Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Hooray for Hedges!

Eilish Rothney, Warden - Trinity Broads Reserve

This month in the Trinity Broads we are focussing on hedgerows. In Britain,  I think we have got so used to the gradual removal of hedges that it is only looking back that we can see how much has been lost, and with the hedgerows goes all the wildlife associated them.

In Filby a team of volunteers braved the cold last Sunday to plant over 300 hedge plants, filling in “gaps” where once a hedge would have been. Elsewhere in Filby the Monday volunteers have been preparing ground to restore nearly half a kilometre of hedge.

As linear habitat hedgerows can provide essential cover and food for many animals to move around. Bats can use them to commute to hunting grounds and some species will feed directly off hedgerow foliage, “gleaning”. Newts may use them to move between ponds. The more varied the hedge species, the structure and the base plants, the better the hedge for wildlife. Native trees and shrubs are always best, with hawthorn providing flowers and nectar in spring and berries in the autumn, hazel catkins provide early spring pollen for a variety of insects and the hazelnuts later in the year sustain small mammals using the hedge. Other shrubs such as fieldmaple, blackthorn and dogwood add to the variety and can provide dense areas helpful to songbirds looking for nesting sites safe from predators such as magpies and domestic cats.

Other wildlife using hedgerows include bees, butterflies, shrews, bank voles and even harvest mice; and of course, the wonderful hedgehog. The lovely hedgehog is one of my favourite animals, but its population has shown a catastrophic decline from around 30 million in the 1950s to only 1.5 million by 1995; latest estimates show that it has declined further, down one third in the last 14 years. Neat and tidy gardens, use of pesticides, impenetrable fences and walls and hedgerow loss have all contributed their decline. Feeding on variety of things, Hedgehogs can be helpful by consuming slugs and insect pests.  Keeping gardens hedgehog friendly and planting hedges as sheltered pathways helps these lovely iconic creatures roam safely.  

Hedgehog, photo by Tim Lake

The collective name for hedgehogs is a “prickle” - let’s hope that we can encourage their numbers so they can become a common sight again.

We will be having another Hedge day on Sunday 15 March see the NWT Living Landscape website for more information

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