Sunday, 24 January 2016

Rewilding, succession, conservation = a bit of a dilemma

The Safari was out at the nature reserve all afternoon firstly joining up with the conservation crew removing Willows from the wetland. They didn't get done last winter and so are bigger and more strongly attached to the substrate requiring plenty of combined digging and muscle-power to get them out.
So why take all the effort to get rid of them, surely they are good habitat for a multitude of niches for tint mini-beasts and larger vertebrates too?
The story of the wetlands is a story of rewilding and an attempt to prevent it becoming too wild. The were dug about 10 years ago, maybe more now as time flies when yer aving fun. Locally there's a population of Great Crested Newts that can always do with a helping hand and there's the other amphibians too. They like a bit of open water with some vegetation but without some intervention open water doesn't stay open very long as more and more vegetation arrives and grows. We are now at the stage where open water is at a premium and the poor old newts and their friends are running out of places to lay their eggs. 
Indeed the slightly less wet areas are now being 'invaded' by Willows so increasing the drying out - in time they'll be out competed by Alder. but we don't want that we want our amphibians to do well so we've made a conscious conservation decision to halt the rewilding, succession is being stopped and if possible reversed a little back to some open water. The whole wetland could do with a little mowing (in the absence of grazing) if it were safe to be let loose on there. A robust pony and tougher old breed cattle would create open water, maybe prevent too many Willows growing and perhaps encourage a better diversity of wildflowers on the grassland - provided they weren't overgrazed. Sadly no chance of that so its muscles and tools and we could always do with some mechanisation to 'keep on top of the vegetation' - darned succession goes too fast for us. Rewilding it would seem is only going to work at large scales with a fully functioning ecosystem, small suburban areas will need some form of conservation priority (for a particular species or habitat almost arbitrarily deemed more important than any others) and management to hold the inevitable succession at pre-determined point.
We could only stand and point rather than do any proper work like we used to be able to get stuck into. We did carry a few light twigs - a lot lighter than those the Boss is hauling - but that was more than enough for us.
A Sparrowhawk )MMLNR #61) flew by and a tromp round the other ponds with MJ gave us four Snipe, two Meadow Pipits and a couple of Dunnocks but no Jack Snipe.
After the work party was over we went for a wander round the reserve. We spent some time in the Feeding Station watching the several Blue, Great and two Coal Tits. A Moorhen was with the Pheasants, two Grey Squirrels and a Rabbit on the ground mopping up the spills from above. No Reed Buntings again though.
From their we went to bother the Long Eared Owls of which four had been reported earlier. AH and IB were putting all the day's tools away so we stopped for a chat and as we did so a Woodock (94, MMLNR #62) flew low past us, probably disturbed from its roost by a dog which was where were it shouldn't have been.
Only the way to the owls we found another Blackthorn in flower.
We could only find one owl but were able to put a visiting birder on to it. Then we went to have a look over the water and found another family with a youngster with 'Christmas-new' binoculars and walked round with them to show them the owls, this time TS had found a second for them. We've spared you anymore dodgy Long Eared Owls pics this time. 
Next we had a look to see if there were any early Bee Orchid rosettes showing, there were - we found two, in the 'usual' place.
The mere held a good selection of ducks which were disturbed by a Heron and filled the sky as they flushed - an impressive sight. 
We learned we missed a Mediterranean Gull once we got back to Base Camp, hope it wasn't hidden in that big flock of Black Headed Gulls we worked through as they flew over the mere without stopping.
And so another great day at the nature reserve came to an end...actually we needed a brew otherwise we would have held on for an other hour or so to see if the Barn and Little Owls came out to play.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow - what will we find, owt or nowt?
in the meantime let us know who's poking through the soil in your outback.

No comments: