Westbury Wildlife

News and information about wildlife in and around the parish.

Ash dieback and pollarding

Several people have expressed concern at the number of mature trees that have been felled or pollarded recently in the upper part of the village.  Sadly, it is a sight that we will have to get used to since most of the trees involved are ash trees and most of them will have been infected with ash dieback- a disease that will kill some 90% of ash trees over the next few years.  You can find out more about dieback here.

Trees affected by dieback can become brittle and unstable and can shed branches in windy conditions.  Where such a tree is alongside a road or path the landowner needs to take action to protect themselves and the public – they would be negligent not to.  Trees well away from public access can be left to die since standing dead wood is a valuable wildlife habitat.

Pollarding – the removal of upper branches – is a long-established form of management and can preserve an ash tree for a time while making it safe. In most cases it will regrow until it finally succumbs to the disease and even then the trunk can be left standing for the benefit of wildlife.

A diseased tree may be weakened internally without signs showing on the outside.  For that reason the safest method of dealing with them is often with giant mechanical shears driven from a heavy vehicle.  The result may not be elegant but it is effective.  Some people have asked whether the brash from infected trees should be burned to slow the spread of the disease.  Unfortunately there are already billions of fungal spores circulating in the air and on leaves that dropped in the autumn so that would have little effect.

Ash dieback will bring about dramatic changes to our local landscape.  Since for environmental reasons we need to increase rather than reduce the number of trees across the country the parish council has established a tree group to help promote awareness of the situation and take practical steps to increase tree planting.  We have compiled information on how to recognise ash dieback, on what sorts of trees might make suitable replacements for ash and where to look for further advice.  We have also established a tree nursery to grow on native trees and begun to plant young trees to replace those that we will lose.

You can find out more about our activities by looking on the website here.  We would be pleased to hear from anyone who is interested in helping us or simply finding out more.

Garden Butterfly Survey sheets for 2021

Peacock butterfly as seen in Westbury flying on 2nd February 2021.  Another was seen on 8th January and was barely able to fly!  They hibernate as adults in sheds and wood piles and can come out at any time during the winter if there is a sunny warm spell.  They will have returned to hibernation quite quickly at the moment.

Butterfly Recording in Westbury Gardens:  a number of people have been recording the butterflies they see in their gardens each week from Week 1 starting on the 1st April to week 26 starting on 23rd September.   The scheme started in 2006, so there is an increasingly long run of data.  If you want to join in download the attached two forms – April to June, and July to September.  At any suitable day in the week count the largest number of each species of butterfly that you see in your garden at any one time.  This means that you cannot count the same one twice.  For example you might see 4 meadow browns and one small tortoiseshells on the lavender one afternoon and the next day 3 small tortoiseshells and a meadow brown on the same lavender. You would put 4 for meadow browns and 3 for small tortoiseshells in the week of the observations onto your sheet.  Return the sheet to Peter Bright at the end of September either in digital form or as a piece of paper.  peterbright60@btinternet.com

2021 April to June Blank recording form      2021 July to September Blank recording form

Pheasant on the feeders

One of seven regular visitors to the garden this winter. Seems to be a hen party, no males around so far.