Friday, 18 July 2014

We're hitting the busy summer time.

As you may have guessed from how little I'm blogging at the moment, we have hit the busy summer time. All of the rangers have lots going, from fencing and mowing to rounding up animals!

So the first big news is that there are now cows across the whole of Tubney Fen. All the fencing is now cow proof, and so far they seem to be really enjoying there new space. It also means that they will be able to do their full grazing job, keeping the vegetation at a good level to let flowering plants germinate, while not letting other plants take over and out compete all the rest.

We've been gearing up for big changes with our own livestock in the last week or so. The grazing team are putting together the grand plan for moving our Koniks over to Burwell Fen. This is quite a major operation, that is planned with military precision taking into account which family groups will be moved in which order, and which stallions are getting castrated. It is an exciting time also though, as it is the next step in expanding the extensive grazing system run at Wicken with both the Koniks and the Highland cattle.

Last week I went to Fen Ditton Primary School to help one of our volunteer's, Lesley, make an insect hotel in their wildlife area. Every child at the school helped, filling each layer with different things. We had a wood layer, a pine cone layer, a layer with bricks and broken terracotta pots and a layer with bamboo cans and twigs. The different layers create different habitats for a wide variety of insects, with leaf litter layers near the bottom for woodlice and bamboo canes near the top for hibernating solitary bees and ladybirds. We also found lots of insects around the wildlife area that were getting added to the hotel, including a Violet Ground Beetle.

Fen Ditton's New Insect Hotel
I had rather nice day on Tubney on Wednesday, strimming round the gates and mounting blocks at the entrances. The weather was superb and the wildlife was abundant! I stopped on top of Reach Lode Bridge for 10 minutes and watched the dragonflies and damselflies fighting for ladies and territory. Then I spent lunch in the hide by the mere accompanied by a swan family, a coot family and a canada goose family! Then a Hobby pop in to catch his lunch, terrifying the baby coots and the lapwings near by. They had nothing to fear though, as he was completely focused on the dragonflies that were right in front of the hide. Then to add to the wildlife spectacular, Martin and I counted up to 10 grey herons on Burwell Fen yesterday morning.

The view from Reach Lode Bridge, looking towards Reach, with Tubney Fen on the right, and Hurdle Hall on the left

Tubney mere, with the swan family in the background

The calves on Tubney were getting very interested in my strimming!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tree Work at Gutterbridge

We had the guys from Acacia Tree Surgery at Gutterbridge Plantation last week. They have been completing the work on trees that have been deemed dangerous by our tree health survey, because they had the potential to fall on footpaths or the road that runs along the front of the wood. We had done some of the work ourselves, but had to ask the experts in to deal with any trees that involved climbing, as none of the Rangers have the qualifications to use a chainsaw up a tree. I was told by Niki, that the Acacia guys are fearless, cutting tree limbs, while haning from the same tree, with the cut branches zooming past the to the ground.
The work involved felling a couple of trees that were rotted out at the bottom, thinning the crowns of a few more and clearing some that came down during the high winds last winter. One of the most important aspects of the task was surveying each tree before it came down. They checked there were no birds nests or bat roosts in any of the trees and have felled some in such a way that the main trunk of the tree has been left standing, providing ideal potential nest and roost sites. The small bits of wood that came down have been left in habitat piles for lots of different invertebrates and small mammals to find a home in, and the larger chunks are going to be used by the Swaffum Bulleck work parties as benches and table in the glade areas of the wood.

An Acacia Tree Surgeon, doing his stuff.