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Behind the thorns: scrub diary #1

08.00hrs, 7th August 2022: It’s late in the summer, the dawn chorus is no more and I didn’t have to be out before sunrise. It is warm and the sun slants across the bush tops, shining into a large patch of honeysuckle within which a family of bullfinches feed on the bright red berries calling to one another in wonderful bullfinch whistle-speak. My scrub survey has started well.

Dew clings to spider webs at early mornings at the scrub

Surveying scrub in Long Ashton

Since the 2nd May 2021, the Lance Trust has been gathering baseline data on the birds and mammals using a six-acre area of scrub on Fenswood Farm. From the start, it rapidly became clear that I’m the only member of the Trust who can get out of bed before the sun rises!

To many people, scrub might look like an untidy and useless mess of bushes and weeds that cries out to be developed into something more useful. But scrub is a highly dynamic and rich habitat of change and its true worth is sadly often under-estimated so, for the uninitiated, let me open your eyes.

The scrub is difficult for humans to penetrate - exactly why wildlife loves it!

What is scrub?

Typically, scrub contains shrubs, bushes and trees with meadow, hedgerow and grassland species creating high levels of biodiversity. In a constant state of flux, this particular patch contains blackthorn, elder, hawthorn, oak, hazel, willow, sallow, ash, sycamore, wild rose, apples, bramble and ivy. All these provide nectar and pollen, fruit, nuts, nutritious leaves and grasses that give hiding and resting places as well as, potentially, hibernaculum. In short, scrub provides a complete food and life-chain for many species.

An abundance of berries in the scrub

How does scrub evolve?

Without grazing or browsing by large herbivores or any human management, bushy grassland turns to scrub then slowly closes over to become woodland.

The purpose of the survey is to find out which species are present and then, potentially, work out the best way forwards to maintain maximum diversity. To do this, we’ve used personal observations, trail cameras and bat detectors.

Read our next post Lifting the curtain on mammals to discover our findings…

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