Swardeston Common – Scrub Management

Friday 19th February 2016

Well, here we are again on Swardeston Common.  I wrote last week that I thought we would be back to do further work on the common, but I had no idea as I wrote that we would return the very next week.

On this visit we were to work on a different part of the common, to continue to clear ‘Blackthorn’ bushes that have become overgrown. We were continuing the work started yesterday by Thursday’s working group, whose fire was still smouldering. A quick prod at the mound of grey ashes and the glowing embers were revealed. There was a good wind blowing so we soon had flames to burn all the brash that we had chopped down.

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The work today, from our point of view, was quite straightforward, as we have frequently carried out this type of task. As a result we were able to clear a fairly large area which will allow plants that have been suppressed by the Blackthorn to flourish. Hopefully any new growth will create a more diverse open woodland habitat, which will in turn attract nightingales, as this is the type of habitat that they prefer (click on the following link to read more about ‘Managing Scrub for Nightingales’ by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) guide).

Nightingales are migratory birds, mostly into southern England, arriving in April and returning to southern Europe by September. They nest on or near to the ground in dense bushy cover. They lay 4-5 eggs between the months of May-June and feed on worms, larvae, beetles and berries found under bushes, ditches and thickets.

When we left this part of the common, it was looking rather devoid of vegetation, but I am sure that when we return later in the year to cut the grass, there will be plenty of new growth to be seen and with luck, on a still summer evening, perhaps a nightingale may be heard.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer