Arfur Frog

Today was a Wilden Marsh Workday in the Top Field alongside Wilden Lane – the field the cattle have been living in and dining on hay for the past two weeks. Half the field area is taken up with a tangled and overgrown wood; we have worked to improve it for many years. I moved the herd to the adjoining Orchid Field to get them out of the way, and we set about clearing the small wood full of crack willow, alder, fir, black poplar, blackthorn in bloom at the moment, hawthorn, cherry, ash, and a few other species. We were mostly concerned with bringing down leaning crack willows, cutting and stacking fallen wood, opening out the wood to let sunlight in, and generally doing what we could to help the cattle move more easily through it. The centre section of the wood we left untouched.

A dead badger, hit by a passing vehicle, was spread out on the grass verge between the wood and Wilden Lane. Large tufts of badger hair tumbled back and forth across one of the cattle tracks winding through the wood: torn out by mating or fighting badgers. Three badgers setts were found: two of which might be inhabited. Three above ground sheltered couches were seen under tree roots: likely being used by munjac deer.

Two chainsaws howled for most of the day, and more ground was cleard than I had expected. Steve Anderson found Arfur Frog, half way up a willow pollard he was working on. Arfur had been stripped to the waste, he was fresh, had lost his head, and was really in a bad state. Maybe a bird had nabbed the frog and decided it didn’t like the taste, or had dropped it when flying over the wood. We will never know.

I talked with a retired person living across Wilden Lane this morning. He had removed the lower branches from his trees, so the he could watch the marsh cattle from his living room. It’s good to know that local people are intersted in the marsh and its cattle.

A quantity of bird boxes have been donated to Wilden Marsh; we will install them in this wood.

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Arfur Frog.

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I Found This White Berry

I found this white berry in Hoo Wood today, all on its own.

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Laurel Flowers

Here are some laurel flowers I photographed in Hoo Wood earlier today.

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The Himalayan Balsam Scourge Begins Again (3 images)

Himalayan Balsam is poking its leaves above ground now; the marsh cattle will soon be feasting on this very prolific and invasive plant.

In the UK, the Himalayan Balsam plant was first introduced in 1839 at the same time as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed. These plants were all promoted at the time as having the virtues of “herculean proportions” and “splendid invasiveness” which meant that ordinary people could buy them for the cost of a packet of seeds to rival the expensive orchids grown in the greenhouses of the rich. Within ten years, however, Himalayan balsam had escaped from the confines of cultivation and begun to spread along the river systems of England. Today it has spread across most of the UK and some local wildlife trusts organise “balsam bashing” events to help control the plant. However, a recent study (Hejda & Pyšek, 2006) concludes that in some circumstances, such efforts may cause more harm than good. Destroying riparian stands of Himalayan Balsam can open up the habitat for more aggressive invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed and aid in seed dispersal (by dropped seeds sticking to shoes). Riparian habitat is suboptimal for I. glandulifera, and spring or autumn flooding destroys seeds and plants. The research suggests that the optimal way to control the spread of riparian Himalayan Balsam is to decrease eutrophication, thereby permitting the better-adapted local vegetation that gets outgrown by the balsam on watercourses with high nutrient load to rebound naturally. They caution that these conclusions probably do not hold true for stands of the plant at forest edges and meadow habitats, where manual destruction is still the best approach. (Source Wikipedia)

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Himalayan Balsam

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Himalayan Balsam

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Himalayan Balsam

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Scarlet Elfcaps (3 images)

Sarcoscypha coccinea, commonly known as the scarlet elf cup, scarlet elf cap, or the scarlet cup, is a species of fungus in the family Sarcoscyphaceae of the order Pezizales. The fungus, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, has been found in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia.

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The Calves Ellen, Jess ‘n’ Beth, And Clouds Of Acrid Black smoke

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Too Wet or Too Dry?

I’m looking at Wilden Marsh hydrology in an attempt to achieve more effective control of the marsh water levels throughout the year.

One of our aims is to attract breeding wading birds. Wading birds like muddy marginal areas around water bodies to feed in, and to breed they like very particular ground conditions. We have heron, lapwing, snipe, curlew and red shank on the marsh, and these breed between mid March and mid July. Raised water levels are preferred between November through to mid February and low water levels from mid July until end of August. Grazing is a useful tool we can use to help create ground conditions inline with our conservation aims. Intensive grazing is best carried out between August to December inclusive. There should also be minimal interruption of existing and potential breeding grounds between March and July inclusive. It would also be a good idea to reduce rush cover between August and October inclusive. Any work associated with sluices, bunds and scrapes should be carried our during August to December inclusive.

In some areas we need to reduce water levels before the start of the growing season to prevent aquatic plant dominance.

I shot the following video as a visual record of current conditions to help with future planning.

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