Winter work is coming to an end

Hazel Pears, Northants Volunteer Officer, explains what she has been getting up to in the last two weeks of winter work.

The type of work carried out on nature reserves varies depending on the season (and what the weather is doing!). Our winter tasks are mainly focused on scrub clearance and trying to prevent open areas such as wildflower meadows from becoming overgrown. However, in spring we stop cutting down trees to avoid disturbance to nesting birds. Our winter work has just come to an end, so I thought I would update you on what I have been getting up to in the last couple of weeks.

Summer Leys

We have been clearing bramble and blackthorn from around the lakes edge at Summer Leys in order to create an open area that will be more suitable for wetland birds. Removing vegetation means that the birds feel safer as they can see what is going on around them and there are fewer places for predators to hide. We took the midweek volunteers and had a day of cutting and burning and made some really good progress.

A winter view of Summer Leys

Titchmarsh

At Titchmarsh we have cleared some areas along the sides of a footpath to let more sunlight in and encourage wildflowers (hopefully letting the sunlight in will also dry the footpath out a bit – it was very muddy work!). So again it was a few days of cutting and burning, and probably our last bonfire of the season, so we made the most of it with jacket potatoes! We also layered some of the blackthorn in order to create a more dense area of undergrowth in the hope that nightingales will nest there. This involves partly cutting through the trunks of the trees and bending them over on top of one another, which should encourage it to grow upwards and outwards to become more bushy and dense. Towards the end of the day the sun came out and it felt like spring was coming!

Lilbourne Meadows

The next week the weather made sure that we knew it was still winter. I went along to Lilbourne Meadows with the monitoring team to have a look at the bat boxes that have been put up there. We were trying to see if we needed to move any of them, as it will need to be done before they are in use. Unfortunately, we were prevented from moving any of the boxes because the snow hit and it was no longer practical to be using the ladder, so instead we had a very nice walk around the site and decided which boxes needed to be moved and where they would be moved to so that we can come back to it at a later date. I also had a go at some fixed point photography which is being used to monitor changes in the landscape as the site develops.

Snow at Lilbourne Meadows