By Glenn Norris
Burton and Chingford Ponds Local Nature Reserve (LNR) offers a wide range of habitats including heathland, woodland and bogs. The Sussex Wildlife Trust, with the help of volunteers, manages these habitats to be the best they can for a wide range of wildlife. In 2019, Burton Pond was home to over 1,700 species of which 139 are rare within the UK, and this number is increasing as habitat management continues to benefit a number of species.
There has been a great effort to clear an area of birch and pine to create open heathland within New Piece and this work has begun to show benefits already. Heather is beginning to establish itself on the lower slopes of this area where it provides an excellent late foraging resource for bees and flies such as the Heather Bee Colletes succinctus. More excitingly, Redstart, now Amber-Listed due to recent population declines, were recorded breeding for the first time on New Piece. This bird, once mistaken for the breeding plumage of the Robin by early naturalists, likes to nest in holes of mature trees located in open woodland feeding on spiders and caterpillars. The work by Sussex Wildlife Trust to open up the woodland has likely helped make the the nature reserve more attractive to Redstart and we hope they continue to return in the future.
The increase of woodland edge within the Burton Pond LNR provides a greater array of microhabitats for invertebrates to exploit including the Nationally Scarce jumping spider Marpissa muscosa. This spider inhabits the cracks in the bark of mature trees such as Scots pine that are exposed to sunshine. They actively hunt prey jumping a distance of up to 5cm, using their powerful legs to propel themselves. Their large eyes also mean they have the best eyesight of our native spiders and can even turn to look at you when you move.
It is important to continue opening up new areas of heathland and acid grassland to increase the woodland edge and provide sun-exposed habitats for thermophilic species including the Field Cricket Gryllus campestris. This species was recently reintroduced to Burton Pond LNR and is doing well on the acid grassland of Welch’s Common thanks to bracken and scrub removal and occasional help from our cattle and ponies. This winter, a small area of woodland bordering the Common will be felled in order to provide additional habitat for this vocal species so that it continues to thrive at Burton Pond.
The Black Hole contains very rare bog habitat that is more akin to the Scottish Highlands than lowland Sussex. It also contains plant species that are incredibly rare in south-east England including Cranberry, Bog Pondweed and Bogbean. These plants prefer open habitats with some open water and are under threat from the encroaching Alder that will eventually shade them out. To protect this habitat, and the plants and animals that rely on it, the Sussex Wildlife Trust will be removing this Alder woodland this winter. The work will be completed using a winch and a tractor to pull out the young trees and may look a little messy at first, but this habitat is resilient and will bounce back next year.
The Habitat Restoration work will take place on site between 16 October until the end of 2019.
Field Cricket © Derek Middleton