Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

25-01-2014 : Record breaking rhodo bash!

This, our final rhodo bash of the season turned out to be one of the biggest and best yet! An eager group of 31 volunteers from Kingston University, The Environment Trust, Marymount School and the local area put in 110% effort to beat the invasive shrub dominating our woodland.

Smiles all round - the rhodo bashing feel good factor is infectious!

We set to work on the edge of the woodland by Coombehurst House in mixed teams of new and experienced volunteers. Soon all were adept at using the tools and there was no stopping the enthusiasm!

There was an established stand and a patch of young growth, both of which would benefit biodiversity from being cleared. They required a different approach, but were equally tough, giving everyone a good workout!

It didn't take long to create huge pile of branches

Marcus and David team up to remove the heavier wood

Rhodo bashing gets the thumbs up - we know we're doing our bit for wildlife when we remove these dense, unpalletable and invasive shrubs.

The volunteers worked quickly so it was just as well we had professional help to clear the cuttings. The University's grounds maintenance contractors, The green Team, helped out by chipping the branches. This will be converted to mulch for the flower beds and borders so nothing is wasted.

Volunteers formed a production line to carry the branches

The Green Team assisted with chipping the constant stream of cuttings

Marlon opted to get stuck in with a mattock straight away on the younger but very tangly plants
At her first rhodo bash, Margaret started by tackling the smaller plants too, but soon found out this wasn't the easy option by any means, but very satisfying!

As we cleared the area we discovered several holly and hazel trees which had clearly been planted some ten or so years ago. Unfortunately the tree guards were still wrapped around the trees, and were causing visible damage. They then made the hit list too so volunteers scrambled deeper into the woodland to cut the trees free. It felt good to release the trees from the plastic and we may well be able to reuse these guards another time when planting whips on campus. They are a good defence against browsing animals and trampling while young trees get established, but if left too long they restrict and contort the growth of the plants.

Tree guards still in place in the woodland
...their removal was well overdue

...and the trees were beginning to suffer as branches had grown through the plastic and scarred the bark.
Down tools everyone, tea's up!
The group gather for a much-needed tea break outside the picturesque Coombehurst House

Admiring the sunny view down the Coombehurst lawn

After a well earned tea break a group of volunteers put down their bowsaws and picked up some binoculars to take part in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. This international citizen science survey has been running since 1979 and last year around 600,000 people took part, including University volunteers on another Rhodo bash day.

Looking to the skies for birds in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This year we wandered away from the noisy woodland where we had been working, heading down the edge of the Coombehurst lawn. It wasn't long before we came across a twittering and flittering bunch of little birds. They moved so quickly it was hard to get a good look, even with binoculars, but with the aid of our bird guide book we confidently identified them as Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) as opposed to their larger, black capped cousin the Great tit (Parus major). Having got her eye in for birds, Amy spotted blackbird (Turdus merula) and Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) in the woodland too.

Marcus and Tara try to identify the speedy and sociable little birds.
Along with Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Magpie (Pica pica), the group were treated to a great view of a Ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) inspecting an old woodpecker hole in an oak tree - a potential roost site for spring no doubt. The bright green, red-beaked bird must be one of the most exotic looking birds resident in Britain. In fact, they are the most northerly breeding parrot populations in the world. They would originally have called Africa and Asia their home and there are many stories as to how it came to end up on our shores ranging from aviary escapees to film extras! Whatever the true reason, they are now a familiar site (and sound!) in south east England, and clearly have take a shine to Kingston Hill woodland.
Something else catches Tara's eye
This took our attention for some minutes, but Tara kept her eyes peeled and managed to spot another less familiar small bird creeping on a tree. Two birds are known to creep on trees - Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) and Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). In addition to colouring, they can often be told apart by the direction of their movement: the Treecreeper creeps up a tree whereas a nuthatch creeps up and down a tree. The creeping down behaviour we saw was typical of a nuthatch and before long we had confirmed this was what this handsome little slate grey and orange-buff bird was.  Good spot Tara!

So a good balance of conservation action and wildlife spotting was accomplished in our day's work. The transformation of the former densely shaded woodland to an open and bright space with a mix of established and juvenile trees surrounding it bodes well for biodiversity in this spot, now and in the future. What will emerge now the light can reach the woodland floor? Only time will tell, but it will surely diversify the vegetation and habitats which is good news for a range of wildlife.

Let there be light!

No comments:

Post a Comment