Saturday, 8 November 2014

Rewilding? This place is as wild as it gets

The Safari managed to get out to a local site we've not visited for about six months. There's some serious engineering works going on nearby and we wanted to check on the Water Voles to make sure they were OK and hadn't had their habitat dug out by accident. To get to their ditch involves having a look at our 'Grass Snake' habitat on the way.
If you haven't come across the term 'Rewilding' yet where have you been? It's all all about letting nature take it's own course rather than managing it for some prescribed set of conservation features. The typical example is the uplands large areas of which could be left to regain their natural scrubby woodland (in the absence of excessive sheep grazing and heather burning) and returning animals such as Beavers, Lynx and even maybe Wolves to the environment - some obviously easier than others. In the absence of sheep trees still won't grow do to deer browsing but some grazing is beneficial perhaps by hardy large and small breeds of Cattle in low densities. Exiting times ahead but many will have to rewild their own heads before there's much progress we fear and the thing that needs most rewilding is the younger generations - they have to be encouraged to get away from the all to simple (and all to easily manipulated) life that revolves around a multitude of screens.
Anyway we arrived at the site to find it had been well and truly rewilded, no-one had been anywhere near the place since our last visit back in the early spring. It was really difficult to push through the dense vegetation - yes a large herbivore was deffo needed here - something like a Water Buffalo perhaps? Sadly the site is far too small to support a viable population of anything much larger than Rabbits and it's too wet for them. All this means that to maintain the 'conservation interest' a 'management plan' and a gang of human volunteers armed with slashers and strimmers will be required. It took us nearly half an hour of tripping over Brambles and becoming a human pincushion from head height Thistles to reach the pond only 50m away!
The only bird of note was a Goldcrest calling from somewhere along the embankment. We battled out way to the edge of the pond and then took a while to find the refugia and when we did we were disappointed to find nothing beneath apart from a couple of old Short Tailed Field Vole nests. In order we would like to have found - a sloughed Grass Snake skin, a Great Crested Newt, a Newt sp, a Toad, a Frog but sadly there were none of these. One tin we couldn't lift as it was totally smothered on Brambles and the last two we couldn't even find under the vegetation without risking falling in.
Note the bright green patch of Greater Reedmace, in a rewilding situation succession would be allowed to take its course but here it is likely to quickly turn the open water pond into a very different swamp and that not so good for the Great Crested Newts and dragonflies present here so it'll have to be managed out by wader clad volunteers - wonder where all these volunteers are going to come from!
We did eventually get to the ditch to find it had been scraped clear of vegetation but from the very short stretch we could see the bankside vegetation was still intact, could do with accessing the site from a different direction just to put our mind at rest though.

The path we made on the way in was almost untraceable on the way out and again we were a Human pincushion for every prickly plant in our way. At least the well over two metre tall Teasels were easy to make a way round.
Where to next? Looks like being a pleasant day tomorrow and we'll be at the nature reserve in the hide and then hoping for another spectacular Starling murmuration.
In the meantime let us know what's gone rewilded in your outback

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