With longer days, warmer (?) weather, emerging flowers and singing birdies you can certainly say that spring has sprung! But before all this activity we had to make sure all of the winter jobs were complete!

Each year a section of the reedbed in Lagoon 3 is cut. There are two key reasons why this is done. Firstly, it allows new growth – it is important to have different age structures and cutting a different section of reed each time should achieve this. Secondly, over a period of time leaf litter and rotting material builds up and eventually the reedbed would dry out, turning into scrub and then woodland – a natural process. What we are doing is to halt this successional process in order to keep the habitat as a reedbed. To do this, the reeds are cut as short as possible with a combination of the pedestrian mower and several brushcutters. It is surprising just how much material is produced! But this cannot be deposited back into the reedbed and so has to be burnt. At the fire sites, the reeds take a long time to regrow, which is beneficial to the habitat because these areas become temporary clearings ideal for feeding bitterns!! With a large team we managed to get what was thought to be a three day task and finish it within a day! A few people cutting, others raking and burning!

This winter has been the wettest on record, and on a particularly wet and miserable Wednesday we put up a stock fence along the boundary between fields 14 and 13 in order to prevent the Dexters from grazing on a new hedge. The fence was designed to be temporary, consisting of two lines of barbed wire fixed by regular stakes. The stakes were put in using the new post-rammer, before tightening the wire using a technique known as a “box strainer” at each end which allows the wire to be pulled taught without pulling up the stakes. The fence line was finished with “post-and-rail” fencing at either end.

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Once the area had been cordoned off from the stock, we returned to the field boundary in completely different settings with the sun shining and the sky clear. The task for the day was planting a hedgerow designed to act as a stock-proof barrier as well as a biodiverse nesting habitat and winter food source for many of the reserve’s birds. The hedgerow mainly consisted of Hawthorn and Blackthorn, but was interspersed with Dogwoods, Guelder Rose’s, and Field Maples. The juvenile plants, known as whips, were planted with stakes to support their growth as well as a protective plastic tubing to prevent grazing damage from rabbits and deer. We look forward to seeing this field boundary develop into a mature hedge line, and provide a whole range of benefits to the reserve’s wildlife.

The hedgelaying courses are run for the public during the winter months and we were all lucky enough to tag along to join them! With David and Emilie having already completed their two day hedgelaying course back in January with local hedgelaying expert John Shone, it was now time for Amy and Barnaby to practice their skills. Although we were all left a little bit soggy, the weekend was a success and we all enjoyed it.

Once again, we’ve had a fantastic time learning new skills!

Amy, Barnaby, David & Emilie.

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