August is over

How is August gone already! After my very short week and few days at Birdfair it’s been back to the grindstone for the last two weeks. I feel a lot more settled in my role now. There are still the odd times when there isn’t anything for me to do but as I do more training and gain new knowledge that will become less common. My steel capped boots are well and truly broken in and I haven’t had any new blisters for ages!

So what have I been up to over the last couple of weeks? As always lots of different things!

Meadow Saffron aka Autumn Crocus at Cheddar Wood
Meadow Saffron aka Autumn Crocus at Cheddar Wood

I’m glad to say that we’re pretty much done with ragwort this year. We’ve pulled a bit more on Yoxter Range, and it is rather nice to see lots of areas free from yellow, but it’s starting to go over so pulling it now would just spread the seed around more than it would do by itself.

Bracken seems to be becoming the new ragwort and I’ve spent quite a few days helping to deal with that. Bracken was originally a woodland plant and it is a species that can be important to wildlife. Problems occur when it has spread over large areas creating mono cultures and replaces other habitats such as species-rich grassland. There are various ways of dealing with bracken such as just bruising it or cutting it completely. Last week on Yoxter we used the flail on large flat area, whilst at Cook’s Fields we were working on a slope so were using brushcutters. Some of the volunteers at Black Rock were pulling the plants up. To make a difference requires a few years repeated work, and I think it’s a shame that I won’t be able to see any of the effects of our hard work as I’m only here for a year. The other staff have said they’ve seen a difference in certain places so it must be heartening for them to know that all their work is worth it.

I've been trusted to drive the Landy whilst towing the flail!
I’ve been trusted to drive the Landy whilst towing the flail!

I spent a day with Liz at Edford Wood when she was doing more Dormouse Box checks. Despite checking 50 boxes we again ended up Dormouse-less 😦 We did however find other signs of furry life. A few of the boxes were being used as Woodmice larders; there’s a difference between the gnaw marks left on nuts between Dormice and Woodmice, making it possible to tell what was eating them. A few of the boxes had Woodmice nests, the odd one complete with it’s furry resident. We also found a adorable Pygmy Shrew in one of the boxes. He seemed a little disgruntled at having the lid of his home removed but not so disturbed as to dive into his nest.

Woodmouse larder!
Woodmouse larder!
Pygmy Shrew!
Pygmy Shrew!

I’m making progress with my Reserves list, visits to Withial Combe to clear some Thistles in the fields, and a day at Cheddar Wood clearing the ride put me at a total of 23 out of 72 reserves. I’ve visited all but one of the East Mendip reserves now, but still have a few left to visit on West Mendip before I need to start venturing further afield. So far I’d say I’m on track for visiting them all in this year.

Withial Combe - rubbish photo but the top of the waterfall
Withial Combe – rubbish photo but the top of the waterfall

I’ve also spent a bit of time in the work shop. Liz has shown me how to put together the interpretation boards and I’ve been preparing a couple of the boards; cutting them down to size and varnishing them. I’ve also been helping James with cleaning / maintaining some of the power tools. He’s shown me the basics with both a brush-cutter and chainsaw though I will go over it all again when I do my courses for both.

Fox Moth Caterpillar at Black Rock
Fox Moth Caterpillar at Black Rock

The next couple of weeks are looking different but just as interesting; together with the other trainees I have some more introductory meetings with members of staff booked in, Olivia and I are doing our brushcutter course on Thursday, all four of us have to talk at the Volunteer Conference next week and I have a couple of other training sessions to attend.

On a slightly different note, one of the trainees from Devon Wildlife Trust, Luke, has just started a monthly blog on his experiences as a Education and Community Engagement Trainee. You can check that out here!

Beth πŸ™‚


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