Monday, 24 October 2016

Getting stuck in

As the days get colder and inevitably wetter, the coastal ranger team set to work on more autumnal tasks. In the last few weeks we have been focusing our efforts on Newton Pool local nature reserve. A brilliant wetland habitat it is home to a host of different species; from shoveler and little grebe to water plantain and otter. Various forms of vegetation management ensure this area is kept in top shape for its inhabitants.
One of the easiest residents to spot are our Exmoor ponies who graze the area throughout the year. Through munching and trampling they ensure the grasses and reeds are kept low, creating open areas for birds and allowing less robust herb plants to flourish. The rangers and volunteers give them a helping hand by cutting and removing areas of grass to create open areas and reduce nutrient levels. Later on in the year we will also coppice a section of the willow and alder to encourage regrowth.
One of the many residents: an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar  © KateBradshaw
Arguably the most entertaining activity is reedmace management. Although a native species to Britain, reedmace Typha latifolia was introduced to the site many years ago and is starting to take over; out-competing other plants and closing in around the pool, making it a less open habitat for birds. Reedmace has an incredible root structure with a good rhizome system that creates a network underground, stretching into the open water.  This means there is only one thing for it – to don the waders and get stuck in (sometimes quite literally).


A volunteer tackling a stand of reedmace 
Volunteers have found themselves knee deep in mud pulling up the towering plants to compost them. There is always the occasional casualty. Although we are yet to have a full face first tumble into the mud this season, we have had two cases of being stuck with a rescue operation required, one lost wellie and a lot of wet feet.


Awards for muddiest participant...

We have to admit we are often distracted by the awesome creatures we find hiding amongst the vegetation. Chasing a spider around trying to get a photo is always a good excuse for a few minutes break.

Pachygnatha clercki found and painstakingly identified by one of our volunteers © KateBradshaw