Bug Hotels Expert Input – BBC Bitesize Article

We are very proud that one of our Gardeners, Colin Brown, has shared his expert knowledge of bug hotels with the BBC which has been included in the BBC BITESIZE article “Four hacks to help our hibernating animal friends this autumn”.

Full article can be read at http://bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z4dq6rd

Well done Colin!

 

M-arb-ellous Upcycled Bench

We have a strong sustainable and biodiversity ethos within the University and the Grounds Team arboristrists practise this as much a possible by regularly creating habitat piles, building bird and bat boxes and protective fencing for new saplings from fallen branches and timber and leaving tree stumps as sanctuaries for insects and wildlife.

Their latest sustainable project was handcrafting a bench from a Quercus rubra (Red Oak) tree that failed in one of our valleys recently. This upcycled bench has been placed by Reed Pond under a Cupressus macrocarpa tree, which provides all day shade, and where it also has great views of the pond.

Upcycled bench

View of Reed pond from the upcycled bench

Upcycled bench is in all day shade, making it a cooling calming spot to relax

Bird Survey Highlights Spring/Summer 2022

The results of the spring/summer bird surveys carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses during two visits – one in March and one in May – have been received and we wanted to share the highlights.

Streatham Campus

A total of 1,498 birds were recorded during the visits, an increase of 4.4% over the total of 1,435 birds recorded in 2021. 696 of these birds are on the Red and Amber lists.

The the top five species recorded were:

  1. Wood Pigeon (Amber list bird)
  2. Blackbird (Green list bird)
  3. Robin (Green list bird)
  4. Wren (Amber list bird)
  5. Herring Gull (Red list bird)

Birds of Conservation 5 (BOCC5) was published on 1st December 2021 and is the latest assessment of the status of all the bird species that regularly occur in the UK. This assessment indicates that 70 species are of the highest conservation concern and have been placed on the Red list, 103 species have been placed on the Amber list and 72 species on the Green list. The majority of the Red list species are there because of a severe decline in numbers in recent decades, their numbers remain below historical levels or are under threat of global extinction.

The bird surveys (carried out every year in spring/summer and again in winter) have been in place on the Streatham Campus for the last 14 years, during which time some 55 different species have been recorded; of those 55 species currently there are 7 on the Red list and 15 on the Orange list.

A total of 274 (22 species) Birds of Conservation Concern 5 (BOCC5) Red list and Amber list birds were recorded:

Red List

  • Greenfinch
  • Herring Gull
  • House Sparrow
  • Mistle-Thrush
  • Starling
  • Swift
  • Woodcock

Greenfinch

Amber List

  • Black-Headed Gull
  • Bullfinch
  • Dunnock
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Lesser Black-Backed Gull
  • Mallard
  • Moorhen
  • Redwing
  • Rook
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Song Thrush
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Stock Dove
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Wren

Sedge Warbler

Interesting Observation

This breeding season a new Rookery has been established in the tops of tall trees in the Arboretum adjacent to Stocker Road. This is the first record of a Rookery on campus since 2001 when the small and declining Rookery located behind the Catholic Chaplaincy in Glenthorne Road finally disappeared.

Rooks are very sociable birds and you are unlikely to see one on its own; they feed and roots in flocks and nest colonially. Easily confused with the Carrion Crow, the Rook is slightly small with a bare greyish white face, a narrower beak and a peaked head.

Rook

St Luke’s Campus

A total of 274 birds were recorded during the visits and the the top five species recorded were:

  1. Wood Pigeon (Amber list bird)
  2. Herring Gull (Red list bird)
  3. Blackbird (Green list bird)
  4. House Sparrow (Red list bird)
  5. Robin (Green list bird)

The bird surveys (carried out every year in spring/summer and again in winter) have been in place on St Luke’s Campus since 2013, during which time some 29 different species have been recorded.

Robin

Tree-mendous Sustainable Fencing!

Our amazing Arb Team have finished another brilliant sustainable project!

They have used timber from Ash trees that had to be felled due to Ash Dieback and upcycled it to make protective fencing around newly planted trees.

This was all their own work done in-house; felling the trees, cutting the timber, measuring it, fixing and installing the new fences.

A great sustainable and economical use of resources delivered by our skilled, experienced and dedicated Arb Team.

Although we all love the deer we have on campus, they do enjoy eating a lot of plants, flowers and trees and these fences should protect the trees from the deer and their large appetites allowing the trees to grow and flourish.

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

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!

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!

More Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflower areas at St Luke’s Campus are looking fantastic.

Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflowers at the Reed Hall beds are in flower and looking glorious.

Last year we trialled having wildflowers instead of the customary formal planting in these beds and they proved so popular with everyone and the bees, butterflies and insects that we’ve done it again!