Apologies that this post is a little later then it should be. I’ve been in Huddersfield since last thursday evening, visiting the boyfriend and I don’t think he’d have appreciated me ignoring him whilst I write this.
Last weeks volunteering saw us heading out on the mini bus to Loynton Moss, which seems to be a bit of a mishmash of different habitats including areas of fen, reed beds, woodland and grassland. We seemed a bit low on numbers to begin with but the reserve must be close to some of the volunteers homes as they met us in the car park at the site.
The original plan for the day had been to pull ragwort (I am now seeing ragwort everywhere I look and have to resist the urge to pull it up and burn it) as Lucy, who is in charge of all the volunteers, had found a lot the last time she’d been on the reserve. When we’d parked up it turned out that the farmer who uses some of the land had already been and pulled the majority of it up. A few of us were sent off to double check that it was all gone. We were looking in a field that had a bit of a hill in the centre and a small pond in one of the corners. The field was all long grass with lots of crickets and butterflies around. To me it felt a bit like the meadow from Bambi; I half expected a fawn to leap through the grass calling ‘Mother’ in front of me! There was a distinct lack of yellow flowers and it wasn’t long before we were heading back to the bus and trailer with some rather empty bags.
Luckily Lucy had thrown some other tools in the trailer so there was plenty of things for us to do. Five of us were given a couple of saws and some other cutting equipment (I want to say secateurs but these were the giant version with long handles – having slight brain block over the name) and went to cut back some foliage over a section of the path. The area we were working on has, at the right time of year, lots of snowdrops or blue bells. Everyone kept saying snowbells as a bit of a joke and I never quite figured out which of the two plants it actually was. We were just cutting back the branches that were hanging below a certain height so the ground wasn’t completely blocked off. With the five of us that job didn’t take long and it was back to the bus for a tea break before the next job.
Next on the list was doing some grass cutting. Some of the volunteers had already made a start on it whilst we were dealing with the ‘snowbells’. A big grass trimmer machine was being used to cut down the plants and we had to rake all the mowings together and shift them into piles on the other side of the fence amongst the trees. The area of grass cut is alternated every year so there is more diversity within the habitat. Raking is definitely not my favourite job! It was pretty hard work. There was a lot of hogsweed within the grass and that didn’t take too kindly to being raked up into piles so I ended up picking it up by hand a few times rather then using the fork. The removal of all the plant cover unearthed a lot of frogs and toads. Despite the safety offered just on the other side of the fence they all seemed hell bent on hopping their way towards the grass strimmer. When this happened rakes and forks were dropped and it was a scramble to grab the slightly suicidal amphibians before they met a gruesome end.
As we were struggling so much to rake things up (mostly because a lot of the hogsweed was still in the ground) it was decided that they would go over the area again with the cutter. Whilst that was going on a few of us went on a wander around the bit of the reserve we hadn’t seen. We found the reed bed pretty quickly but couldn’t spot any birds or anything that exciting. Apparently one of the winter jobs is cutting back some of the reeds, about a third of all of them. I think I may need to invest in some thermals and check my wellies don’t have any holes in for the winter! There wasn’t a path along the side of the reed bed so we wandered along through the woods and back across a field with a brief stop to watch five buzzards that were flying nearby.
After our lunch break it was back to raking. After being cut a second time it was a lot easier, though carrying large bundles of grass on a fork isn’t quite as easy as some of the others made it look. It didn’t take us too long after that to finish it all off and leave it looking as tidy as you can leave an area where you’ve just cut down masses of grass!
There wasn’t as much chance this time to practice my ID skills. I did spot a collared dove just as we entered the reserve and on the wander round we spotted some marsh woundwort again. The frog that I rescued was a common frog but I have absolutely no idea about toads! There was a more varied array of butterflies but despite having been studying the ID guide I downloaded from the big butterfly count website the night before (you can log your sightings until the end of august) I didn’t manage to get a good enough view of them to work out exactly which species I was looking at. I’ll get studying it some more so next time I should be a bit quicker.
Sadly despite today being Thursday I haven’t been able to go out volunteering as I had some other commitments so no blog about what I’ve been doing today. There will be a few posts over the next few days about some other things I’m involved in so keep an eye put for those.