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Work to save woodland birds to take place in Worcestershire

15/02/2013 16:36:46

Lesser spotted woodpecker. Photo credit Pete Walkden.

Rare birds to benefit from woodland work

February 2013. Work to improve habitat and protect declining woodland birds is about to take place at two Worcestershire nature reserves.

Funded largely by a Woodland Improvement Grant, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is about to undertake thinning and ride widening works in two woodlands.  Trench Wood (near Sale Green) and Monkwood (near Grimley) have both been the focus of previous forestry work and wildlife gains have been recorded.

James Hitchcock, conservation officer for the Trust, explained "The work we're undertaking is part of the long-term restoration of both these woodlands. Visitors to the woodlands have become used to work of this sort over the last few years. The areas we're working in and the type of work we're doing this year, however, are very much focused on trying to halt the decline of woodland birds like spotted flycatcher, marsh tit and lesser spotted woodpecker."

Marsh tit and spotted flycatcher
As we have lost woodlands and our traditional woodland management methods have faded, numbers of woodland birds have declined. Once common, birds like the marsh tit and spotted flycatcher now have red status - severe decline in numbers and whose population is globally threatened.

While there are a number of factors contributing to this decline, re-instating coppicing in woodlands can help. Coppicing involves cutting down trees almost to their base - the trees spring back to life with strong new growth, which can be cut again on a constant cycle. By managing on rotation, woodland managers can ensure there is always a range of habitat for wildlife.

March tit should benefit from the work. Photo credit Amy lewis

March tit should benefit from the work. Photo credit Amy lewis

Thinning trees also ensures there is a broken tree canopy, which means more light reaches the ground and allows a variety of woodland plants and wildflowers, such as bluebells and wood anemones, to thrive.

Woodland rides
The Trust will also be widening some of the rides that run through the two woodlands. As with coppicing, this promotes the growth of wildflowers - from primroses to common vetch. An astonishing 90% of a woodlands' biodiversity can be found along woodland rides and edges.

James continued "As with the decline in farmland birds, the drastic plummeting of woodland bird numbers is worrying. But it's not all bad news. We've been working on improving both these woodlands for several years and last year we recorded the return of spotted flycatcher in Trench Wood. This shows that what we're doing is working - we just need to do more of it.

"While we're hoping the work will help these three birds in particular, there are many more that will benefit from the work - garden warbler, blackcap, willow warbler and woodcock, for example. And it's not just birds - butterflies and other invertebrates will benefit too. Some of the work may look a bit drastic to the eye but it really is necessary for the long-term benefit of wildlife in these two beautiful woodlands.

"Along with encouraging visitors to keep dogs on leads and not straying from the paths, this work really gives us a great opportunity to give these birds and all our wildlife a real helping hand."

Both Trench Wood and Monkwood were once owned by the LG Harris Brush Company. They were both purchased by the Trust, with help from Butterfly Conservation, in the 1980s primarily because of their importance for insects.

LG Harris actively managed both woodlands to produce timber for brush handles. In so doing they planted many non-native trees but their management techniques created favourable wildlife habitats and, although the methods of management were markedly different, the woodlands retained much of their ancient character.

James added "Much of the maintenance of the woods is done by our volunteer groups. Volunteers across the county are vital to our work and I'd encourage anyone who's interested to get in touch - it's a way of finding out more about managing for wildlife as well as a great opportunity to get outdoors and get healthy.

"Not only will the work directly benefit the woodland and the wildlife but any profits made from the sale of the timber will be ploughed directly back into more conservation work on our nature reserves."

Work is expected to begin on 25th February and will last for approximately two weeks. The Trust is advising all visitors to Trench Wood and Monkwood to heed any notices on site and follow diversions where necessary.

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