As part of the BIRDS ON THE EDGE habitat restoration strategy the National Trust for Jersey is working to restore important bird habitats on the north coast between Mourier Valley and Sorel Point.
Whilst the flock of Manx Loaghtan sheep are busy opening patches through the bracken that is being cleared, and preventing it from coming back, further inland the conservation fields of Le Don Hodges are being enhanced by planting trees for hedges. These 14 fields, comprising a total of 50 vergees of land, were purchased by the National Trust for Jersey through a donation in 2012, and are being managed to enhance the local wildlife. An agreement was established with the Jersey Royal Company to allow for the utilisation of some of these fields for potato crops in exchange for a management regime more sensitive to wildlife and the planting of wildlife crops in the fields once the potatoes are harvested. Some of these fields are cultivated in rotation to create a mosaic of spring cereals and seed mixes, while others will never be cultivated and have been sown with wildflower mixes to create permanent, insect-rich grasslands. Many farmland birds rely on these crops as a source of food during the cold months of winter, when insects are less abundant or in hibernation. If it wasn’t for these crops many chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches and linnets would not make it through the winter.
With the permanent grassland and wildflower fields providing insects during spring and summer, and cereals and other seed-rich crops on the fields to provide the winter food, the hedges are the last piece of this puzzle. Hedges provide cover from predators near their feeding grounds, nesting opportunities, food for many insects that the birds will feed on, and buds and berries for the birds to feed on from spring to autumn.
Last year the NTJ was awarded funding to buy 8,000 trees for hedges, of which almost 5,000 have already been planted around the Le Don Hodges fields by participants of the Back to Work Scheme and teams of volunteers during weekend community events. It is hoped that the remaining trees will be planted over the next few weeks and that within the next few years they will grow into thick, luscious and berry-loaded hedges that will provide the birds with a safe breeding habitat.
With the last piece of the puzzle in place, let’s hope that the restored habitats can soon provide our threatened birds with all they need to survive and thrive throughout the year.
PS. If you would like to help with planting hedges sign up for the volunteer mailing list by e-mailing Cris Cris@nationaltrust.je