A new decade is upon us and climate change is receiving more media coverage. This in our view is a positive and will bring the challenges that lie ahead to the forefront of peoples minds.
It is hard to comprehend the volume of rainfall that has descended upon us whilst we watch the Australian disaster unfold. November and December continued to be as wet as October. In South Devon we had over sixteen inches for that eight week period.
Despite the rainfall we managed to achieve a lot through dodging the showers. We finished widening the West to East ride and planted out with various shrubs and trees.
During November we had a site visit from a local consultant Ecologist, on behalf of Butterfly Conservation. This visit was very informative and we were given a thumbs up to the work we have already done 😊. On his recommendation we have planted twenty five new shrubs consisting of Broad Leaved Privet, Wild Privet and Alder Buckthorn. These specific shrubs will provide a vital food source and shelter for many species. We will monitor their growth with the aim of protecting them from the browsing Roe Deer.
We purchased these plants from a wholesaler in Honiton and were very pleased with the quality. Having planted another 225 shrubs and trees this winter our total planted is now in excess of 430 since our ownership.
Two more glades have seen some work this winter. One of which is a smaller narrow glade that the Nightjar used last season. This involved the coppicing of three Sweet Chestnut and the removal of a few young Sitka Spruce.
There is still some work to do here in creating provision for some drop in zones for the Nightjar. This will give them more nesting options and hopefully it will make it easier for us to observe them. I am sure they nested last year, I saw two birds on a few occasions.
We have cleared an additional glade roughly thirty meters by thirty meters. This involved clearing sixty young Sitka Spruce and replanting the margins with a shrub layer of Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Goat Willow. This particular area has a large amount of bracken which will take some considerable effort to control over the next few years. Even though we will be controlling the bracken it will be left to its own devices in other areas due to its importance of providing cover and shelter.
Return of the Nightjar
We await the Nightjars return in May with anticipation, it would be great if we had a successful nest this year. We have a contact from a nearby country park who is licensed and would be willing to ring a chick. Their nocturnal habits and amazing camouflage make them a difficult bird to observe. They are both magical and mysterious and although there have been published studies on them we still have much to learn of their ecology.
Climate change and tree selection
Although we have cleared some areas we have also planned for the future and have planted species that once established can tolerate drier summer months. The scientists predict that we will now have drier summers and wetter winters involving more extreme weather events. So on that basis we have planted twenty five Scots Pine and Juniper both of which should be able to cope with our changing climate. Three of the Scots Pine did not survive last summer but the remaining ones are doing just fine.
In total we have added an additional fifteen species of trees and shrubs to our eight acre site and we hope that the new diversity, once established, will make it more resilient in the future.