When the week started I had no idea it would herald my 15 minutes of fame. It was with some surprise that I therefore found myself stood in front of a television camera with a reporter calibrating it for the dulcet stereo phonics of my voice. Now, when you are thrust in the spotlight kicking and screaming like a banshee, you hope that you will at least have an exciting and cool message to broadcast to the expectant public. My message was dog fouling.
Yep, I’ve been quoted in the local papers, broadcast on the radio, scaring infants with a dubious beard on the TV, and all the while talking about the delights of doggy poop! I jest, but it is actually a serious topic and without wanting to labour a point, it is a genuine concern for those tasked with managing nature reserves.
I will of course happily clarify at the outset that I know the vast majority of dog owners visiting the reserve are responsible and considerate users. I am pleased and grateful to see them and their dogs out enjoying the site and helping to keep it a pleasant environment for others to visit. It is after all important to the RSPB that our reserves help people experience and connect with the natural world.
One of the things we are particularly proud of are the educational visits that Claire, an RSPB volunteer, hosts for local schools at Marazion Marsh. In the last academic year over 420 children came to the reserve to be enthused about, learn and get closer to nature. Unfortunately the actions of a few people are putting these trips in jeopardy, as dog mess is a risk to the welfare of children. Not to mention adults and even other dogs.
As we all know, dog fouling is pretty unpleasant and, frankly, there doesn’t really need to be a justification or explanation for asking those owners who currently don’t, to start bagging and binning it. To leave it is disrespectful and discourteous to other visitors of the reserve and shows a lack of appreciation and gratitude for the space that they are enjoying and using to exercise their dog.
Away from the razzle and dazzle of the media limelight, work has continued to progress nicely on the reserve. With most of the cut reed burnt over the preceding weeks, the volunteer work party have returned to tackling the problem of encroaching scrub.
In this case, willow trees. If the reedbeds at Marazion were left, they would naturally give way to willow and silver birch that would colonise the area. In a world with lots of natural green space and fully functioning ecological processes, this wouldn’t be a problem as flooding and vegetation damage elsewhere would create new reedbeds, however in the 21st century where there are on-going pressures on land use and careful control of otherwise natural events, to let scrub take over Marazion Marsh, would lead to the loss of the largest reedbed in Cornwall and one the most westerly such habitats in Europe. An important location for breeding heron, wintering bittern and migrating birds. Not to mention the other wildlife, like otters, that uses the reserve.
Now when I started here in Cornwall, the site manager relayed one very important message from Jen, the assistant warden whose role I’m covering: “Tell Phill, when he cuts the willow here, he needs to make sure it is cut close to the ground, not left how he would have done it on those heathland or woodland reserves....”
I’m pretty certain this is what Jen meant! To be fair, I did ask the volunteers to cut it lower, but apparently they all developed mysteriously bad backs!
Fear not, this isn’t an act of defiance. We have actually been concentrating on clearing as much scrub as possible by taking out the canopies now, as we will be stopping shortly as we enter the breeding season. It has also been too wet of late to treat the stumps to stop regrowth, so we will be doing a second pass through the area to shorten the stumps at a future point. In the meantime, they are proving handy for enabling us to stack our brash above the water so that it can dry ready to be burnt in a couple of weeks.
Over at the Hayle estuary, there is some work underway on the Causeway road by Cornwall Council. This is expected to continue until Easter, so please take extra care if you are visiting and be aware of changes to traffic signalling and rights of way, works machinery and any warning signs and notices that are displayed. The council will be undertaking steps to mitigate disturbance to birds and wildlife on the reserve, so a visit should still be fruitful.
Other exciting news in the region is that St Agnes and Gugh in the Scilly Isles have been officially declared rat-free after a massive community led project to restore breeding sea bird populations on the islands. Well done to the team, a fantastic result. You can read more on the link below.
Another project that is currently busy mobilising for another spring and summer breeding season is that to monitor and protect the Cornish Chough, which, having successfully reintroduced themselves, is an iconic bird on the rugged coastline around here. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how their fortunes fare this year and hope it will be a good one for them.
Finally, last week I also had the opportunity to meet another of the volunteers who contribute so much to the RSPB. George is resuming his role as a Guardian of Marazion Marsh and is one of many local volunteers who generously support the RSPB. Following a stint last year working in the visitor centre, George has now offered to help by carrying out regular litter picks around the marsh and potentially writing a blog here and there if he sees anything on his travels.
If you would like to get involved and join our volunteer work parties on a Tuesday or Thursday, please get in contact by calling the office on 01736 360624 and we will happily provide more information.
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