Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A tale of two ponds and two mounds

Rushy Common Nature Reserve is maturing into a fascinating world with a great array of habitats and many species of animals and plants in temporary or full time residence or just turning up from time to time.  Managing the growth of plants and trees is a constant process and this winter with Pascale's (Freshwater Habitats Trust) advice we carried out some clearance work on the two ponds on the far side of the reserve that were becoming over grown with willow Salix spp and reed mace Typha latifolia. Digger Dave is very familiar with this sort of clearance work. He can select out short sections so that there is some change but not major disturbance unless that is what is required, as in this clearance of the edge of one pond. On the other pond he just took out five metre sections leaving the marginal plants for shelter for toads and invertebrates.

Pond before

Pond after: this looks quite severe but the vegetation will soon grow up again and the shallows created will be even better for invertebrates, amphibians and wading birds. Dave also cleared some sections of the ditch especially where brambles were starting to completely cover the water, leaving other sections with the plants in place for dragonflies and damselflies etc in the summer.

Unlike some other gravel pits and nature reserves there are areas of the site that are very high in nutrients causing rapid plant growth and a tendency for nettles to dominate. For several years we have been trying to batter the nettles into submission but this year we are trying a different approach on one of two  mounds of topsoil. One will continue to be mown and sprayed with herbicide but the other has been planted up with berry bearing viburnum shrubs. If successful this will provide a good area for small birds nesting in spring and with berries that will feed birds and small mammals in winter. We might then plant the other mound up in future years. There will still be plenty of areas of nettle for peacock and other butterflies to feed and lay their eggs.

Viburnum planting in the foreground, nettle mound in the background

Great to see coltsfoot  Tussilago farfara about to burst open from a rough and stony patch over a bridge.

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