It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Twinkly lights, cozy jumpers and that festive feeling- December brings it all. It also brings great opportunities to get stuck into some conservation work to improve habitats, taking advantage of the quieter wildlife months outside the breeding season as the wildlife has either moved to warmer climes or is hunkered down for the winter.
At Panshanger Park the last month has seen some of the fantastic Panshanger volunteers industriously working on clearing vegetation amongst the reedbeds along the dragonfly trail on the Eastern side of the site. The first stage has been to cut back the willows that have gradually been encroaching on the reedbeds. Willow trees are generally found near water- they are very thirsty trees! Now these have been cleared it will allow for more water to be available to fill the ponds in the wetland area.
All the cut material from the willows is not going to waste though. It is being used by our Maydencroft park ranger team, who manage the wider landscape at Panshanger Park, to be used as stakes and binders for hedge laying.
The park ranger team have also been working hard to repair a breach in the dragonfly ponds. Over winter these ponds will now fill back up and once again create great habitat for dragonflies and damselflies as well as a whole host of other birds, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals.
The next step will be to clear some of the reedmace to open up the pond areas, allowing more light in and improving the habitat for invertebrates such as the dragonfly nymph that start out their life in aquatic environments. Reedmace is often mis-identified as bulrush- reedmace has the sausage-like seed heads.
Other winter wildlife works you may have seen going on Panshanger is the cutting back of some of the woody scrub around the edges of the lakes and along the River Mimram diversion channel. This prevents over shading of the water which allows plants to grow and improves oxygen levels in the water for other aquatic creatures. The cleared banks allow for more sedges, rushes and reeds to grow which is prime water habitat for water voles, one of our priority species at Panshanger Park.
If you would like to be involved in volunteering and help look after the habitats at Panshanger Park, or find out more about the park then please visit panshangerpark.com.
Jo Whitaker is the Panshanger Park People and Wildlife Officer. She works for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and her role is funded by Tarmac.