Tales from the Trainees: Winter Update

Trainee Reserve Officers Abi and Cormac update us on what they’ve been getting up to at Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

Since our previous blog entries, we have been involved in a lot more work on the reserve, both with the reserve’s Habitat team and the Projects team.

As part of the traineeship, we had the chance to be put through our chainsaw assessment.  This has enabled us to participate in winter woodland management, including creating a coppice coupe in Hambleton Wood.  This is traditional woodland management which increases structural diversity, by creating a thick understorey.

In addition to chainsaw assessments, we have had the opportunity to partake in various courses, including first aid at work, deer impact assessments, tree safety surveys/inspections and tractor training, all of which will come in useful in our future careers in conservation.

Cormac selecting stakes and binders for use in hedgelaying

We have also taken part in grassland management at a local quarry, to remove woody plant species, using brushcutters, to enable grazing to take place which will encourage the growth of wildlflowers in the spring.  This particular grassland is calcareous, and supports orchid species and other carline thistle, which is in turn a vital habitat component for butterfly species including the rare Large Blue.

One of the first tasks we completed in 2019 was a hedge laying course with John Shone, who has immense knowledge of countryside crafts, including hedge laying and dry stone walling.  We learned a huge amount and have since been tasked with leading volunteers on a hedge laying project.

A well-earned rest!

On Fridays we have chosen to get involved with the Projects team, showing a different side of the way the reserve is managed.  We have been lucky enough to go out with Lloyd Park to check duck traps with the aim to ring any ducks caught, while also collecting wing length and weight measurements for future reference.  As well as this, we have also carried out monthly winter bird surveys at Lyndon Nature Reserve, and will be surveying for the Breeding Bird Survey in the spring/summer, giving us the chance to improve our bird identification skills.  Despite a few hiccoughs, we have successfully built 30 water vole rafts, which will be used to gain a greater understanding of the Water Vole population at Rutland Water and the surrounding area.

We are looking forward to what the next half of the traineeship holds, and hopefully you will hear about it in a few months’ time.

Abi removing an old bird hide base, making way for a new one