27 August 2013

Seeking a refuge

Hay-cutting is a very necessary and important part of the management of the meadow reserves - but from the perspective of a grassland insect, the hay cut must be a very dramatic change of scene!

Obviously we need to cut the hay to maintain the wildflower diversity of the meadows on which the insects in part depend, but we can reduce the impact by leaving uncut refuges for insects, particularly pollinators like bees.

On each of the hay meadows, we leave an uncut refuge strip of about 5-10m wide.  Aftermath grazing by the sheep helps trim these uncut areas up later in the year, but we also vary the  location of the strip each year to prevent scrub invading the  blackthorn is particularly quick to silently creep into the meadow
 when the cutter or sheep have turned their back!

The refuge strips also provide a graded and gentle edge to the meadow, which adds structural diversity and increases the range of habitat niches.

Hopefully many species benefit from these strips, though I think the field vole may question their value when the barn owl hovers overhead finding the strips very convenient quartering!

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