So Christmas is over, the decorations are firmly packed away and it is time to return and start working off those extra mince pies. We have only been back for a couple of weeks and already we have been up to lots of new things.

But first, we must introduce a new face to the TRO team: Barnaby Coupe, who will be joining the Habitats Team, having started at the reserve on a four week work experience back in October. Here is a little bit about Barnaby:

“Starting as a Trainee Reserve Officer at Rutland Water Nature Reserve has proven to be a fantastic decision, in both the opportunities it provides to get involved in practical conservation work and in the wonderful staff and volunteers which keep the reserve running. As a biology graduate, being involved in the practice of conservation ecology has built on and enhanced my knowledge of the natural environment and given me an insight into the running of a successful nature reserve, as well as allowing me to pick up a host of new skills along the way – a chainsaw course being chief among them! Settling in at the reserve was not a problem with all the staff and volunteers always happy to help and offer advice, making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience to come into work every day. I now feel like part of the team here at the nature reserve and am looking forward immensely to my time as a TRO and to all the new experiences and challenges it presents.”

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New skill… Hedgelaying. We were really pleased to have an opportunity to carry out this ancient skill. Hedgelaying involves cutting a vast majority of a plant stem but leaving enough of the inner sapwood to ensure the plant keeps growing. Laying the cut branches at an angle encourages new vertical growth, which will, over time, thicken out the hedge. The beginning of the year is the perfect time for hedgelaying as the plants are in a dormant stage.  We had a fantastic opportunity to join a hedgelaying course run by local expert John Shone. His method of teaching is traditional and so only hand tools were used. Not only did he teach us about the use of tools, but also the maintenance of them – all billhooks and axes need to have a sharp edge to be efficient! With all this fresh knowledge in mind, we were then let loose on hedges around the reserve, including one on the Egleton meadows and one at Lyndon.

New tool… The tractor-mounted post rammer. A new cattle corral was needed on the reserve to assist with the impending TB testing. This proved the ideal chance to use the new post rammer which is far more stylish than the old one. This bit of kit made knocking in posts effortless as the bigger, heavier weight attached to it is far more effective – on even the most tricky ground!

The woodland management aspect of the work programme is still ongoing. The team have made good headway in coppicing the willows leading up to Harrier hide, and those between Harrier and Snipe hide. These willows made the ideal candidate for coppicing as they were starting to become ‘leggy’. Instead the more desired effect is to have a dense section of vegetation in order to protect nesting birds. As there were breeding avocets on lagoon 1 last year, we ensured that a section of willow across the bund was left to protect them, should they choose to nest here this year.

New sightings! A day exploring the reserve was rewarded with a close up view of a drake and female (redhead) smew on Lagoon 2. These birds have been moving around the reserve so keep your eyes peeled!  Four great northern divers have also been seen on the reservoir alongside black necked and red necked grebes. Seven whooper swans flew over the VTC one morning, but didn’t hang around for long and we only managed to catch a glimpse. They will make twitchers out of us yet!!

The winter Sun has given way to chillier mornings, with snow covering the reserve on Sunday 17th January. However the snow left as quick as it came but created beautiful scenery whilstit was here.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day! We have been treated to some spectacular sunrises in the past few weeks, and we leave you with these spectacular photos taken by us:

Until next month!

Amy, Barnaby, David & Emilie.

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