Rural Reading: Jays are natures' tree plantersBy Adrian Lawson
October 01, 2010
I have never been entirely convinced that tree planting is a good idea.
I know that a lot of trees that have been planted, including a few by me, have grown up to become welcome additions to the landscape, but I think there are better ways. Tree planting makes us feel good which is no bad thing. But jays make me feel better.
Let me explain.
There was a big project in Kennet Meadows to install a new water pipe and in doing so a few trees, mostly young saplings, were lost. Now, two years later, in order to restore the landscape there are some trees being planted. First of all a tractor comes along to cut a swathe through the grass to the spot where the new trees are to grow. There are quite a few of these between Reading and Calcot, by the way.
A few days later along comes a Land Rover and the tractor. The Land Rover has some posts and the tractor has a post fitting gadget. They both drive along the newly cut swathe and push in the eight posts to form two little deer proof compounds. They both leave, but not before having a sausage roll, a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and a can of Red Bull and a can of Coke. I know what they ate because they left the wrappers behind.
Two days later they return with a roll of wire netting and complete the compound. The swathe cut through the grass now has two ruts where the wheels have pressed in to the soft earth. The litter from this lunch break is added to the old pile and the trees have yet to appear.
Meanwhile the local jays are getting ready for winter. They collect acorns from beneath oak trees and distribute them all over the meadows.
These beautiful pink and blue birds with stubby broad wings can be seen flying out in the open, when normally they are much less noticeable as they inhabit the canopy of the woodland.
During the winter their astonishing memory enables them to find a huge number of acorns that keep them alive throughout the cold weather.
But not all of the acorns get found and a few germinate to become new oak trees. No litter, no ruts, no fencing, no expense – and the results, naturally occurring oak trees far superior to anything we plant.