Greetings everybody, my name is Mark Mitchell and I am the new Warden for RSPB Baron’s Haugh reserve. I’ve worked for the RSPB for several years, mostly in the South and West Scotland region and I knew Stephen, the previous warden, well. Needless to say I am very excited about the challenges that lay ahead and I can’t wait to get stuck in to make the site the best it can possibly be.

 

The volunteers and I have been cracking on with the Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) removal in a few key parts of the reserve where there are particularly dense populations of the stuff. Our focus since I started has been on Himalayan Balsam but as the summer progresses; we’ll be looking at Japanese Knotweed also. The Balsam has taken quite a battering over the last few volunteer sessions (literally), as our preferred technique for removing it has been a combination of pulling and bashing with sticks. So far we’ve cleared a big section between the River Clyde and the Haugh itself and on our last volunteer session we attacked a patch between the Clyde Walkway and the river. We’ve made good progress thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers and volunteers from elsewhere (namely the Inner Forth reserves volunteers) but there is still lots of work to be done.


Himalayan Balsam, and our volunteer team taking a well earned rest. Photos by Mark Mitchell. 

 

Another key task that has taken up more of our time than we’d like, is clearing up litter and broken glass from in and around the Phoenix hide. This is a particular problem in the summer when the evenings are nice, but it really is unacceptable. We're dedicated to keeping on top of this issue to ensure the hides offer a safe, welcoming place for people to come and watch wildlife, and I have been liaising with Motherwell police to organise patrols of the area. Recently, the issue has lessened, but you can see from the photos the problem we face.


Litter in and around the Phoenix hide. Photos by Mark Mitchell.

 

On a much more cheery note, we had our first people engagement event on Wednesday 6th July – Woodland Crafts, and all attendees had a great time. This is one of a series of events we run throughout the year to encourage folk to get out there amongst nature and experience it first hand. We made mud faces, explored different species of trees through bark rubbing and then did natural weaving with materials we collected from around the reserve. Despite the gloomy weather, we all had fun! You can find out more about all our up and coming events on the RSPB Baron’s Haugh webpage.

Everyone loves getting muddy really! Photos by Mark Mitchell.

 

What wasn’t quite as fun, (well in some ways it was fun), was a run I undertook last weekend to raise money for Baron’s Haugh. I took part in the Ultimate Trails Marathon which started and finished in Ambleside, Cumbria. I started out in the pitch black at midnight on Friday, along with roughly 300 other runners, in a quest to make it to the end within the 24 hour time limit. The course is 110 km (or 68 miles) in length, encompasses 6 mountain passes, 5 lakes, 14,000 ft ascent/descent and took me roughly 11,000 calories to get round. But get round I did. Buoyed by the immense support I got from colleagues, friends and family, as well as RSPB supporters, I crossed the finish line at roughly 22:00 pm on the Saturday night. So far I have raised £448, but there’s still time to donate. Simply visit my just giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Mitchell25

Why did I do it? Well, nature conservation of course! At Baron’s Haugh, we’re doing everything we can to Give Nature a Home, and a good home at that. Just last week, we started to lower the water level in the Haugh, aimed at exposing lots of nice, invertebrate-filled mud for passing wildlife to feed on. In the last week or so, migrating waders have started to show up at the Haugh – 2 green sandpipers were spotted at the Haugh on Wednesday 6 July, and I imagine they won’t be the last.

 

Until next time, get out and about and experience all that nature has to offer. See you at the reserve.

 

Mark.

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