become poles for shelter building activities. As they grow the thick undergrowth in these first few years makes great habitat for a whole range of wildlife. Our objective is to retain the habitat and the useful production of willow by cutting at between three and four year, or for weaving annually.
On Thursday we made a start on a section of pollards that are at the upper four or so year old, so ideal for shelter building poles. Here is the area right at the start of the task, you can see how the pollards are being cut at about shoulder height, this means that the new growth is just about out of reach for browsing fallow deer.
After a couple of hours work this was the result.
The cut material has either been put aside for use or used to build a dead hedge around the area to deter deer and provide a low dense habitat feature which I have found is often used by nesting birds, especially song thrush. This is a much more environmentally friendly use of the cuttings than burning them. Although the same amount of carbon might be released overall, it is slower, does not make smoke, does not sterilise the ground under the fire sites, disperses the nutrients more widely and provides valuable dead wood habitat, nest sites etc. as it decays.
Although these dense willow stands have proved popular with garden warbler and other birds, so far we have failed to attract the hope for nightingale, perhaps a long-shot with so fast a declining species, but you never know.
Unfortunately the day which started so well ended on a bit of a sour note. We received a phone call form one of our volunteers to say he had just seen a car run over an otter at Ellingham cross roads, where on was seen crossing last week. I went up there and sure enough there it was.
I don’t think this is the one that has been in Ibsley Water recently, but I suspect it is the one that was seen from Ivy North hide at the weekend. Unfortunately, after years of persecution and the effects of pollution, which reduced their numbers so severely, it is now motor vehicles that are by far the greatest threat to them.
How sad about the otter — a shame.