Visitor weblog – Creating Shrike Shrublands by Steve Jones – Mark Avery


Steve Jones ( has labored in UK and worldwide conservation for nearing three many years. He’s unusually keen on shrikes. Actually, he’s written a brief guide about learn how to create ’Shrike Shrublands’ within the UK (click on right here). Right here, he summarises how we would go about creating species-rich grassland-shrubland mosaics. Twitter: @SteveCJJones



‘Scrub’ has a surprisingly dangerous repute in UK conservation and farming. It’s a characteristic that ‘invades’ prized grassland and have to be tackled by ‘scrub-bashing events’ of well-meaning volunteers. Farmers may even get penalised for harbouring the stuff, shedding space funds if native shrubs seem of their in any other case bleak improved pasture. Don’t get me fallacious: a beautiful patch of chalk grassland SSSI close to me has been wrecked by unchecked shrub colonisation over the past twenty years. However mosaics of species-rich grassy-shrublands could be splendidly wealthy in wildlife, together with many species of conservation concern. They usually can slot in very properly with livestock techniques, present maybe grazing and looking habitat for uncommon livestock breeds and supply much-appreciated spreading area for individuals.

Why do I name these locations ‘Shrike Shrublands’? Just a few years in the past I checked out how we would get Crimson-backed Shrikes again into southern England. I visited the Knepp Property and varied different ‘shriky’ locations. We have now pockets of good habitat however no shrikes. websites that do have shrikes, it rapidly turned apparent that what makes a grassy-shrubland good for a colony of nesting Crimson-backed Shrike additionally makes such an space extremely precious for all method of species.

Crimson-backed Shrike. Photograph: Tim Melling

The proper Crimson-backed Shrike territory calls for plenty of key components. Put these components collectively and scale-up so the location can assist plenty of territories and you’ve got a Shrike Shrubland of immense wildlife worth.

And it is a habitat that’s easy to create comparatively rapidly. We’re lacking quite a few alternatives to create giant blocks of it. The infuriating behavior of planting wall-to-wall whips – nursery transplants – of bushes and shrubs bypassed the all-important grassland-shrubland mosaic stage of pure ecological succession. A fastidiously created Shrike Shrubland could be a precursor to a few long-term habitats: new, naturally-structured native woodland; wooden pasture; and, after all, extra steady grassy-shrublands.

So what precisely does our habitat ambassador, the Crimson-backed Shrike, search for within the good territory? Effectively, they’ve an inordinate fondness for beetles, particularly dung beetles. These related to cattle dung are prized. We are able to’t deliver again Aurochs however home cattle dung is simply pretty much as good – supplied it’s freed from poisonous anti-parasitic medicine. As a scan-and-pounce kind hunter, the Crimson-backed Shrike wants open grassland with quite a few, however extensively scattered and small patches of shrubs. And these should present entry to a mosaic of disturbed floor, tightly grazed lawns and tussocky, flower-rich grassland inside straightforward scanning distance.

That flower-rich attribute is significant: shrikes additionally love bumblebees and different Hymenoptera. The positioning should have a species-rich succession of flowering herbaceous wildflowers and shrubs drawing within the pollinators.

The tightly grazed lawns and disturbed floor are key to meals accessibility and could be generated by Rabbits. Non-native however such an excellent habitat creator. An early intervention, in case your shrubland creation website could be very open (say a big arable area) is to distribute brash piles throughout the location. These will hopefully draw-in Rabbits and provoke warren creation, with the bottom vegetation heterogeneity following because the habitat develops. Ensure you have loads of flower-rich taller swards too, as these will replenish with grasshoppers, and shrikes love Orthoptera.

If you’re beginning with a big arable area, tough it up a bit. Dig some scrapes and construct some low mounds of friable soil with south-facing cliffs. Block any in-field sub-surface drainage to re-ignite misplaced seepages. Dig clean-water swimming pools. These will attract one other favoured shrike meals useful resource: dragonflies and damselflies.

It’s simpler to develop the flower-rich part of a Shrike Shrubland when you begin with arable. Right here, you may unfold inexperienced hay filled with wildflower seeds. You simply wish to pace the method up and guarantee flowering herbaceous vegetation can get a toe-hold within the early years.

If native shrubs are on website or close by, they’ll colonise. However, once more, to hurry issues up, plant Bramble cuttings (possibly below these brash piles) and small teams of thorny shrubs: Area and Canine Rose, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and so forth. Simply make sure that these are small clumps and extensively scattered: from a shrike perspective these are the vantage factors from which to hunt and a spot to hide the nest. Plant a Crab Apple or Wild Pear in a single or two clumps too.

What about long-term administration? In case your Shrike Shrubland is in your farm use cattle to graze it frivolously, with a little bit of grazing in summer season to make sure these dung beetles have sufficient to eat. Don’t fear about deer: they’ll sculpt shrub clump growth reasonably than stopping it fully, within the southern England lowlands at the very least. In the event you’re purpose is to develop wooden pasture, you possibly can do a lot the identical – yr spherical very mild grazing with cattle, ponies, uncommon and native breeds. If you wish to create a structurally complicated native woodland within the long-term, very, very mild grazing and looking for the primary decade capitalises on the early successional grassland-shrubland section while permitting native bushes and shrubs to get set up. Occasional grazing by cattle and ponies within the longer-term will mimic the actions of herds of Aurochs and Wild Horses. And, if in any respect doable, champion Wild Boar. These fantastic, uncared for natives create the patches of naked floor a lot cherished by looking shrikes and preserve habitat heterogeneity at a small scale.

Given the quantity of ‘woodland’ planting we’re doing in southern England, we might be making a shifting mosaic of Shrike Shrublands throughout the area if solely we might keep away from a lot uncompromising whip planting.

Such locations will probably assist Turtle Doves, Cuckoos, Nightingales, Hedgehogs, feeding bats, Glow Worms, Adders and all method of species.

Will they assist Crimson-backed Shrikes? Effectively, their inhabitants has proven indicators of enhance on the near-continent in the previous few years. Possibly we’ll start to see extra spring arrivals if they start to saturate habitat in France, Netherlands and so forth. If we offer the habitat, maybe they may come. Maybe we’ll see the sustained return of the Butcher Hen.