Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Hazel is this month's pin-up.

We are in September already! I hope you all enjoyed the summer and managed a break. I'm less tanned than I was in May, so either I've not been out enough, or the sun hasn't.
Because of family commitments, I try to keep the number of events in August to a minimum but our team of volunteers and staff was a pretty active this month on all fronts. A highlight that I missed was the Birdfair where we took first prize for our stand, based on presentation and on the way that the team interacted with the public. I also met a few people who popped in at Paxton on their way to or from the Fair and they particularly remarked on how outstandingly friendly our reserve always is compared to many others. It's true, we are and its due mostly to our amazing volunteers.

The combine at work

At the end of the month we harvested our wheat using the Combine Harvester. This machine was bought in the spring by David Cobham and Davy Jones in order to harvest grain that we can use to feed the birds in January to March, when they most need it. I had misgivings about the effect the harvester would have on wildlife (i.e. chopping it up) and on staff and volunteers (i.e. chopping them up!) Both were misfounded. In fact, as the cutting bar was set high, we did less damage to small mammals than with a binder and, because the whole operation happens in one pass, we didn't repeatedly drive over the ground. The other criticism often levelled at combines is that they are too efficient. Well, I can verify that our old beast left quite a lot of grain in the field. In addition, we have left a lot of wheat standing. Some of this will be eaten by the birds in the first half of the winter and the rest will be bound into sheaves which seems to be the best thing to do for harvest mice, which we have a lot of. The grain will be stored in wheely bins to feed back to the birds later.

The picture on the left shows me in my dearly loved and restored 4x4 Erreppi.

Barley will be harvested in a few weeks time. Most of it will go to feed our cattle, but some will be left unharvested for the birds.
We now have two herds of cattle on the Reserve. There are 10 English Longhorn heifers in the paddock, where we used to have sheep, and 10 Scottish Highland cattle in the Great Meadow. These highlanders have been given to us by Geoff Bowman, so they will spend more time here than the longhorns but will also spend some time at another farm in Bedfordshire when our grass runs out.