Tales from the Trainees

Tales from the Trainees

With the winter work completed it is time to start on the summer survey season here at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. Carrying out surveys on the wildlife found here at Rutland Water is a great way to see how successful the habitat work has been! Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) are a nationwide scheme run by the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) in order to monitor population fluctuations within breeding birds. With nearly 1,000 acres to survey the nature reserve is split into manageable sections, each section being surveyed by a different person. We were given the opportunity to join long term bird surveyor Doug Henderson on his BBS patch at Lyndon.   The surveys run from the beginning of March, to coincide with the arrival of summer migrants, and finish in May. During each survey a set route is walked and birds heard and/or seen recorded on maps. At the end of the survey season you are left with a pile of maps covered in bird abbreviations, which can be used to ascertain bird territories within the area. Carrying out these surveys has given us a great opportunity to learn different bird songs. Many people (us included) thought that bird watching consisted of looking through a pair of binoculars trying to catch a glimpse of a far-off bird. However, during the BBS around 80% of the time we are listening to the songs in order to identify birds. By the time the leaves are out on the trees you can hardly see some of the birds, so being able to identify individual species via their song is key! Doug...
The creation of Sharples Meadow

The creation of Sharples Meadow

Assistant Reserve Officer, Fran Payne has been working on an exciting project thanks to a very generous donation from a member of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, to create a wildflower meadow. Sharples meadow is the  name of this new strip of meadowland that runs along the southern side of lagoon IV, from Dunlin hide all the way round to the hand gate that leads down to Shoveler hide. The meadow creation is progressing well. So far the area has been mown and the cuttings removed so that nutrient levels do not increase in the soil as, generally wildflowers prefer soil that has low nutrient levels.  Unfortunately our forage harvester decided to give up the ghost halfway through mowing so, myself and a dedicated team of volunteers set about mowing and raking by hand. Volunteers cut and clear the grassland Perkins Long Service Club were one of group of many to help with the project Once the 8 trailer loads of grass cuttings had been removed, the whole area was sprayed with a weed killer.  This would ensure that when the seed mix was sown the wildflowers had the best chance possible to grow well on the site.  As the grass began to yellow and the sun started to shine, the ground started to dry out, creating more favourable conditions to help the project on its way.  The site was then scarified.  This lifted and loosened the top few inches of soil, which will enable the seeds to bed down into the soil once they have been sown. The area was sprayed to ensure fertility of the soil was low The...
Tales from the Trainees

Tales from the Trainees

In early March, we began construction on a much needed extension to the existing 15 year old badger hide, with an aim to increase capacity from 6 to 10 people. The badger watches here on the reserve are always incredibly popular and so this project presented an opportunity to open up the experience to more people and to renovate the existing hide, allowing for much clearer and more comfortable watches. All four trainees worked on this project with volunteer Ron Follows, whose expertise at hide building was ever present and without which the project would never have been as successful. The project started with dismantling the roof and side of the existing hide (carefully so as to re-use the frame) and measuring out the dimensions for the new extension. As the badger hide is set on stilts we spent a couple of very wet and muddy days digging in the supports for the new extension and ensuring they wouldn’t sink or move. The new floor and the main frames of the extension walls and roof were cut and built in the workshop of the new Volunteer Training Centre (out of the rain!) and then transported and clad on site. Great care was taken to match the cladding to the original hide so the two merged together seamlessly. The entire roof of the hide was replaced with new Onduline sheets and the inside of the hide has been stripped down and now feels a lot more spacious.   An element of the badger hide that we had not encountered whilst constructing any of the other hides on the reserve was...

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