Work is being carried out to control an increase in scrubland on an important site for birds at Chasewater Country Park.
The site at Norton Bog is part of the Chasewater and Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and features remnants of original heathland and newly-created heath on colliery spoil.
However, birch and willow scrub has begun to invade this heathland and will quickly smother the plants without management.
County Councillor Mark Winnington, cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, said:
“We are keen to ensure this new country park lives up to its designation as an important wildlife site and green lung for people to escape to from the surrounding areas. We have a duty to ensure such key areas are properly protected and managed and Natural England, the body that advise on the management of nationally important wildlife sites, have approved these planned works.”
The slow growing heathland and grassland areas are ideal for ground nesting birds such as skylark and lapwing. Both these species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s (IUCN) red list of birds of conservation concern, where populations have fallen in the UK by 50 per cent in the last 25 years.
Removing the scrub by spot treating small shrubs and cutting saplings will help the heather to survive, as well as the yellow vetches found along track edges that are the food plant of the rare dingy skipper butterfly. Skylark and lapwing breed in open habitats with short vegetation, and the scrub will rapidly displace them if it isnot removed.
Two smaller areas of trees planted in grassland will also be thinned and local volunteers will also be out over the winter, cutting back path edges to improve access and maintaining verge habitat in good condition for butterflies.