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Woodland design for priority species

Woodland Bird Assemblage

The creation of new native species woodland can deliver important habitat for a number of woodland birds of conservation concern. Priority woodland bird species include: Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Wood Warbler, Spotted flycatcher, Pied flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Hawfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. A two kilometre buffer has been placed around each tetrad containing British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Atlas 2007-11 bird records. Where 4 or more species of the above occur these have been selected as Woodland Bird Assemblage priority areas. New woodland should be designed to benefit the species present (further advice can be obtained from your local woodland officer) and comprise at least 80% native species. Up to 20% can be non-natives. Of the native species component, 20% can be honorary natives. See Managing Ancient and Native Woodland in England for further advice.

In addition three individual species have been identified as benefiting specifically from targeted woodland creation, red squirrel, willow tit and black grouse. The woodland design needs to be appropriate for the targeted species, useful guidance is provided in these external links: Red squirrels, Willow tit, Black grouse. The following guidance provides an overview of the design principles required for each species in the targeted areas.

  • Red Squirrel – With the exception of the Isle of Wight the planting of new large seeded broadleaves such as oak and beech, is strongly discouraged as this will encourage grey squirrels. In particular, avoid creating such woodland where it is likely to provide an incursion corridor for greys from a buffer zone, or land out with it, to a reserve.
  • Willow tit - New native wet woodland on damp soils can be very beneficial for willow tits, especially in areas where populations are known to persist. Locating new wet woodland between existing woods should help willow tits to move through the landscape. Pockets of open space can be included in the planting design, where species such as hawthorn, elder and blackthorn can infill over time. Alternatively a dense mix of suitable species can be planted including native willows, birch, elder and hawthorn, which support abundant invertebrates and provide early natural nest sites.
  • Black grouse - New woodland is best located on slopes i.e. ghylls or cloughs or on the hard boundaries of existing woodland or plantations on the edge of moorland. Suitable species include birch, rowan, hawthorn, willow and scots pine, (avoid planting large seeded broadleaves where there are red squirrels present). Planting density should be in the range of 400 to 800 trees per ha preferably in clumped distributions with areas of open ground which should incorporate wet flushes and areas of dwarf shrub. The design and positioning of fencing needs careful consideration as collisions with fences can be a significant cause of mortality for black grouse.
Last updated: 10th February 2016