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how to save elder and birds whilst getting rid of ivy

Hi

Newbie gardener just moved into a 60s build house with quite an established garden.  An elder tree we have is being strangled to death by ivy. I want to remove the ivy but it seems to contain at lest one nest (wren) and is visited by lots of other birds so maybe there are other nests there, too. 

How can I remove the ivy and safeguard any nests there?  Is now the worst time to remove it if there are nests there - would it be better to wait for the spring?

Thanks for your advice

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  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,875

    Birds won't be nesting now but will be using the ivy as shelter through the winter.

    It's a tricky one. You have a first class habitat for wildlife there but I can understand you don't want it if you have a small garden. 

    I think I'd do it now, it will give the birds and other creatures time to move on before it gets really cold. 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,270

    Hi goldfinches image

    We moved into a similar house and garden 3 years ago - more ivy than garden!  Now is the best time to remove the ivy - nests aren't used at this time of year -  they may be used as roosts by wrens in very cold weather so you could get some roosting pockets http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/birds-wildlife/nestboxes/roosting-pockets-x3.html to replace them.

    Birds start nesting from early February onwards and it is illegal to disturb nesting birds, so that would be the worst time to do any work on the ivy. 

    And when removing the ivy please remember that it is a very valuable wildlife resource, providing shelter for many birds, animals and insects.  The flowers provide invaluable nectar for bees and other pollinating insects at a time of year when nectar is scarce, and the berries are needed by blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings, waxwings and other birds in the winter when there's nothing else about. So if you can leave some ivy somewhere to grow where it can't do any damage that'll be really great image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • image

     Hi, Goldfinches: I'd like to fully echo Dove's comments, especially the last two paragraphs. The attached photo shows a well-established laburnam whose principal purpose is to provide a climbing support for the ivy 'thicket'. The ivy is much visited & two blackbird families have been raised in most recent summers + robins & bluetits nesting too. The feral pigeons, thrushes & fieldfares 'harvest' the ivy berries, usually Dec - February, so all-in-all, it's well worth having the ivy around the place.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,270
    goldfinches wrote (see)
    .........  I want to remove the ivy but it seems to contain at lest one nest (wren) and is visited by lots of other birds so maybe there are other nests there, too. ,,,,,,

    The reason it's visited by lots of other birds is because of the shelter the ivy provides and the insects that live amongst it.  If you get rid of all the ivy the birds will not be there.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Thanks for all your advice.  We have lots of ivy in the garden, lots of established trees and loads of birds. The main thing about this tree, the elder tree, is that it is being strangled by the ivy.  It needs managing in some way as it looms over a neighbouring garden with it's unkempt and dead-looking branches.  I actually want to save the tree, as elders seem to attract a huge amount of birds.  I am mindful of destroying the ivy habitat, on this particular tree also.

    I think the best thing to do is get a tree surgeon to have a look at the tree and see if it can be saved, which would mean stripping the ivy.  If it's dying or dead, then I don't know, perhaps the whole lot would have to come up as I don't want a huge elder with dead roots toppling over in a storm!

    At the end of the day I want to preserve the natural environment - the tree and the rest of the wildlife as best I can. It also has to be safe.  The previous occupants just haven't managed the garden very well in some ways.  I hope we can sort out some of the issues and do a good job with it for the wildlife.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,270

    It may be that the elder would be dying anyway - they're not long-lived trees.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Mrs GMrs G Posts: 336

    Elder are very easy to do from cuttings and chances are if you have a mature berrying one in your garden you've probably got a self seeded one already growing somewhere.  You'll be waiting a while for the berries though. image

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,114
    Goldfinches, we are talking about an elder tree are we? Huge is not a word I've heard used about an elderberry tree. They barely get above large shrub size. Certainly not large enough to warrent the attention of a tree surgeon.



    Anyway, about the nests; now is the best time to remove them if you are going to do so. Birds usually build new nests each Spring as they are often destroyed by Winter weather anyway.
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,875

    I dunno Welsh, we found one here that was 15 foot tall and at least as wide.  The base of the trunk was 2 foot in diameter.image

    Beyond the tools and ability of many gardeners.

  • Mrs GMrs G Posts: 336

    We also have an elder that has grown into a single stemmed tree.  I can just reach up with telescopic loppers to prune the odd wayward bit off.

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