Friday, 25 April 2014

The Rangers go on a day trip

Firstly a thank you to John for blogging over Easter while I was enjoying a long weekend in Cornwall!

We've all been recovering from the Easter Holidays this week, trying to squeeze a weeks worth of work into 4 days. I spent Tuesday visiting all the sites out on the wider nature reserve, doing a bit of a litter pick and just seeing how they were all doing. Having been busy on Tubney Fen for so long it felt like it had been a while since I'd seen some of the other sites, so it was nice to catch up with them. It looked like people had been enjoying getting out into the countryside over the Easter weekend, which is great to know as it makes our work feel even more worth while!

As John mentioned last week, the Rangers have been listening out for the summer migrants. It has got a little competetive with everyone wanting to hear the first call of everything, but it's always nice to know when all the birds arrive. Definately the highlight of this week has been the Cuckoo calling down the Lode, check out our facebook page for a great photo of him taken by Richard Nicoll.

The foals are coming thick and fast now, and the first calf of the year has been born! In order we have, born on Saturday to Red Morag, the little girl calf Dandilion. Then on Sunday, two foals, a colt called Monty (short for Montagu's Harrier) to Kaluna, then a filly to Willow called Warbler. Then to finish the set this week Oriola gave birth to another colt which has been named Buzz (short for Buzzard).

Dandilion with mum Red Morag and then taking a nap

Kaluna and little Monty

Willow with new little one Warbler
The Rangers went on a day trip yesterday, to visit some of the local Suffolk Wildlife Trust sites. We spent the morning at Bradfield Woods looking at the bluebells and how they manage a coppiced woodland. As we have very little woodland it was a good oppertunity for us all to expand our knowledge a little bit. We then popped into Lackford Lakes before heading back to Wicken to welcome our new Strategic Manager Joan, and to say goodbye and good luck to Amanda whose now off on maternity leave.

The Bluebells at Bradfield Woods

Andy and Anita try to identify woodland plants

Martin telling us about coppiced woodland

John and I having a quick sit down while watching large machinery split logs

A pretty bluebell.

Thanks to Ruby and Carol for the pictures.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Getting ready for Easter, the Sedge Fen is still wet and we check ourowl boxes

Hello, John here. It has been a long time since I posted, Maddie has been doing a fine job. 

With it being the Easter and the bank holiday weekend we have been working to make sure that as much of the fen is accessible as possible and that everything is looking presentable. We have been working hard to get the paths mowed, the picnic areas cut and stimmed, bird hides in best of order and plant and butterfly boards out. We have also been working very had as we are expecting more calves and foals, fixing miles of fences, building duck boards and many other bits and bobs.
View from East Mere hide last week.  

Nature Trail
We are still waiting to open the Nature Trail in its entirety. Currently it is not a full loop, as part of it is too wet. It is open to all the hides though, and you can see a great deal of the Sedge Fen. We are just waiting for Mitchell's drove to get dry enough to take people walking without being damaged. Now it is important to remember that a fen should be wet! Especially in the winter, drying out as the summer warms up and the water table steadily dropping before rising again in late autumn. This process is key to the fens delicate ecosystem. It can however make our job of managing it tricky, as we can't always get tools and machinery, however light and in certain ceases even people on foot to were we need to work. 

Mitchell's drove is for the most part in fine nick, and dry enough to use, but there are a few wet areas near its start and finish. Wicken's Sedge Fen is covered in old peat diggings that run roughly at right angles to Wicken Lode across the fen and occasionally across Mitchell's Drove. These old diggings create low points which hold water for longer and are doing so at present. We have been busy building new lightweight portable duck boards to bridge the gaps. The old ones have been causing us problems as they have been blocking the light getting to the plants and creating muddy areas. As shown on a different area in the picture below. These muddy areas can take several years to recover. We have been working very hard to make a new batch of small light duck boards that can be put out over wet areas for short periods and then removed to allow the plants to continue to grow.  At present we have been using sections of old boardwalk which are very heavy and hard to move. Many thanks to Ridgeons for helping us with the timber.

Damage from old boardwalk

New sections in place. 

Checking Our Owl Boxes
Me and Maddie went out with Neil, one of the most experienced bird ringers at Wicken to check the owl boxes around the reserve. Some great finds, and brilliant to see the boxes in use, if not all by owls. I'm really pleased, especially as some had been out for a short time.

Old Bee's Nest 
We found this amazing old bees nest yesterday, it is on the way to the Butterfly Trail if you fancy a look.

Other Bits and Bobs
Ruby took this fantastic pic of a young dear, here is a list of the migrant birds we have been spotting and are expecting soon and the swans are nesting near the Visitor Centre Again. It isn't Wicken related but I really like the long horn cattle grazing on Coldham's Common next to Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium, so a couple of pics of them too.

Have a great Easter and as usual you can keep I touch on twitter: @wickenfennt and @vision_warden

Friday, 11 April 2014

Here come the foals!

I feel like my Ranger life hasn't been hugely exciting this week, I've either been in meetings or doing fencing on Tubney Fen. The fencing is coming along nicely though, and we managed to hang most of the gates and I've been out this morning with Jason, one of our fencing contractors, pushing in lots and lots of fence posts. I must have walked over 3 miles around Tubney, which is why I'm having a rest doing office work this afternoon! The good thing about being out on Tubney so much is that I'm getting to see all the summer wildlife that's starting to appear. We've seen lots of butterflies, Brimstones, Tortoiseshells and Peacocks, lots of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and Tufted Ducks on the mere. On the Mere there have also been a pair of Oystercatchers spotted and there is a Canada Goose nesting right in front of the hide.

The best gate I have managed to put up this week

Front of house maintanence has started, with John and Andy strimming and hedge trimming everywhere! Ruby has also been repainting the boardwalk signs, and herself. Its all looking lovely ready for the tons of visitors that have turned up with the combination of the Easter Holidays and good weather.

We have also appointed a new long term volunteer, congratulations Luke!

There have been two new foals on the fen last weekend, Sky and Gracie have had a boy and a girl respectively. And hot off the press, Nanja has foaled today!

Gracie with her new little one

Sky with her first ever foal!

Friday, 4 April 2014

More fencing, exciting tractors and bugs

The Ranger team have been getting all excited over new tools and machinery this week. We finally got to use all of our new fencing tools, strainers and crimps earlier this week. Once we had all the chains and hooks figured out it made the job so much easier and quicker. We manged to get the wire so taut we could get a nice note from it when we plucked it!
Andy and I using the new stock netting strainers. 

We have also had a contractor in mowing the Reach Lode bank at Burwell Fen. John and Ruby have been telling me all about his tractor ever since. To have a look go to John's twitter account at:

There have been interviews for our long term volunteer placements this week, both with the countryside and the grazing sections of the ranger team. It's been great to meet so many enthusiastic people with a real passion for conservation and the outdoors. We've got some tricky decisions to make now. While we were walking one candidate around the boardwalk we came across this little fella, who I am informed will be a drinker moth:
A drinker moth caterpilla found enjoying the warmth of the boardwalk.

And finally, if you haven't already seen the insect hotel Lois and I helped the students to build at Waterbeach School as part of their Science week, go to the Anglesey and Wicken Community blog at: It ispossibly the best one we've ever built. It has a chimney.