Wilden Marsh Workday.
The weather was all over the place: hot, dry, wet, but not too much of any of it. As always, I had a very pleasant and relaxing day on the marsh. John was responsible for the working party, together with Dominique, our new volunteering coordinator.
We worked the south end, close to the entrance, well away from any sensitive areas of the marsh. To avoid unnecessary disturbance to the wildlife, areas of sensitivity are worked-on outside of the growing and nesting seasons.
There is’t much of the larger wildlife to see on workdays; the noise we make keeps most of the animals away. Occasionally, we see a fox or two; buzzards soar above us throughout the year; snipe is around early in the year, and cormorants from now until spring. We might see lapwings in the fields between the canal and the River Stour and herons flying to and from the heronry. There are plenty of insects to examine, together with mice and lizards and a plethora of creepy-crawly things. Not to be forgotten is the wide range of wild plants, some of which are considered rare.
Anyone wanting healthy outdoor activity, whilst also getting to know the marsh, are welcome the attend the workdays on the first Thursday of each month. For further information, contact Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (http://www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk/), or email me (email@example.com).
I had a lucky sighting of a mouse and weasel this morning. Walking along the main track looking for ragwort and thistles to pull or slash, I heard an urgent squeaking. I didn’t have long to wait before the mouse burst onto the track, with the weasel in hot pursuit. The weasel grabbed the mouse with a practiced and purposeful sideways lunge of its long bendy body and rushed back into the grass with it. This occurred very near the place where I photographed a dead weasel a month or so ago. Weasels are not something I see very often, so it sort of made my day.
I have Gill to thank for showing me the difference between marsh, creeping and nodding thistles, and John for pointing out the differences between marsh and common ragwort.
I dialled thistles and ragwort into my brain, grabbed my slasher and got on with the job. The way I prefer to work is head down, bum up until someone shouts a tea or lunch break, or I need a drink. If I misunderstand the requirements, I can do a fair bit of damage. I was totally unaware that we were to clear creeping thistles only. I was working away quite happily, pulling and slashing anything green with sharp prickles on it, when a little pained voice cut through my concentration like a knife: “Oh no! Someone has chopped down a marsh thistle!” That plaintiff cry came from Gill. Gill is a very passionate nature lover; there are a lot of us about! Gill doesn’t like cutting anything down that provides food or shelter for the invertebrates, and neither do I. Gill moves insects from the work area to a safe place; I don’t go that far, but I understand and applaud the sentiment. However, Gill is very knowledgeable in these matters, and I admire her for trying so hard to minimise our impact on nature. I am a “bull at a gate” sort of person, and I don’t do sensitivity very well.
Perhaps some of Gill’s sensitivity will rub of on me, not too much though. I would like to sleep at night! 🙂
I am all in favour of people willing to have a go at pricking the collective conscience, but it can be a hard road to travel. There are a lot of sheep roaming around out there, and they are notoriously difficult to influence. Now me, if I wanted to influence a flock of sheep, I would hire the services of a well-trained sheepdog. I have a picture on my kitchen wall that depicts a flock of sheep trying to enjoy a party. There is this caption at the bottom of the picture: “Henry, this party is a total mess! No one knows where to stand, what to drink, what to eat, or what music to put on. . . . Oh, thank God! Here come the border collies.”
Another board was removed from the second sluice, lowering the water level by another 50mm, totalling 300mm in all. Even the marsh swans are now able to wade in the southern pool.
At the end of the day, when the rubbish had been cleared and the tool packed away, we stood talking for a while. “Is that a cormorant on the power lines, in the distance, Mike, ” asked Dom. I looked over to where she was pointing, and said, “No Dom, it’s probably a pigeon; it’s too early in the year for cormorants.” I looked again, got my binoculars out and sure enough; it was a cormorant. So the honour of spotting the first cormorant arriving back on Wilden Marsh from its summer holidays, goes to Dom. She has younger eyes than me.
On the way home, walking along the corridor to the tenant farmer’s field, I spotted a heron sitting on a tree trunk that had fallen across the river. I have problems photographing the marsh herons; they are far too flighty, and have eyes in the back of their heads. I only had my 500D fitted with a 60mm macro lens with me, so I tried my trick of putting the camera to my eye and moving slowly towards the heron and sure enough, it worked. I managed to get really close before it flew off.