Bird Survey Highlights Winter 2021-22

The results of the winter bird surveys carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses during two visits between November 2021 and January 2022 have been received and we wanted to share the highlights.

Streatham Campus

A total of 1,126 birds (34 species) were recorded during the visits, with the top five species recorded as:

  1. Wood Pigeon
  2. Blackbird
  3. Robin
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Great Tit

Great Tit

A total of 373 (13 species) Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) red listed and amber listed birds were recorded:

  • Greenfinch (red listed)
  • Herring Gull (red listed)
  • House Sparrow (red listed)
  • Mistle Thrush (red listed)
  • Bullfinch (amber listed)
  • Dunnock (amber listed)
  • Mallard (amber listed)
  • Moorhen (amber listed)
  • Redwing (amber listed)
  • Song Thrush (amber listed)
  • Stock Dove (amber listed)
  • Wren (amber listed)
  • Wood Pigeon (amber listed)

Greenfinch

Interesting Observation

A Kingfisher was recorded flying across one of the ponds in Taddiforde Valley in January 2022; this is the first Kingfisher recorded during one of the bird surveys which have been running for the last 14 years.

Kingfisher

St Luke’s Campus

A total of 275 birds (18 species) were recorded during the visits, with the top three species recorded as:

  1. Wood Pigeon
  2. Starling
  3. Herring Gull

Starling

A total of 185 (8 species) Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) red listed and amber listed birds were recorded:

  • Herring Gull (red listed)
  • House Sparrow (red listed)
  • Mistle Thrush (red listed)
  • Starling (red listed)
  • Dunnock (amber listed)
  • Redwing (amber listed)
  • Wren (amber listed)
  • Wood Pigeon (amber listed)

Mistle Thrush

Big Climate Fightback! Tree Planting Event

We are all increasingly aware of just how important trees are to our environment; from absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to protecting nature and wildlife from the adverse impacts of climate change.

As part of the Woodland Trust’s Big Climate Fightback, the Classics Department claimed approximately 30 tree saplings through Students for Trees and, in conjunction with the Grounds Team, these saplings were planted by students and staff from the Classics Department at the Lower Hoopern Valley on Thursday 31st March 2022.

This is the third annual tree planting event in the Lower Hoopern Valley that the Grounds Team have co-ordinated with student and staff volunteers.

Great job everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

Stormy Times but Tree-rific Arborists!

Unfortunately Storms Eunice and Franklin caused havoc on our grounds last week damaging trees on our campuses and on our off-campus sports grounds.

Our in-house arborists worked tirelessly around the clock on Friday and over the weekend to deal with the high priority fallen trees, branches and debris to keep us and our grounds safe. They will also be kept busy for the next few weeks checking trees and clearing tree branches and debris over our 378 acres of grounds.

We have a small team of three arborists who do a fantastic job managing and safeguarding the 10,000 trees on our campuses and our off-campus residences and sports grounds.

Their dedication, hard work, knowledge and skilled expertise keeps everyone safe on campus and allows us to enjoy and benefit from the many different species of trees. We would like to thank them and let them know that they are our arb heroes!

 

Tree-mendous News – more than £16,000 raised for local charity Hospiscare!

We are delighted to announce that we have helped raise more than £16,000 (with gift aid still to be added) for the local charity Hospiscare by supporting their Christmas Tree Recycling Campaign.

1,200 trees were collected by volunteers from homes across Exeter, Exmouth and Honiton and brought to the green waste site on our Streatham Campus.

The trees were then chipped by our Grounds Team and agricultural students from Bicton College.

A Jensen chipper was kindly lent to us by Elm Star, a local company in Newton Abbot, who also instructed the students on how to operate the chipper.

The chippings will be applied on the grounds around campus and also used to improve a local public right of way path.

We would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who was involved in the collaborative community campaign raising funds for the very worthwhile local charity Hospiscare. You are absolute stars!

Laura Robertson, Hospiscare Fundraising Projects Manager said “the money raised could fund 22 in-patient beds for a whole 24 hours. During what is a particularly difficult time for Hospiscare financially, this total really will help considerably and will contribute to ensuring we are here for local people living with terminal illness and their families long into the future”.

Just some of the 1,200 trees to be shredded!

Getting ready to start

Here we go!

Jensen chipper kindly lent by local company Elm Star

Working hard

Chipping in action

Operating the chipper

Bicton College students doing a fantastic job

Nearly finished!

The Mighty Oak Award!

All members of the Grounds Team took part in a new Mighty Oak Award knock-out competition in 2021 which ran for eight months until the winner was declared. The competition included questions on health and safety, horticulture, arboriculture and some unusual statistics in the industry!

The competition helped improve working relationships, highlighted the combined horticultural and arboricultural knowledge and expertise of the team and also showed the competitive nature of some of the team members!

The award trophy was created in-house from felled timber on campus, which not only made it sustainable, personal but also free!

Mighty Oak Award 2021 trophy

Marcus, the proud winner of the Mighty Oak Award 2021

 

Challenging times but what a transformation!

Our wonderful team of gardeners work very hard looking after and maintaining the 247 acres of diverse and beautiful grounds on Streatham Campus.

This has proved even more challenging over the last 18 months as staff were furloughed and unable to work on campus. They have spent the last few months tackling all the overgrown vegetation to bring the campus back to its glorious best.

The latest project was clearing the hidden overgrown areas by Reed Pond and the Reed Sunken Garden – what a transformation!

Area 1 – BEFORE

Area 1 – AFTER

Area 2 – BEFORE

Area 2 – AFTER

Area 3 – BEFORE

Area 3 – AFTER

 

Wood Habitats on Campus

We love to create wood habitats on campus as they are essential for wildlife and provide food and shelter for countless tiny invertebrates.

The habitat piles in these photos are made from the dead branches of the trees they surround, so any fungi or minibeasts are still near their habitat.

So if you see log piles on our grounds, we haven’t forgotten to clear away debris following tree works …………………… we are doing our bit for nature and the environment!

Green Flag Award 2021-22 Winner!

We are delighted to announce that we have again successfully achieved the prestigious Green Flag Award for both our Streatham Campus and our St Luke’s Campus!

The Award is the mark of a quality park or green space which has achieved the international standards for open space excellence.

The Grounds team work hard throughout the year using their extensive skills and experience to nurture our beautiful grounds and we are extremely proud of this achievement and the wonderful grounds that we have the privilege to work in and enjoy.

Dealing with Ash Dieback at the University

Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungal disease first recorded by the Forestry Commision in 2006 becoming prominent in the South East of England in 2012.

We have confirmations on Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) specimens within our University since 2018, as has been the case for other well monitored sites in Devon and Cornwall.

The infection is permanent with no control and, although mostly terminal, there is a high degree of variability with respect to the seriousness and speed of the symptoms. We are gifted with a high number of people exploring, enjoying and being amongst our grounds and any sign of symptom is considered with great caution so physical management of these trees today and in the future is a certainty.

The dilemma amongst the Grounds team is that we know how valuable Ash is to biodiversity as a habitat. It hosts Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), Tawny Owls (Strix aluco), Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and the team favourite the Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), all for nesting. The lichens and moss which grow freely are a food source for caterpillars.

We are able to balance these interests and find opportunity where people are safe, and friends of other species can continue to share the space together.

The solution we have employed, which you can see in the photo below, is to carry out a veteranisation process on a tree. The major limbs are completely removed until the crown has gone and there is only a trunk left standing. The tree is then ringbarked which involves removing the living tissue from around the trunk. With the xylem and phloem severing the plants’ ability to transport water and nutrients, the tree will die and decay and this breaking down process will become host to insect species.

Importantly as the trunk is short and wide with developed buttress roots, there is no expectation that this tree will fall.

The top of the trunk can now be coronet pruned. This describes a technique that aims to replicate the natural fracturing effect seen after a limb failure, where insect species can easily reside within and rainfall can sit and gather amongst the dead wood.

Trunk segmentations have been cut out, hollowed and an entrance point made. These have been re-attached to the trunk around all four compass points as a future bird nesting habitat.

For anyone that would like to visit this work its location can be found here – http://ex.ac.uk/veteran-ash-specimen

For the future, the best course of action is regularly monitoring the species we care for. After all a minority will also be genetically tolerant and that stock of trees amongst our collection will be vital for the long-term future of the woodlands and specimens here when we begin to repopulate.

 

Diseased tree upcycled into wildlife habitat tree stump and bird boxes

Unfortunately a diseased Ash tree behind the IAIS Building on Streatham Campus has had to be removed, but our Arb Team were keen to use this as an opportunity to help wildlife and increase wildlife habitats on campus, in keeping with our biodiversity and sustainability work practices.

It is now a wildlife habitat high stump which will harbour and benefit insects and wildlife for years to come and the team have also carved bird boxes into the trunk.

Great job team!