Monday, 21 November 2011

The Gates are in and we start work at Oily Hall

Firstly we have brought in the gates from Tubney Fen. Now the cattle are off the gates are in for the winter to allow easier access for horse riders, it also means they can’t be stolen over the Winter. The plan is to get them back out a week or so before the cows are due back in May.

Down at Oily Hall, which is to the West of Lode, we have started constructing a Cattle Handling Unit. Me (John), Johnny, Johnny and Jason (it made it simple for Jason to get out attention) set about getting it started. Basically it is a big strong pen, the cattle are baited or run into it to catch them. When time and materials permit the plan is to have three layers of crash barriers to complete the fence, and to cut all the poles down to get it all neat and tidy. We used old telegraph poles, so the post certainly look strong enough!

Below is a picture of where we got to, and a picture of what we hope it to look like from a site nearby:

Other things on the go:

Jason has started to build the fence to surround the new wild camping site on Oily Hall. With a spot of luck the shelters or ‘pods’ will be constructed in mid December. The idea is that groups such as the Scouts or Guides can book them out and use them as a stopover, no need for a tent. Further work on Oily Hall includes Jason building a fence to divide the fields and possibly digging a small pond.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Owl and Harrier Spotting

Harriers and Owls

As there have been some fantastic sightings of Owls and Harriers recently I thought I would share my favourite places to go and see them.

Number one is pretty simple, our Visitor Centre at Wicken. Clearly a good spot at any time but if you finish your walk for about 30 minutes before dusk and are near the Visitor Centre you have a great chance of spotting a Harrier or two, and possibly an Owl, mainly Barn Owls.

Number two is Harrisons Drove. I have always liked a wander down here at dusk and waiting to see if anything flies over head.

Number Three, Via Newnham Drove, heading from Burwell. This drove is in a bit of a state and you need a 4x4 really to get to the end where there isn’t any parking, just a few lay-bys. But the reasonably long, straight walk down from then end can be as fruitful as where the arrow points to at its end. I found myself here at the end of last Thursday and spotted four Short Eared Owls one flying right overhead. If you are on the lodes way this is a nice point to stop lean on the gate and take a nice break. Barn Owls andMarsh Harriers have both been spotted here recently by myself.

Number four. Reach Lode Bridge. There is a bit of hard standing here, Split Drove is in better condition than Newnham Drove, not ideal but I can take my little car down there no bother. Pop over the Bridge and see what you can.

The path around Burwell Fen via Reach Lode, Burwell Lode and the Lodes way makes a big triangle. This is well worth a wander, especially in the afternoon/evening as the sun goes down.

Here is another fantastic picture of a Short Eared Owl by Richard Nicoll.

Short Eared Owl

Into a different part of the Reed Beds

Out Mowing

Today we went and mowed the tracks around the reed beds, a job that hasn’t been done for a few years. We are getting in there before they become a really tough job to get back into order. Mind you they are overgrown and a bit of a labyrinth with plenty of sharp drops to avoid. Because of this James and Kate walked ahead through the deep grass and reed to show where the edges were and I drove at a breakneck speed of 0.5 mph. Listening to the Formula 1 on the radio gave a nice contrast to the super slow mowing.

The tracks are not just for access and to allow management of the area, their structure is important within the habitat as a whole. The reed beds at Wicken are pretty large at over 30 hectares, and contain a diverse range of species from the Reed Leopard Moth to the Bittern. The tracks allow for a larger amount of edge to the reeds and grasses, and in simple terms the diversity of the reed beds increases at the edges, so the more the better.

Below are some pictures taken today:

I should point out that the tracks are not for access into the reedbeds. So please don’t go hunting for them.