Monday, 23 December 2013

Car Park Matting and a Rescue Mission to Blakeney Point

The Fen has been getting in the festive mood for the past couple of weeks. While the Education guys have been busy with all the Father Christmas visits, the Ranger team has been getting the fen ready for the Christmas crowds. Our biggest job has been to put some new matting down in the overflow car park to try and stop people getting stuck in the mud. It involved laying 28 rolls of matting, at 20m long each and then hammering over 100 pins into each mat. Needless to say we all had sore hammering arms by the end of the week. The result is that half of the overflow is now easier to drive when the bad weather hits over Christmas, though we will still have the tractor on standby just in case anyone needs a tow.

Andy and Lesley finishing the first section on a sunny Monday afternoon
End result of the first day
Nearly there, even if we couldn't see each other through the mist!
Last Friday Jack and I went to help our colleagues over at Blakeney Point on the North Norfolk coast. Due to high winds coinciding a spring tide a few weeks ago, the boardwalk had been moved around all over the point, so a team of Rangers volunteered from properties all over the region to help set it all straight again. Under the instruction of the North Norfolk Coast Rangers we managed to push, pull, lift, drop, squeeze and stretch the boardwalk back into place. It was like doing a very long jigsaw puzzle as the bendy and straight pieces all had to go back in the right order so that it followed the path around the sand dunes. This was made all the more exciting by having to herd protective seal mothers off the boardwalk which they and their pups had clearly claimed to be theirs. The bad weather has pushed the seal colony further inland than they would normally, and they can move surprisingly quickly when you have your back turned. All in all it was a successful day, we returned all boardwalk pieces that hadn’t been swept out to see and we all got to spend the day with seal pups!
First job of the day, move the seal out the way of the tractor! (And yes I did very nearly get bitten!)
Two cute seal pups who had been weaned and were slowly making their way to the sea for the first time.

This is our last post for the year, so from all the Rangers and staff, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Stump grinding, butterfly trail management and horse movements.

The stump grinder from Acacia arrived at the fen on Thursday. We have brought it in as part of the scrub clearance experiment of Verrall's Fen. Three of 15 plots will have the scrub removed using the stump grinder, the other plots include a control plot, and the others will have their scrub removed by either tractor mowing, roundup treating or clearing saw. The reason that we are doing the scrub clearance project is to find the best way to clear the encroaching scrub on Verrall’s Fen, whilst still keeping the diversity of plant species for a tall herb fen or fen meadow habitat. The species for these habitats are currently found on Verrall’s, but the percentages of each are not as high as we would prefer.

The stump grinder in action

On the Sedge Fen, we have just started the management of the butterfly trail. The trail has been split into several sections that are to be managed in different ways. We started on the section closest to the bridge that leads onto the trail from the Sedge Fen, clearing the whole area and forking it off instead of raking so that we don't disturb the butterfly larvae that over winter in the bottom of the grass tussocks. Helen, Anita and Andy did a fantastic job of cutting and clearing. They got over twice the amount done that I had anticipated, and did a lovely job of it. I certainly can’t thank them enough.

Before the cutting of the butterfly trail

After the cutting of the butterfly trail

Forking off the cuttings

On the other side of the fen, the dividing of the breeding herd of Koniks occurred. Half of the horse herd was moved over two days by the whole ranger team and two vet teams.
We had two vets present with their nurses. Andy, our main vet was with Carol and her team, getting the horses into pens and then onto the trailer. Whenever possible we didn’t give any anaesthetic to the horses. The vast majority managed to be moved without been given any, which is fantastic.
The horses where then moved over to an area of Harrisons on Adventurers Fen, where myself and a team where there to unload the horses into pens. Georgie, the other vet present and her nurse team were to perform the vasectomies, castrations and micro chipping of the ones who arrived. Each horse had been marked with coloured paint to ensure that no horse was to be misidentified at any point, the grazing team know every horse and I had done a lot of identification work prior to these two days, but it was better to not risk mistaking a horse for another and having the wrong horse micro chipped or castrated instead of vasectomised. I had the task of identifying each horse and informing the vets of whether they needed a micro chip, their passports filling in, and in the case of the males, if they needed to be vasectomised or castrated.
The males were either vasectomised or castrated, a process that went well for each horse, and we have had no complications with them since. A hair sample was also taken from each horse which will be sent off for DNA analysis so that we have an even greater understanding of which horses are related to each other as this years foals are yet to have their paternity tested.
This herd will now be non-breeding, whilst the 27 horses still on Bakers Fen will continue to breed. They will be moved over onto Burwell Fen hopefully in spring 2014.

Loading the horses on Bakers Fen

Unloading the horses into the pens on Harrisons