London Wildlife Trust Sydenham Hill Wood update
by Ashley White
The autumn-winter months are the busiest time of year with regards to practical habitat management. Management activities in the wood during this period include brush cutting and raking to maintain the open, sunny glades and rides that are so valuable for wildlife, coppicing, dead hedging, pond clearance and management of invasive plant species such as cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum).
As recent visitors will be aware London Wildlife Trust has embarked on an exciting project to enhance the quality of the Ambrook, the stream that flows through part of Sydenham Hill Wood, and the dew Pond in Dulwich Wood, which is fed by the stream. Both pond and brook had been in poor condition for many years with heavy shading and build up of leaf litter causing acidification and an unpleasant smell, which resulted in the dew pond being known locally as the “sulphur pond”.
The project has been made possible with a generous grant from SITA Trust and match funding from the Dulwich Estate. The enhancements began at the end of September with a bat tree roost survey, closely followed by tree works to allow light to reach the water and prevent future build up of fallen leaves. A mini-digger was used to de-silt both the brook and pond, which will fill with water naturally, and to create a scrape between the two. Over the coming months volunteers will be involved in planting native aquatic plants, building crossing points over the stream and constructing a boardwalk and dipping platform for visitor access. The area will soon be fenced off for a period of three years with limited access to allow the new plants to establish and we ask visitors to be patient during this time- it will be worth the wait!
Previous surveys revealed there were few species of invertebrate able to tolerate the anoxic conditions of the stream and pond. Improvement of these freshwater habitats will result in an increase in invertebrates that will benefit many animals, including bats. The project will also enhance the visitor experience of the wood through improved access to the Ambrook and the dew pond for recreation, environmental education and for public events.
Over the spring and summer we recorded 19 species of butterfly in the wood, most notably ringlet, brown Argus, purple hairstreak and white-letter hairstreak, a Priority Species. This year we also started up a monthly moth survey. As the site is open access at all times this entailed volunteers sitting up over a light trap for three hours over four consecutive nights every new moon. The first survey took place in July and to date we have found a total of 303 moths of 44 species, that included tree lichen beauty (Cryphia algae), swallow-tailed (Ourapteryx sambucaria), and ruby tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). While carrying out the moth surveys we also observed feeding bats and squeaking tawny owl chicks.
Over the past year renowned entomologist Richard “Bugman” Jones has also been undertaking a repeat invertebrate survey of Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods. 197 species were recorded during this period, bringing the cumulative species total for the woods up to 783. Numerous unusual and scarce insects were found at the sites including: Agrilus laticornis, a nationally scarce jewel beetle associated with oaks, Mordellistena neuwaldeggiana, a nationally rare flower beetle and Auplopus carbonarius, a nationally scarce spider-hunting wasp. In his survey report Richard ranks the woods at 41st position in the chart of the top 100 British Woods. Richard goes on to say “The beetle fauna associated with dead and decaying timber is shown to be an important assemblage, and its collective character definitely supports the suggestion that the woods are of metropolitan importance for nature conservation. They may also be of national importance.”
Events have now wound down for this year, but will take place approximately once a month from early spring. 2012 will be a special year for us as the Trust will celebrate our 30th anniversary of managing Sydenham Hill Wood. A programme of celebratory events will be available at the beginning of next year and will be advertised on our website www.wildlondon.org.uk .