A recent collaboration between Jersey Trees for Life and Birds On The Edge has seen a new hedge planted at an important conservation site in St Ouen’s Bay.
The new hedge, approximately 200m long, was planted at the edge of the National Trust for Jersey land and the Site of Special Interest of St Ouen’s Pond (SSI La Mare au Seigneur). The boundary lies between the Trust’s grazed pastures east of the reedbeds, and privately farmed fields west of the Rue du Val de la Mare. The potential value of creating a hedge in this area was identified during recent habitat and wildlife surveys carried out by BOTE, as part of a larger group of actions to enhance opportunities for wild birds in the area which were recommended as a result of the surveys. Other actions that were suggested included the planting of winter bird crops and setting up farmland feeding stations.
A few months ago the local charity Jersey Trees for Life got in contact with BOTE to find a location for a new hedge project in St Ouen’s Bay, for which they already had possible sponsors, and this location was suggested. After obtaining permissions from NTJ and other landowners, the staff of JTFL proceeded to plant a total of 606 hedging whips. The bulk of the plants was comprised mainly of hawthorn, with some blackthorn, wild plum, grey sallow and a few shrubby aspen in as well. They were planted in double and triple rows over on the top of the wide existing bank, and the hedge was completed by mid-March.
It is hoped that the particular placement of this hedge will connect various habitats of importance to birds, especially the reedbeds near the pond that extend to one side of the grazed area, and the arable fields on the other side of it, which most crucially are planted every year with Winter Bird Crops. Many birds have been found in these crops during winter surveys, in particular the locally extinct (as a breeding bird) reed bunting, which now only winters in Jersey with a population of 200-400 birds, mainly in St Ouen’s Bay. These buntings roost at night in the reedbeds and travel across the Island during the day to feed on small seeds from weeds, crops and marginal vegetation at small and spread-out sites. They do not like to feed on open ground like linnets nor are tame enough to visit garden feeders, but they have found a great source of food in the Winter Bird Crops managed by BOTE, especially the ones near the pond. However, to get to these fields from the safety of the reeds they still have to cross a large expanse of open ground, namely grassland and pastures. It is hoped that this hedge will provide them with a safety corridor to use not only for travelling between the roosting and feeding areas but also with shelter from predators and adverse weather, allowing them to remain in the feeding area for longer periods at a time.
Many other birds can potentially benefit from this hedge, as it can also provide nesting habitat and a varied source of food (in the form of buds, berries and insects). Greenfinches, chaffinches, linnets, stonechats, Dartford warblers, starlings and many more are likely to benefit from this hedge and the other habitats and features that the hedge will make accessible to them. Other wildlife that will probably use it too includes green lizards, grass snakes, rodents and shrews, toads, numerous insects and other invertebrates.
The future looks good for this area, as there is already an agreement with the local farmers to plant more Winter Bird Crops in 2016 for next winter, and further good news also from Jersey Trees for Life, as they plan to extend the hedge next winter following the same boundary southwards. From our side at Bird On The Edge, we will continue to monitor the birds using the crops and the hedge, and we hope that the data collected over the next few years will reflect the improvements on this area promoted by the bird crops and the newly planted hedge, especially as it develops and reaches full maturity.
*This project has been possible thanks to a very positive collaboration between the local farmers, landowners, JTFL and the BOTE partnership.