August went by like a whirlwind. The month started with ragwort pulling out on the main scrape. Ragwort is a native plant but is poisonous to livestock, mostly horses but also cattle. The cattle usually avoid it when it is still alive and growing however once it dies and dries out the cattle may eat it as it is mixed in with the surrounding grass. Ragwort is also an 'injurious weed' so if you have it on your land you may also be served a notice to remove it which then becomes a legal obligation to do so. This job resulted in me leading my first cooperate work party as a group of people from British Gas came to help us out one day. This meant that we were able to finish pulling all the ragwort in just 2 days with the amount of help we had! Other jobs included strimming around the electric fence of the sheep pens on the salt marsh for the tenant farmer. If the vegetation gets too long it can short out the fence so this was done just to make sure the fence was all in working order. I also cut quite a few areas along the path that goes down to the Bunker Screen and the grain store. This was done to thin out the vegetation to stop it becoming thick and scrubby and therefore allow other plants and flowers to grow there next year, increasing the biodiversity. Site checks are still a weekly job. They can be really fun if it’s a nice day as it is great to have a reason to walk around the whole reserve and you always end up seeing something exciting. One day when doing the site checks I was walking around the meres and was greeted by hundreds of little egrets sitting in the trees. There was also a great white egret in amongst them which sat still long enough for me to get a good view! I have been lucky to see quite a few other exciting birds whilst being on duty in the visitor centre over the last few months. The spoonbills returned towards the end of august. There are 4 that have become regular visitors, one adult and 3 juveniles. I was also just coming back from my lunch break one day when the pallid harrier was flying right past reception. I was just in time and got to watch it fly around for a good 10 minutes. I was also lucky to be in the visitor centre when the spotted crake was first seen right under our noses in the reception pool! If I take anything away from this placements it is definitely a big increase in my bird identification skills and a good list of rarities I have been able to see!
(Spoonbills on the main scrape, G.Earlam) August and September have also been consumed with badgers. We started our ‘BadgerWatch’ events and I went along to the first few to see how it was done and then led my own walk! I led the first one as a partnership with the other residential volunteer, Alice, and then the second one I led on my own. It is always great to see the badgers and to be able to help other people see them and teach them a bit about badger ecology is even better! On the last walk I led we also got an amazing view of a barn owl flying really close to reception and over the scrape. It was before the walk started so it was still light enough to really see the detail. It is definitely the best view I have ever had of a barn owl!
(Badgers by the set captured on my trail camera)
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