Tight grazing has continued throughout 2017 creating sward that is too short for skylarks – all the research is clear that skylarks need 20cm-50cms (8 ins) plus as stated clearly on the RSPB website. Of the 3 mammals, 13 birds and 8 butterflies listed on the SSSI longer sward looks to benefit most, be neutral for some and be negative for none. For plants the question is are rare short grassland species benefiting from the more tightly grazed regime in the photos above? Our take is that they are not but this needs further work. We were very encouraged that some members of the Malvern Hills Trust Land Management Committee were interested in exploring this further at the December 7th meeting. We think the questions for the High hills are:
- Benefits: Which plant, mammal, insect and birds SSSI species have already increased as a result of this tight grazing of the Deschampsia Flexuosa in previous hilltop skylark habitat?
- Downsides: Conversely which have lost out? And which invasive species have increased?
- How short is targeted and to benefit which species? And what will be the downsides?
On the commons there are still skylarks where the grass is longer and they have benefited from recent scrub clearance. So the same balance of specific benefits vs downsides applies. Is there a pressing reason why the grass needs to be too short for skylarks?