Last week we did our first check of the year of our 200 dormouse nestboxes. We found just 3 animals which is way down on previous years. It may be that the prolonged cold weather into April has meant that dormice are emerging from hibernation later this year. Let's hope that's the case and not that last year's poor weather and the long winter have reduced the numbers of dormice making it through hibernation. Our next check in June/July should help to clarify the situation. Checking the boxes is hard work but it's worth it when you find something as beautiful as this.....
And talking of beautiful, the bluebells in the woods near the Decoy Pond are looking particularly nice at the moment...
Broadwater has a lot of drying out to do and this week's work party volunteers spent a lot of their time on water- and mud-related activities. Jobs done included unblocking a culvert, moving an interpretation board that was disappearing into a pool of mud, creating perching sticks for dragonflies at the Decoy Pond and also clearing a lot of litter from along a roadside. So it was a busy day with many laughs and, to the disappointment of some, not one of us fell into the water or mud. The photographs below give a flavour of the day. Thanks to Barbara, Sally, Sarah, Sue, Stephen, Gareth, John and Leslie for their hard work.
Exmoor Ponies have returned to the nature reserve to help us with the restoration of the heath. They will spend the next 6 months eating heathland weeds, breaking up dense vegetation and puddling the edges of our new ponds.
Three of the ponies arriving and immediately exploring their surroundings.
The ponies spend their winter on the South Downs and sites closer to the Sussex coast. They are owned and managed by by The Sussex Pony Grazing and Conservation Trust and are part of a larger herd which now numbers over 40.
The ponies first arrived at Broadwater Warren in 2010 and then returned in 2012. This year ,six of these lovely animals will spend their summer roaming widely over the 150 acre area created for them. They might be seen at any time browsing along the edges of the visitor trails or shading themselves under trees on warm summer days.
Ponies beside one of the visitor trails.
The ponies will generally want to ignore people. It is important that people do not approach them. It is also important that people do not offer them food. This would encourage them to encourage people - exactly want we and the Pony Trust want to avoid.
We are very grateful to the Pony Trust and to their dedicated team of volunteers who make sure the ponies are checked every day. If however, you have any concerns about any of ponies please call the grazier directly on 07917 420296.
Emma was a hard act to follow after her Easter cakes for the Saturday volunteer work party team, but Sally rose to the challenge and the Tuesday team enjoyed a real treat (see below). Now it' the birds turn to produce some eggs and we can only hope that this cold weather breaks soon so that the breeding season can get under way. If readers of this blog get the impression that the volunteers do little more than eat cake, perhaps these photos will show that they put in plenty of effort to burn off those calories. The Tuesday task was to finish clearing up after the contractors who put up the fence around our latest grazing paddock. We used the logs and brash to create some more habitat piles for the reserve's wildlife. The photo of the team may show a cloudless sky, but the wind was icy cold and you'll notice that everyone is well wrapped up.
A few years ago a visitor asked me if the rumour was true that the RSPB was running out of money for its work at Broadwater and intended to sell off parts of the reserve for house-building. I assured him it wasn't true and the amount of work done since that time in restoring the heathland habitat and managing the reserve shows that, thanks to the generosity of funders, members, supporters and volunteers, there is a real determination to make Broadwater a wonderful place for wildlife. Perhaps if someone only reads the title of this blog the rumour will do the rounds again. But it's true that our Saturday work party team of Alison, Jane, Fiona, Emma, Anita, Rich, James, Ben and me spent a bitterly cold day building brash and log piles where birds, reptiles and insects can find refuge, perhaps build a nest and find a sunny point to bask in the sun when the temperatures finally get warmer. We built some neat ones and some more freestyle ones and we'l monitor them to see which the wildlife like best.
Thanks to the team for their hard work and special thanks to Emma for the delicious Easter cakes.