Friday, 27 November 2015

Scrub Clearance and Winter's Arrival

As winter has arrived, the Rangers have been donning their chainsaw kits and heading out onto the fen. We're clearing a section of scrub along Spinney Bank, the path along the west side of the Sedge fen. This section of the Nature Trail has scrub on both sides of the path, leaving it in shadow for most of the day all year round. We've been having some troubles with how wet the nature trail gets and this spot in particular becomes impassable much quicker than the rest of the trail. We have been combating that by putting out movable duck boards. This serves to protect not only our visitors shoes, but the peat they are walking over too.

By clearing the scrub from one side of the path we're hoping to open it up to the sun a bit more, so that it may stay drier for longer, and we wont have to use duck boards for the whole of the summer again, like we had to this year. The side we're clearing is also the side closest to the ditch, which is also a good thing as we're clearing some of the potential blockages from this ditch.

Luke and Phil after clearing their section in the scrub
On the first day of work four Rangers qualified to use a chainsaw went down to the site, with a team of volunteers to drag away and pile up the trees we cut down. We couldn't, however, start on the scrub on the ditch side of the path as we had nowhere to put the downed trees. So we set about making some hidden holes in the scrub on the other side of the path. We created narrow entrances of about 2m, to allow members of the team to gain entry to the area and then swept out to create a wide mushroom shaped space to fill with the cut down scrub. We then piled the trees from this space around the edges of the wide areas to make room for the rest.

Once this was finished the clearing on the ditch side of the path could begin. It has taken the team about 5 days to cut down and drag away all the scrub from this section. It can be a fun job, seeing how much you can plough through in a day and with a few of you on a team there's lots of people to talk to. At other times. though, with rain howling down and having to wear ear defenders while the chainsaws are running, it can be hard work. The volunteers, lead by Luke have done a fantastic job, and there's only some stumps left to be sorted, but the trees are all gone.

Elsewhere on the fen, we're starting to get ready for Christmas. The cycle path along from the Visitor's Centre to Norman's Bridge has had new drainage installed, so it shouldn't flood as quickly in the rain. Its also had a new surface rolled on top so it's looking ideal for a crisp winter bike ride.

New Drainage being put next to the cycle path
The lovely looking new cycle path
The Education team are getting things ready for Father Christmas' arrival at Fen Cottage. The Ranger team help out by bringing back any silver birch trees we've felled during scrub clearance as they make very pretty Christmas trees.

The winter migrant birds are coming in thick and fast now as well. Short Eared Owls are back on Burwell, Fieldfares and the odd Red Wing can be seen from the back of the Visitor's Centre. Our last WeBS count on Burwell Fen (wetland birds survey) recorded 2468 birds of 17 different species in just over an hour. Over 1000 Lawings, 850 Golden Plovers, around 100 Shovellers and 136 Wigeon. And they're just the big numbers! The Hen Harriers have also made a return to the Fen, with four seen regularly over the Sedge Fen just before sunset.

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