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

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