Friday, 11 April 2014

Here come the foals!

I feel like my Ranger life hasn't been hugely exciting this week, I've either been in meetings or doing fencing on Tubney Fen. The fencing is coming along nicely though, and we managed to hang most of the gates and I've been out this morning with Jason, one of our fencing contractors, pushing in lots and lots of fence posts. I must have walked over 3 miles around Tubney, which is why I'm having a rest doing office work this afternoon! The good thing about being out on Tubney so much is that I'm getting to see all the summer wildlife that's starting to appear. We've seen lots of butterflies, Brimstones, Tortoiseshells and Peacocks, lots of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and Tufted Ducks on the mere. On the Mere there have also been a pair of Oystercatchers spotted and there is a Canada Goose nesting right in front of the hide.

The best gate I have managed to put up this week

Front of house maintanence has started, with John and Andy strimming and hedge trimming everywhere! Ruby has also been repainting the boardwalk signs, and herself. Its all looking lovely ready for the tons of visitors that have turned up with the combination of the Easter Holidays and good weather.

We have also appointed a new long term volunteer, congratulations Luke!

There have been two new foals on the fen last weekend, Sky and Gracie have had a boy and a girl respectively. And hot off the press, Nanja has foaled today!

Gracie with her new little one

Sky with her first ever foal!

Friday, 4 April 2014

More fencing, exciting tractors and bugs

The Ranger team have been getting all excited over new tools and machinery this week. We finally got to use all of our new fencing tools, strainers and crimps earlier this week. Once we had all the chains and hooks figured out it made the job so much easier and quicker. We manged to get the wire so taut we could get a nice note from it when we plucked it!
Andy and I using the new stock netting strainers. 

We have also had a contractor in mowing the Reach Lode bank at Burwell Fen. John and Ruby have been telling me all about his tractor ever since. To have a look go to John's twitter account at:

There have been interviews for our long term volunteer placements this week, both with the countryside and the grazing sections of the ranger team. It's been great to meet so many enthusiastic people with a real passion for conservation and the outdoors. We've got some tricky decisions to make now. While we were walking one candidate around the boardwalk we came across this little fella, who I am informed will be a drinker moth:
A drinker moth caterpilla found enjoying the warmth of the boardwalk.

And finally, if you haven't already seen the insect hotel Lois and I helped the students to build at Waterbeach School as part of their Science week, go to the Anglesey and Wicken Community blog at: It ispossibly the best one we've ever built. It has a chimney.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Rose Cottage Lean To

It's been a while since it was first mentioned, but now that Rose Cottages lean to has been constructed I thought I'd share the process in photographs from the original to the end for all to see.

Benchmark contractors were the guys that we contracted into build the lean to, and I'm personally really pleased with the build. It even has a radiator in it to keep your boots warm in winter!

After the previous lean to was in disrepair (not even attached to the floor anymore and the door wouldn't shut!) it was decided that a new, bigger lean to needed to be built.

It took less than an hour to take down the old lean to, but thankfully a lot longer to build the new one!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Tractor Training

Niki, Carol, John and I spent three days this week doing a LANTRA Tractor Driving Course. It was very interesting and useful learning all the best and easiest ways to drive our tractors. For our assessment we had to hitch up a reverse a trailer, attach the grab to the front and move a large tree stump, and attach the mower and mow some stuff. I am pleased to say that we all passed, and (if I say so myself) passed well.

Niki hitching up the trailer for her assessment.

While we were play with tractors, Lois took Andy and our work experience placement out to the wider nature reserve to put new interpretation signs out. We all trying to update all the signs around the fen to give visitors up to date and relevant info about the wildlife and the landscape.

Putting my new tractor skills to good use, I have spent the past two days mowing the paths along the Lodes Way. I had a few interested parties watching me, including a Little Grebe on Burwell Fen, lots of Roe Deer next to Guinea Hall and the Koniks on Guinea Hall too. 

The Ponies watching the tractor, including little Swift.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Mowing and Burning

Jack and I have had Buzz the ride on mower out in compartment 22, the field behind the Visitor's Centre. We have been mowing about half of the compartment where there were small tree saplings have been popping up. There was a clear line where the peat soil changed to clay, as the peat soil was too wet to sustain the trees. This made a good clear line for us to pinpoint where to stop our mowing.
You can just about make out the line where I had been mowing.
John and I went on a tour of the wider nature reserve on Tuesday, planning out what needs mowing over the summer and what needs mowing ready for spring to really begin. I now have a lot of time in a tractor looming ahead of me.

For the rest of the week, we have been continuing to tidy the fire site. We've managed to get some nice big, but controlled fires going burning the old brash we've had stacked there for a while. We also pollarded some willows along the edge of the fire site and added them to the fire. Unfortunately we never managed to remember to take a packet of marshmallows with us, but we always enjoy having a good fire.

We managed to get a good amount of heat coming from the middle of the fire.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Spring is here, so lets get ready for Summer!

When I started writing this week's blog I didn't feel like I had a lot to tell you, but now I've written a list of what we've been up to this week I realise we have actually been really busy. With the nice weather settling in we are starting to gear up for the summer, trying to get things ready and organised for when everything starts growing.

The Ranger and Education teams have been looking at the Education Area, writing a wish list of everything we want there, and what needs fixing. We are now going to work out what is affordable and manageable before cracking on with the work before the summer school groups start visiting.

Next to the ed area, we have started to tidy and organise our fire site. We've had a new very large shelter built there to protect some of the old equipment and spare fence supplies, so Ruby has made a plan for where everything is going. We are now freeing all of the piles of stuff from the overgrowth and moving it to where Ruby points to. It sounds like a really dull task but we have kept a lot of old equipment and signs, and generally anything that has ever been used on the Fen so its like a going back through the history of the Fen!

A fancy panroramic photo of our fire site before we have organised it.
We've been getting on with making the new duckboards that will go around the site next winter. It may seem like we're making them very early but we want to be able to drive them out on site in the summer when the ground is dry. We have enough materials to make 75 and we have now made 16, with Mike making more as I type. Mike has made a fantastic jig so that you just place the pieces of wood in the slots and screw them together. It makes the job so much quicker and easier.
Andy, Anita and me making duckboards

Other little jobs we've been up to are, finishing the cutting of Butterfly Trail, checking out some of the windblown trees in Gutterbridge and more fencing work on Tubney Fen.

This afternoon Lois and I are heading out to the freshly mown Harrison's Drove car park to install some new benches. So we will have a nice new base for people to be able to explore the wider Nature Reserve.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Making the most of the Sunshine

Us Rangers have been rather enjoying the lovely weather we've had over the past fortnight, it's been great to get about the reserve in the sunshine.

At the start of the week, Ruby and Andy helped me to clear the last few trees we had marked for felling during the tree health survey. We dropped an ash tree that was leaning alarmingly over the boardwalk, during which I managed to get very soggy feet. I suppose that's what I get for working at a wet fen! We also cleared the largest of the old Elms at the entrance to the Butterfly trail, to stop dead branches falling onto the path. I have tried to make the stump look like the tree snapped naturally, but I don't think I've managed to fool anybody. Hopefully however, the high stump will become a nice patch of dead wood for lots of insects to find a home in.

Me next to my not so artfully carved Elm stump.
 It was National Nest box Week last week, so we took the opportunity to support the BTO by putting up the rest of our owl nest boxes. There are now  Little Owl boxes at Tubney Fen and Hurdle Hall, and two more Barn Owl boxes at Oily Hall and in the Bog Oak field along Sedge Fen Drove. As someone who is worried by heights I was very grateful to have Andy to help put up a few of them, however, I had to man up to put up the box in the Bog Oak field as Niki is even more scared of heights than I am!

Andy with his superbly erected owl box.
Wild Campers can now watch Barns Owls swooping gracefully to their new home.
What better way to spend a sunny Wednesday than continuing the gargantuan task of fixing the fence around Tubney Fen. A team of us headed out to clear away snapped fence posts, and to destaple long sections ready for them to be tensioned up again. These tasks can seem endless, but in good weather and good company the day acutally becomes quite fun. Even Tic Tac the dog helped us out by digging out some of the buried sections of fencing!

Jack, Andy and Carol enjoying working in the sunshine before stopping for a picnic docky break.

Today I have been trying to hide from the rain so I can pretend the weather is still nice! I spent the morning mowing the new carpark at the end of Harrison's Drove, ready for Lois and I to install new picnic benches there next week. I nearly stepped on what I'm guessing was a field vole, it disapeared to quickly to be certain, and I had two Pied Wagtails following me around. I did try to take a photo of one of them on the fence post but my phone just wasn't up to the job!

My attempt at wildlife photography from a tractor cab with a camera phone. Not sucessful!
The mowing, however, was much more successful.

And finally, the cute picture of the week, that some of you may have seen on Facebook. This is Swift our newest foal. She is now two weeks old and Niki informs me she is already brave enough to eat her pockets.

Swift with mum Yara.