Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Hedge funds?

In a joint effort with the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, we have been planting a new hedge around the arable fields. This is predominantly thorn and will provice a valuable wildlife coridoor along the edhge of the fields. We will keep the hedge low and dense so the view won't be obscured and we will minimise crop loss through shade. Visitors should get good views of the birds and wildlife on the fields without scaring them off. The Friends have paid for the hedge and the work has been done by staff and volunteers, both midweek and at the week-end. The hedge won't make any visual impact for a couple of years, but the result will certainly look better than the wire rabbit-fence we gave at the moment.

The arable fields are mostly fallow at the moment and there are quite a few reed-buntings and chaffinches, with a few yellowhammers feeding on thew wild bird cover mix which is mostly millet. We see foxes and muntjac deer almost daily and we know there are harvest mice in the stooks from last year's crop. One field is green with winter wheat.

From this week on you will notice some green wheelie bins around the fields. These contain wheat that we harvested in the autumn to provide much-needed food in the lean months of January, February and March. I'm looking forward to seeing big flocks of finches and buntings near the bins. Birds are more confident near cover, so there is no point in scattering food in the middle of the fields.

Our permanent grassland has been really grazed down this year and is now thoroughly wet. We've seen snipe, egrets and green sandpipers recently. The cattle are all gone now. Our highlanders are up at the Great Fen project where we check on them daily. We are expecting two calves over Christmas so will be increasing our visits. I really enjoy going there. On my last visit I saw dozens of snipe and a wintering hen harrier, as well a three Chinese water deer.
Have you noticed the new structure in the meadow near the visitors' centre? We are not really planning a rodeo, its a corral that Roland Fletcher built for us to help us to load cattle into the wagon at the end of their stay. It worked a treat. All of the cattle were led into the pen with a bail of straw and the gate was quietly shut behind them. The whole operation took just a few minutes.