The appearance of crocuses and snowdrops forcing their way out of the ground are heralding the approach of Spring and with it the birds have started to fill the air with song. Territories are being subdivided, nesting materials are being collected and partners being eyed. The bird nesting season is upon us. At the same time, the insidious mycelial creep of the ash dieback fungus tightens its grip on its host. Leaves wither and brown as soon as they emerge, entire limbs die and fall, occasionally whole trees topple.
As the ash trees continue to rapidly decline we must continue to take action to provide a safe place for our visitors. A falling branch can easily cause severe injury to someone walking below and so we have a responsibility to minimise this risk. We also have a responsibility to our wildlife; this includes a legal obligation not to damage or destroy a bird nest that’s in use or being built. Natural England state that the busiest time for nesting is from the beginning of March until the end of July. We have to be particularly meticulous when planning tree works during this period.
To undertake necessary tree work during the bird nesting season a prework assessment is conducted to determine whether birds are nesting in the tree. In our favour is the fact that the majority of ash trees at Arnos Vale are no older than forty years which despite their size, is still early within the potential life span. The trees are yet to develop the spreading canopies, bark fissures, cracks and holes that provide the nooks and crannies birds love to nest in. At best a tree might be clad in ivy or surrounded by bramble or other scrub at the base that might provide suitable cover for nesting. During the winter we have removed cover around some of the trees that we plan to work on during the bird nesting season.
When it comes to the tree work itself this spring and summer we will climb the trees, if safe to do so. This means we are able to do a better inspection of the tree for nests. If a nest is found we would stop the work and return after the nesting season to complete the work. Unsafe trees with birds nesting in them may require us to close paths for the safety of visitors. If you are visiting the site please take care to heed any path closure notices. To find out more about this disease, check out our Ash Die Back FAQ blog.