It should be back to business as usual on the blog from this week, as I have now returned from the Isle of Wight - a week of watching great green bush crickets and wasp spiders! But it's back up north now and I have been welcomed back by my first stonechat of the autumn by the Beach Hut on Tuesday, found by Dave Roberts and the distinctive call of the first grey wagtails of the autumn over the office yesterday and today. And whilst I was away, volunteer Stuart Carlton kindly volunteered to do the monthly WeBS for me - the results are below....
32 tufted duck
27 mute swan
320 graylag goose
100 Canada goose
15 grey heron
9 little egret
5 great crested grebe
3 green sandpiper
48 black-headed gull
and the star of the show....a bittern flying into Phase 2. Keep eyes open around the visitor trails in the next few weeks - two bitterns have been seen on several occasions by staff, volunteers and visitors in this area!
A typical view of a Langford bittern, sailing over the reedbed - although the reed is a little greener at this time of year! John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Volunteer Sunday was upon us once again yesterday and it was a glorious September day, with cloudless skies, warm temperatures and a pleasant south-westerly breeze - perfect for a spot of reed planting. Each year we plant out 10,000-15,00 reeds on site and yesterday the target area was the western island of Phase 2.
After finding plenty of nice wet and muddy edges, we got to work planting up the 32 trays of reed designated for this area. 32 trays contain 2700 plugs - a great effort from the team - looking forward to seeing them grow next year!
Another important part of reedbed development and the task for another team yesterday, is control of some of the less desirable plant species that may find their way onto site. One such group of species are the willows, of which we have two species here at Langford growing in the reedbed areas - crack willow, Salix fragilis and goat willow, Salix caprea. These willows are native species to the UK and are excellent trees for wildlife, however they have the capability to grow in huge numbers across a developing reedbed area, competing for nutrients, light and water with the young reed and eventually, if left unchecked, can take over a site, drying out our wetland areas and out-competing the reed. Therefore, we take out the willows as small saplings to prevent this from happening, ensuring we create a healthy reedbed. We don't eradicate it totally though - you will still see plenty of willow trees on site for the wildlife that call them their home!
And the third group yesterday were hard at work cutting back access along the southern portion of the site's perimeter public footpath - ensuring a clear way through the next time you fancy that long walk around the site's boundary!
Throughout the day hobby, greenshank, buzzard and a multitude of dragonflies and damselflies entertained us whilst we worked. I was also pleased to see water ladybird, Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata and Adonis ladybird, Hippodamia variegata (don't you just love scientific names of ladybirds!?) out on Phase 2 and my definite highlight of the day, a small heath butterfly nectaring on a late ragwort flower near our sand martin bank. This is the first small heath I've seen on site since 2013 and a very welcome return of this lovely little species.
As always, a huge thanks to everyone for an excellent day.
Greenshank - plenty around Langford at the moment and such beautiful birds. Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Back at the end of July, the Friday volunteer crew and I had a fabulous day out on Phase 2, where we were joined by our Regional Reserves Manager Nick Droy, for a spot of reed fencing. Young reed is very susceptible to grazing by birds - most notably coot and geese. As the young shoots only have small rhizomes (and consequently, small energy stores), they find it hard to recover from constant grazing pressure. To alleviate this, we fence off a lot of our young reed, to give it a chance to put on some good growth and importantly, increase the size of it's energy stores in it's rhizomes.
We couldn't have picked a better day for the job, with the sun shining and strangely for Langford - no wind! As we worked away in the beautiful weather, we were entertained by a marsh harrier, hobby's and a beautiful water ladybird on reed stems in the middle of the island - the first I've had on site this year.
By the end of the day, we had installed over 400 metres of fencing, protecting virtually the whole of the western island of Phase 2! An amazing effort and one which will hopefully see rewards next year with increased reed growth over the whole area - another step closer to our goal of creating one of the largest reedbeds in the East Midlands!
Many thanks to Nick for joining us for a very enjoyable and productive day!