Weekly wild news from our reserves - 20 November

Sunset at Hen Reedbeds - Jamie Smith

This week coppicing work continued along with saltmarsh restoration monitoring, more gorgeous Suffolk skies and a bird’s nest fungus...

Loveliness amongst the coppice

Before the most recent lockdown, Steve Hook, South East Suffolk & Mobile Team Warden managed to complete some of the coppicing work planned this winter at Groton Wood nature reserve. Coppicing is an ancient form of woodland management that involves repetitive felling on the same tree stump near to ground level. This allows shoots to regrow from that main stump which is also known as a coppice stool. Coppicing an area or compartment of woodland allows more light to the floor, encouraging regrowth of a wide range of flora including the trees themselves with knock-on associated benefits for other wildlife. Rotating this cutting practice across the woodland maximises age structure and allows for successional stages to create all important ‘edge’ habitat.  Steve said ‘we are always careful to identify special features and respond to situations that arise when carrying out coppicing work. Seeing the cluster (or loveliness) of 7-spot ladybirds was a real treat, so I adjusted my cut accordingly. As well as their warning colouration to ward off birds and such like, ladybirds also have another defence mechanism: when handled, they release a pungent, yellow substance from their joints (a form of 'controlled bleeding') that can stain the hands’, exclaimed Kevlar protected Steve!

A 5mm wide bird’s nest!

‘There is no substitute for knowing your nature reserve in order to find certain wildlife – especially when it is so small and inconspicuous’ says Joe Bell-Tye, West Suffolk Reserves Assistant, as he points out a miniscule bird’s nest fungus close to the edge of one of Lackford Lakes’ popular trails. These delicate 'nests', typically 5-10mm across and up to 10mm tall are easily overlooked. The 'eggs' are attached to the base of the nest by fine threads that break when raindrops knock the eggs from the nest. By this unusual means the spores are dispersed and we get the chance to see more of these species next year’.

Bird's nest fungus - Joe Bell-Tye

Bird's nest fungus - Joe Bell-Tye

Yacht Harbour dredging project helps restore saltmarsh habitat

This week Andrew Excell (South East Suffolk Sites Manager) and Charlie McMurray (South East Suffolk & Trimley Marshes Warden) have been monitoring saltmarsh habitat along the River Orwell next to Levington Lagoon nature reserve. Since 2014, sediments from Suffolk Yacht Harbour dredging operations have been piped onto the fragile saltmarsh habitat to prevent further habitat fragmentation and loss. Between 15,000 and 20,000m3 of silt is dredged each year within the harbour. This project is an ongoing partnership between Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Yacht Harbour and saltmarsh expert Simon Read. Monitoring has shown positive results, with good recovery of the saltmarsh habitat and soil accretion over significant areas, although at the outer extremes the rapid erosion continues with wave energy fragmenting the lower terraces.  Our monitoring work will help shape the format of the next stages of habitat restoration work here, which makes all the sliding around in soft mud worthwhile!

Saltmarshes support a wealth of wildlife and are vital habitats for a variety of wetland birds including many wading species such as redshank, curlew, dunlin, lapwing and golden plover.  Redshank still breed on saltmarshes where the levels are higher than mean high water.  For other species, the intricate structure and vegetated surface projecting out into estuaries makes these habitats key roosting locations for huge numbers of wetland birds at times of high tide.  Saltmarshes are also important nursery areas for juvenile fish species and hugely important carbon stores which could help towards reversing climate change.

Gorgeous Suffolk skies

Our reserves team enjoyed some more stunning sunsets this week!