Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Highgate Common 6th December 2011

Highgate Common

Today was my first free Tuesday for quite some time and so I took the opportunity to go down to Highgate Common and join their volunteer work party.

It was a chilly day with plenty of frost around first thing but that didn't put me off as I had about 5 layers on to counteract the cold!

We were asked to cut down some Silver Birch (Betula pendula) saplings which were encroaching onto the main heathland area of the Common.

We donned our gloves and hard hats and used both tree loppers and bow saws to remove the saplings and small trees.

I put together a few before and after shots so you can see the progress we made. (as always you can click on the photos to get a bigger picture).

As you can see we kept the big trees and only removed the small ones. As well as temporarily halting the encroachment of Silver Birch in this area it also improved the view from the picnic table.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife while we were working. I did find a Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) on one of the trees we had cut down. When I picked it up to have a closer look it started to excrete a yellow substance from its body. This liquid supposedly has a foul odour, a bit like old leaves (I didn't think to smell it), and is a self-defence mechanism called "reflex-bleeding". Most ladybird species reflex-bleed if agitated to deter predators. It obviously didn't like me disturbing it and soon took flight.

There was a Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushroom in the area that we were working but unfortunately it was not in a photographic state as it had been stood on and looked rather beaten up.

Cutting down the saplings and then cutting them up into smaller pieces was hot work and I soon had to remove some of my layers. We also had a fire going and this helped to keep us warm.

I played around a little with the colours in the last photo to try and highlight the flames in the fire.

Not all of the wood was burnt; we did set some aside to make a wood pile. The wood pile will provide shelter for a number of animals and invertebrates and as it rots down it will provide food for various invertebrates and their larvae, helping to improve the biodiversity on the site.

Wood set aside for habitat pile