For the second day running I was blessed with a brilliant view of the bittern as I unlocked the hides this morning. I looked out the window of Ivy North hide to find the bittern just sitting right out in the reed bed below. Something had obviously caught its eye as it was peering up into the sky. unfortunately it was easily spooked as we tried to slowly open the window and it took to the air landing in the reedbed to the right of the hide. On a plus it was the first time I had seen a bittern fly so I was still doublely excited!
As I approached Ivy South hide there was a right noisy commotion going on and a buzzard flew up from behind the screen. I expected to see a half killed creature in the reed beds but I couldn’t see any evidence. Mr and Mrs Wigeon were feeding in front of the hide and the male’s colours were just stunning – unfortunately my camera could not do it justice but I had a go anyway.
Being a Thursday morning it was volunteer day and I was given the honoured task of team leader. Jim had left us a variety of tasks so we had to split up into smaller groups to tackle each one. We had one group out fixing bird nest boxes. Another brave duo head over to the main car park to clear away the leaf litter and sludge left behind from the weekend’s flood. The rest joined me in Millennium Meadow. We had a lovely morning of glorious sunshine and I even saw a late flying hawker dragonfly! Tasks included raking up the recently cut grass; it is important the grass is removed so that the soil is not over enriched for wildflowers. The grass was gathered into 3 giant heaps with the hope that they may be utilised by nesting grass snakes; as the grass decomposes it will give off heat which helps the snake’s eggs to develop.
Finally we are back in willow coppicing season. Well I guess technically speaking it is pollarding as we are cutting the branches back to the trunk and not all the way down to the ground to make a stool. We try and keep it high so that the new growth is out of reach of browsing deer. The Sunday volunteers had started us off and so we tackled another compartment. We cut on a rotation so that we have sections of different aged growth. Coppicing the willows means that the trees send up vigorous growth of withies, this dense vegetation is favoured by birds and also provides us with a sustainable harvest of wood.
We use the wood for all sorts of things such as for weaving, toasting forks and shelter building poles. Rex cut a load of old shelter building poles today into short lengths of firewood which we will use during our basic bushcraft families events, school and community group visits.
We usually have more willow withies than we can make use of so if you know of any enthusiastic basket weavers out there then please let them know we have willow withies available for a donation!