Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Clear-fell good or bad?

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is chipping away at its obligations under a Plant Health Order delivered by DEFRA. The issue is the Phytophthora ramorom infection in stands of European larch that's best resolved through a policy of clear-fell. In Gwent characteristic stands of conifer plantations from Wentwood to Cwmcarn and all relevant points in between are being axed in an effort to protect commercial forestry interests.

My local patch at the Lasgarn Wood was one such plantation earmarked for felling. This raised a few eyebrows among local birders due to the presence of breeding buzzard, raven, siskin, goshawk etc. not forgetting the red wood ant (Formica rufa) colonies. For me, I am more relaxed, after all these trees were planted as a crop to be harvested at some point anyway. Its also fair to say that many of these trees will have been planted on ancient woodland sites and NRW is looking at this work as an opportunity to escalate their native woodland restoration aspirations - they are even seeking to retain some standing deadwood!

Like many land management perturbations there will be winners and losers but in this case the breeding birds affected are arguably of least conservation concern, although goshawk is a schedule 1 bird! The cleared land with its brash, deadwood and a few remaining sentinel like native trees that avoided the chop will be colonised by a different community of birds come next breeding season. The prospect of grasshopper warbler, nightjar and other assorted summer migrants is mouth watering and one that I intend to keep an eye on.  In the meantime a great grey shrike would be nice.

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