Friday, 31 January 2014

Exciting Wildlife Spotting Considering the Weather

I've had a very office based week this week, sorting orders for our new fencing and various other projects. But the rest of the Ranger team have been out and about and busy.

A team of us went up to Verrall's Fen to complete the scrub clearance experiment for this year. Ruby blogged a few months ago about the stump grinder being taken up to clear three of the 15 experimental plots, and we have now finished hand clearing three more. This means the clearing cycle has finished for the season, and we will start up again later in the year. While up on Verrall's we had a competition of how many many different animal species we could spot. Ruby got up to aruond 30, the best of which being a Ring Tailed Hen Harrier, though best spot went to Andy for seeing a Barn Owl over the Sedge Fen in the middle of the day.

Carol, Tony and Andy spent the day on Wednesday pushing back some of the scrub in the gallops field by the butterfly trail. The two highland cattle that have spent the autumn behind the Visitor's Center have now been moved over to this field. The girls are enjoying their new surroundings and having a bit of extra space provided by pushing back the scrub.

Andy and John spent yesterday pollarding the big old willow tree in front Visitor's Centre. This old willow has seen better days, and because of it being situated right next to a footpath, we pollard it annually. We take the heavier branches off to reduce the pressure on the top on the tree. Pollarding also helps to extend the life of the tree and so Andy and John have also been pollarding some of the willows along Sedge Fen Drove.

The Willow's New Hair Do
When I've escaped the office I have been out and about around the wider nature reserve, looking after our fencing contractors and sussing out a few other jobs that need to be done. The contractors have done a fanstastic job with our new corral on Burwell Fen and they are now making improvements to the car park at the end of Harrisons Drove before fixing the fencing on Tubney Fen.
An extension has been added to the corral to make rounding up the livestock easier.

While checking the cattle on Burwell, mostly checking whether Rush had calved (which she hasn't!), I saw loads of wildlife out, including a short eared owl, a heron, roe deer, lots of goldfinch and skylark. I didn't even get down to southern part of Burwell Fen where I know there are lots of geese and widgeon enjoying the wetter areas. I even saw a Little Owl on Tubney Fen later that afternoon and a Buzzard on Oily Hall, I was very happy by the end of the day! So it's worth taking the longer walk around Burwell Fen if you find yourself with a spare afternoon, and if the rain ever stops!

Friday, 24 January 2014

We've done a lot and we have amazing new fencing pliers!

 We have been working hard on the Butterfly Trail this week. Small teams of us have spent a few days cutting and carefully clearing sections along the path edge. This will hopefully allow the wild flowers to come up in the spring, so the butterflies and catterpillars have plenty of food plants. It is also stopping the Wood Small Reed from dominating the area.

One of the cut areas on the Butterfly Trail

On Wednesday Carol, Andy, Jack and I were pushing back some scrub next to the hospital paddock where our new track is going to the fire site. We got a lovely big fire going which kept us nice and warm on a frosty January day. There was also a small shed hidden in the brambles which I was allowed to completely destroy!
The destroyed shed.

John, Andy and I collected some pollarded willow branches that were cut by our fenman's workshop volunteers, which they will be using to create willow hurdles and other traditional tools. 
The groovy haircut our RTV had while we transported the willow back to the yard.

Andy and I spent this morning removing some of the old fencing on Tubney Fen before we get shiny new fencing in a few weeks. We had some fun trying to load it all up into the trailer, and came up with a novel solution to save us driving over the fen too much. We also got very excited by our brand new fencing pliers, which made the job so much easier and quicker.
The interesting Trailer loading.

Our Amazing new fencing pliers
  And finally, I checked the Burwell cows the other day so here is a cute picture of Parsley, and our expectant mum, Rush.

Rush looking a little fed up of being pregnant!

Ruby's fancy windpump picture

Friday, 17 January 2014

Its been a Muddy Week

Thinking back on what we have done this week, I seem to remember a lot of mud! The muddiest of ours tasks have been helping out with the slubbing of Wicken Lode. The end by the William Thorpe building has been slubbed by our contractors. The Slubbing prevents the silt build up so that the changing depth of the Lode doesn't reduce the biodiversity of species within it. We have a rotation of sections we slub every year so that we have a range of depths and so a wider range of species. We got particularly muddy helping with this as we were moving a very heavy tarpaulin along the cycle path to protect it against the digger and dumper truck.  Here is a picture of the large machinery to keep John happy:

The Digger and Dumper Truck Slubbing

Lesley and I have also patched up the board walk leading up to East Mere so it is now wobble free and hole free!

Mended duck boards at East Mere Hide
On Wednesday John, with Ruby's help, taught me, Andy and Niki how to do the tree health survey around the sedge fen. You'll be pleased to know that most the trees are doing well, and we have felled the tree on the boardwalk that didn't look very healthy.

Yesterday a team of us headed out to Oily Hall. Lois and Niki had the wonderful task of installing a drain pipe into the toilet at the wild campsite to allow more ventilation so it shouldn't get too wiffy in the summer. John B., Andy and I have dug in some telegraph poles to carry on the construction of a cattle corral to make getting the cows off site easier.

Friday, 10 January 2014

A Wet New Year

Happy New Year to you all and I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.

We’ve quickly got back into the swing of things at the fen, tidying up after Christmas and getting some new projects underway.
We have spent a couple of days this week trying to drain some of the larger puddles along the cycle track that runs beside Wicken Lode. We have dug some small grips from the path to the lode so a lot of the water will now freely flow away. There are still some small puddles, but you no longer need wellies to wade down the path. We even had a couple of webbed footed visitors come and check out what we were up to. 
The puddle problem

One of the new drains to fix the puddle problem
Our resident swans came to inspect our work
  On Wednesday Carol and I went over to Gutterbridge Community Woodland at Swaffham Bullbeck, to clear some larger trees with chainsaws. The woodland is being looked after by the Swaffham Bullbeck community who are creating a series of footpaths and glades through the woods to make a wildlife area for the community to enjoy. So, with our chainsaws we were able to remove some of the trees in the glade areas, that were too large for the work parties to chop down, and some of the dangerous hanging trees that had been blown over. To find out more about Gutterbridge visit the Wicken Fen and Anglessey Abbey Community Blog
The felled trees to create the second glade at Gutterbridge

We’ve been braving the bad weather all week, having to wrap up against the wind and the rain to get our jobs done. Though while checking the fences out on Tubney Fen last week I did shelter in the truck when a very threatening black sky opened up with a downpour of hail, rain and thunder!
The sky above Tubney just before it released a hail storm