On Thursday the volunteers had a multiple choice of jobs to work on – Emily’s wild garden, potting up in the greenhouse, grass burning at Piccadilly Hill, or scrub clearance near Step’s Hill. The majority of the thirty four volunteers took a hike over Step’s Hill.
No vegetation is more maligned than scrub, and it is often underrated as a bird habitat. Scrub clearance might encourage the appearance of butterflies and wild flowers but it is detrimental to some birds, so a balance needs to be reached. The essential features of scrub are that it is composed of woody shrubs or small trees, and that it is a transitional stage between the open land and woodland. Only rarely in our region does scrub form a relatively stable vegetation – the mature thickets around the Beacon fall into this category. A mixed scrub commonly includes privet, hawthorn, blackthorn, wayfaring tree, traveller’s joy, holly, spindle berry and the now scarce juniper. Scrub is a rich habitat for birds. Scrub bird communities are highly dynamic, changing rapidly with the growth of the vegetation. As scrub invades the grassland and gradually forms a closed canopy Skylarks quickly decline while Meadow Pipits remain abundant on sparse scrub. Species characteristic of open-canopy scrub include Tree Pipit, Whitethroat, Linnet, and Yellowhammer. Reports conclude that the total number of breeding birds and their overall density increase with scrub development. Outside of the breeding season the large quantities of berries provided by scrub form an important food resource for migrant warblers, and thrushes in Autumn and Winter. Many areas of scrub are also used by roosting passerines.
Thanks to Richard Gwilt for the photos.