Tales from the Trainees: Abi’s story

A blog by new Trainee Reserve Officer Abi Mustard, an old friend of the nature reserve back to join us in a new role after completing her degree.

Work Experience: A week at Rutland Water by Anna

The words: “Rutland Water” had been thrown around multiple times before I signed up for the work experience; whether it was relating to the beaches, sailing or the water park. I had driven past it numerous times, seeing a vast expanse of water and had walked down to the tip of the Hambleton Peninsula and back to Oakham. What I didn’t know at the time was that it hosted a nature reserve and how large it actually was. I discovered the work experience when I was given a pamphlet of work experience options during one tutorial period. I was immediately drawn in as I had already heard of the name numerous times and how much I enjoyed walking down the Hambleton Peninsula. Living in China for a few years, I realised how important it is to protect our natural environment. It was almost as if the job had my name on it, so I wrote an application and sent it in, crossing my fingers that I’d be picked as a volunteer on work experience. I was absolutely overjoyed when I got an email offering me a place. I started my work experience on Monday the 2nd of July at the Lyndon Visitor Centre. Here I initially worked at the cash register, selling tickets for the numerous people who had come to see and watch the ospreys. I worked with another girl on work experience called Helen who had similar interests with me and was super nice. I was surprised by how many people came in the visitor centre- around 40 people did. They ranged from young families who went...

A summary of Bird Ringing at Fieldfare Hide 2017 – By Chris Hughes

INTRODUCTION  Due to a variety of factors, only four ringing sessions were undertaken at the site in 2017 although all proved to be productive in terms of numbers of birds processed. They also included a few surprises. At each session only a limited number of nets were set so the numbers of birds breeding here or moving through can only be guessed at. More often than not, I am not aware of large numbers of birds around yet they are there, as evidenced by the numbers caught. The numbers of passerines alone using the reserve must run into tens of thousands and as ringers, we only sample but a small proportion. The data we collect and submit to the BTO is vital and informs conservation strategies both locally and nationally. VISIT REPORTS The following notes are from the reports I submit to the reserve following each session together with brief comments. Ringing sessions held were: 28 May 2017 – 63 new birds, 36 retraps – Total birds – 99 A breezy morning with a clear sky and sunny from around 0600 hours. 18 different species caught this morning with double figures for Dunnock, Blackbird, Sedge and Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff. Highest individual species’ total was Garden Warbler with 7 new birds ringed and 7 retraps. Juvenile Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Long tailed Tit and a very recently fledged Reed Bunting were all ringed. Most surprising species caught were a Jay caught in a net on the north side of the hide (another one in the net at the same time ‘walked’ along the net and made a swift...

A Year of Mothing at Rutland Water by volunteer recorder, Paul Palmer

People often ask me what time of year do moths fly and are surprised to hear the answer: ‘Every month of the year.’ It is true that not so many fly in the colder months, and that they avoid windy and very wet weather, but many species, such as the Dark Chestnut and Dotted Border, hibernate as adults and readily appear in brief mild nights throughout the Winter. Others, like the appropriately named Early Moth, emerge from their pupa when the weather is mild in the first 10 weeks or so of the year. It therefore follows that to get a really good idea of the moth species present recording should take place throughout the year whenever the weather seems suitable. In 2017 my moth recording at Rutland Water started on the evening of 19th February when I started to find places to run traps near Sharple’s Meadow and Lagoon II. I was joined by someone new to moth recording, who best remain nameless, who watched with great interest as each trap was carefully located on level ground, and secateurs used to clear trailing brambles, dead twigs and small nettle shoots. After a while, a voice said: ‘Ah, I see what you are doing: making a clear zone to improve the effectiveness of your traps. Very clever.’ One must always be encouraging, so I replied: ‘Yes, I am sure you are correct, but I find removing the brambles stops them snagging my clothes, cutting the twigs prevents them poking me in the eye, and trimming the nettles reduces stings later in the year.’ Moving quickly on to the following...

Wild Horizons: Brilliant Bryophytes

This weekend we were lucky to have bryophyte expert Uta Hamzaoui lead a workshop on mosses and liverworts for our Wild Horizons group. Uta is the bryophyte county recorder for Leicestershire and also works as a Conservation Officer for Leicester and Rutland Wildlife Trust. Bryophytes consist of mosses, liverworts and hornworts, and over 1,000 species can be found in the UK. Almost all of the members of Wild Horizons had little knowledge of bryophytes before the session started, and Uta gave us an excellent introduction to the subject. We started by heading out into the field to see how many species we could find. Armed with a small ID guide featuring the most common species at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, we began looking for mosses and liverworts in a quiet, damp, wooded area of the reserve. We didn’t have to move very far, for within about a 10m radius we found 11 of the 12 species on our ID guide, with the final species just a short walk away. The only downside to finding so many bryophytes in such a small area was that we weren’t moving very much, so we soon got very chilly! After a couple of hours outside we retreated back indoors to look at the specimens we had collected with our hand lenses and microscopes. We learnt that bryophytes are non-vascular plants that reproduce by releasing spores from their ‘sporophytes’ (stalk-like structures), which can be carried on the wind to recolonise new areas. Instead of roots, bryophytes take up water by absorbing it through their surface, and as such they prefer damp places where they can thrive. We watched mosses drying...

Tales from the (New) Trainees

It’s a little overdue, but the time has come!  We are the new trainee reserve officers (TROs) and we’ve come to the blog to say “hello!”.  Let us introduce ourselves…   “Hello everyone, I’m Claire and one of the TROs this year. I’ve had a varied background having never found a career that has made me happy or satisfied at the end of a long hard day. Most recently I was an accountant. After a year and a half sat behind a desk I knew that it wasn’t the career for me. Before that I was a volunteer personal assistant for a tetraplegic man, this was a challenging but very rewarding time however it was always going to be an interim between university and a job. Finally, all that happened after I completed a degree in Biomedical Sciences! A varied background, as I said. Through it all I’ve always had an interest in the natural world and have always been happiest when outside exploring so I’ve decided to indulge this passion and am excited at the prospect of this coming year!“       “Hello, my name is Alexandra, better known on the reserve as Alex!  I’m a new TRO at Rutland Water.  My background is grounds maintenance/horticulture at an ornamental city park.  I decided to apply for the TRO programme because I really enjoyed my previous job.  I enjoyed using tools, working outdoors, working in teams and getting hands-on, and realised I wanted to do something similar throughout my life. I’ve always wanted to work outdoors to protect the environment, either for the benefit of people or wildlife,...

Wild Skills: Coppicing

Our Wild Skills volunteering group for 13 -18 year olds meets once a month to carry out practical tasks around the nature reserve. Many of the members are working towards completing Duke of Edinburgh awards, and all have an interest in the natural world. This month the group went to Hambleton Wood to carry out some hazel coppicing. Coppicing involves cutting back the hazel to as close to ground level as possible, and is a woodland management practice that goes back hundreds of years. Coppicing encourages new growth, and also opens up the woodland canopy allowing more light to reach the woodland floor. This allows ground flora to flourish, providing great habitat for woodland birds and food for pollinators. Starting this year, a different 0.5 hectare section of Hambleton Wood will be coppiced each year. Spending time working in the woods is a great way to notice wildlife you wouldn’t spot on a stroll – group member George found this tiny spider which had made it’s web in a piece of dead wood. Coppicing isn’t just good for wildlife – it is also a great way of raising money from the land. Our Wild Skills group sorted out the hazel they cut into piles – pea supports (to support growing sweet peas), bean poles (to support growing beans), binders and stakes (both used in hedge laying), all of which will be sold. Anything that wasn’t suitable for selling was burnt on the fire, which helped keep us warm on a chilly autumn day! Thank you to all the Wild Skills members who took part and to Reserves Officer Paul Trevor for providing us with the...

A Wild Weekend

On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th September, we hosted a ‘wild weekend’ here at Rutland Water for young people – members of our 2 youth groups, ‘Wild Skills’ (13-18 year olds) and ‘Wild Horizons’ (18 – 30 year olds) came along, and we were lucky to be joined by ‘Keeping it Wild’, the youth group from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (13 – 25 year olds). The purpose of the weekend was an important one – the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), based in Newark, wanted to quiz young people interested in wildlife on how the Wildlife Trusts could improve their youth engagement strategy. So Becky Corby, leader of ‘Wild Skills’ and ‘Wild Horizons’, and Laura Bacon, leader of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Keeping in Wild’, got their heads together to plan a weekend that would meet the aims of RSWT and also be great fun for our 3 combined youth groups. We started on Saturday morning with a focus group, led by Beth Rowland from RSWT. Members of all 3 youth groups contributed some excellent ideas, letting Beth know what they think the Wildlife Trust does well and not so well. They then had a questionnaire to fill out, this time from another Beth, Beth Searle of Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, currently working on the ‘Wild Trax’ youth engagement project. Both Beths found the input of our youth groups really useful and were able to go back to their projects with lots of new ideas. After a bit of lunch we then started on the afternoons activity – building duck traps for the bird ringing group. Having never built a duck...

Maisie’s work experience blog

Maisie joined the Rutland Water Nature Reserve team this week on a work experience placement – find out how she got on here…

Wild Skills: nest box building

On Sunday our Wild Skills members met for their first session of 2017. It may have been a cool, grey winters day but our minds were on preparation for the spring! The team spent the morning making small hole nest boxes (35 in total) to replace some of our older boxes on the nature reserve. You might think that there would be plenty of nesting habitat on a large nature reserve like Rutland Water Nature Reserve, however even here our breeding birds need as much help as we can offer to make their lives a little easier.  There are literally hundreds of nest boxes up around the reserve, each providing a small but safe haven for song birds such as blue tits, great tits, wrens and tree creepers to name but a few. The boxes aim to replicate the nooks, crannies and crevices in older trees and other natural habitat that birds would normally use to nest in, but provide extra protection from the elements and predators. The nest boxes also help us monitor breeding bird numbers and success, as we are able to check the boxes each year and ring the birds we find with a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) identification ring. The group learnt about the essential features of small hole nest boxes: they should be made from a sustainable source of hardwood with a rough surface that the birds can grip on to, ideally of a thickness of 15mm or more to provide a good insulation layer. They should be nailed together (with nails that won’t rust) and have holes drilled into the bottom to allow water to drain away. The lid needs to be...

Volunteer, Dave Cole, awarded Christopher Cadbury Medal

The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts has awarded the 2016 Christopher Cadbury Medal for services to the advancement of nature conservation in the British Islands, to Dave Cole, naturalist and Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust volunteer. Dave has been volunteering at Rutland Water Nature Reserve for over 35 years, and in that time has succeeded in inspiring staff, trainees and volunteers alike. From wildlife surveying to filmmaking, carpentry to practical nature conservation, there is no job too big or small that Dave won’t tackle with enthusiasm and knowledge. Dave has been instrumental in building confidence, knowledge and skills of everyone he meets. An inspiring all-round naturalist, his personal expertise and tuition has had a huge impact on the nature reserve, especially trainee staff. He has inspired members of the public to fall in love with wildlife, through numerous public walks. Since 1980, David has taken part in monthly Wetland Bird Surveys and has undertaken breeding bird surveys, as well as local bat surveys. His legendary carpentry skills have been invaluable, from overseeing the construction of all 35 birdwatching hides on the nature reserve, to the erection of thousands of nest boxes for an array of species, and even the internal fittings in the new Volunteer Training Centre. Dave was presented with the Christopher Cadbury Medal by Tony Juniper, President of The Wildlife Trusts. In accepting the award Dave said “It’s a great privilege to volunteer at Rutland Water Nature Reserve and contribute to this wonderful place. I am lucky to be part of a wonderful group of volunteers and I am honoured to accept the Christopher Cadbury Medal on...

A reedy big project…

Thanks to generous funding from Anglian Water, we’ve been able to undertake a much needed improvement project in our reed bed with the help of a floating amphibious excavator…

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