Council steps in to replace lost berry trees

Waxwing pictured at the Willow Brook Centre. [Photo credit: Chris Teague]

Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) has stepped in to ensure that, in future years, there will be a plentiful supply of food for a rare category of occasional visitor to the town.

In recent winters, the town has become well known amongst the bird watching community as a favoured feeding ground for waxwings, unusually coloured birds which are native to Scandinavia and Russia, but who sometimes migrate to the UK when local food supplies run low.

They are attracted to Bradley Stoke by the area’s above average density of rowan trees, whose berries constitute the birds’ favourite food source.

“Irruptions” (influxes) of waxwings have been noted locally in three of the last seven winters and the one last year drew scores of bird watching enthusiasts to the Willow Brook shopping centre, where the birds spent several weeks stripping the rowan trees of berries.

But the birdwatchers’ delight turned to anger when contractors at the centre started uprooting some of the rowan trees, leading to protests and heated exchanges on social media.

The centre management responded by saying that the trees were in a poor condition and were being substituted with other species in a rolling maintenance programme that had begun two years earlier. Altogether, 28 rowans were removed over two years, although the centre says it has since planted five new ones and a few others remain on the site.

Following last year’s controversy, Cllr John Ashe asked if the town council might consider planting replacements, and it has now agreed to purchase 60 rowan trees which will be planted in two separate locations within the town’s Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve. Some will be planted on the bank of the Tump and the others alongside the community orchard.

The trees, when they arrive, will be planted by the Green Gym and the Conservation Group.

Birdwatchers taking photographs of waxwings in the car park of the Willow Brook Centre, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

Photos: 1 A waxwing devours berries on a rowan tree at the Willow Brook Centre in 2012. [Credit: Chris Teague] 2 Birdwatchers line up to photograph the waxwings in 2017.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 27). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

UPDATE: It was reported at the BSTC Leisure, Youth & Amenities Committee meeting on 19th February 2018 that 30 of the 60 rowan trees have now been planted in the nature reserve.

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