A visit to one of my favourite local ‘patches’ earlier this week did not bring me the joy I had hoped for, in fact quite the opposite. On arrival I discovered to my shock and horror that the hedgerow running the length of the stream at Plascrug ditch has been decimated!
Where once there was a thick tangle of green vegetation there is now nothing but brutally cut, unsightly stumps revealing a bare bank behind, also strewn with litter. The hedgerow once provided vital food, shelter and nesting sites for numerous birds and other creatures which make this tiny patch of habitat home. Now they have been forced to either move on or scrape a living in what little remains of their homes.
If this is simply ‘management’, cutting back to encourage new growth it seems that the chainsaw operators here in Ceredigion have taken a very radical approach with little thought to the impact on the local wildlife, (not to mention the aesthetics). If this is indeed to improve future growth surely there must be a better way? Or perhaps the land is being prepared for development, I certainly hope not…
Whatever the reason the works would have no doubt sent many species fleeing in terror from the noise and machinery and whilst some of the more adaptable urban birds have returned, I fear many of the more secretive species may not. There were certainly fewer to be seen today than I would usually find with only the ground dwellers, the blackbirds seen in any real numbers.
Having visited this spot over several years it has surprised me with the abundance of life it supports. The list of bird species which call this hedgerow home include the house sparrow, dunnock, nuthatch, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tits, chaffinch, chiffchaff, greenfinch, goldfinch, robin, blackbird, song thrush, coal tit, goldcrest, wren, magpie, woodpigeon and collared dove, although this list is not exhaustive.
Among the destruction today I spotted a song thrush sitting on eggs inside her beautifully constructed dome nest, easily visible from the path even to my relatively poor human eyesight. With the nesting season already underway, she like many birds will now find their nests exposed and vulnerable to predators, and possibly even interference by people.
I haven’t been able to establish quite when the work was carried out, but if this did not take place before the start of spring it may have actually been against the law:
It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure or take chicks or adults, or intentionally take or destroy any eggs.
I am planning to write to the council for their feedback on this matter, but I am not hopeful of a satisfactory response.
You can read about the value of hedgerows here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/advice/conservation-land-management-advice/farm-hedges/the-value-of-hedgerows-for-wildlife/
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2021