I'm thrilled to say we've got a special guest blog this week from one of our fabulous wardening volunteers Anne Craven, all about a very important job she and a gang of other fantastic volunteers carry out at this time of year - bracken pulling! So why do they do it? Read on to find out.........
Warton Crag is a nearby area of limestone grassland, managed for some very important butterflies including high brown fritillaries, pearl bordered fritillaries and small pearl bordered fritillaries. In the summer we head up Warton Crag to pull bracken from some sunny slopes, to let the sunlight flood onto violets (which are the food plant for the larvae of fritillary butterflies), brambles, hawkweeds, birds-foot trefoil, selfheal, tormentil, dandelion, buttercups and thistles, all of which are some of the nectar plants for these rare butterflies. If we didn't do this, then the bracken would just dominate the area, these plants would not be able to grow and there would not be much food for the butterflies and their larvae.
Warton Crag with lots of bracken needing to be pulled. 'Before' photo by Chris Craven
When pulling the stems near the bottom, there is a satisfying “tock ”as it separates from the ground. When a few of us are doing it and there is a lull in our chatter, it sounds like horses or cows grazing!
Me and the rest of the bracken pulling team. Image by Chris Craven
A successfully cleared area! 'After' photo by Chris Craven
In the past bracken had many uses, such as in soap making, tanning, glass making, animal bedding and fertilizer. Now the Japanese and Koreans eat it and it is being researched for use in new insecticides. Also sheep ticks love it, so you have to check yourself for them after a session - I think that would be a step too far in giving nature a home!
When we've pulled it, we just pile it in heaps to rot down. The morning snack and lunchtime are eagerly awaited - our stomachs adamant that it is later than our watches tell us! Our picnic lunches are enjoyed sitting on the grass in the sunshine with a peaceful view like this:
Peaceful view by Chris Craven
Up on the Crag there is always something different to see or hear; always lots of fun and laughter. One afternoon bracken pulling earlier this year, we were asked if we could be a little quieter whilst Iolo Williams was filming pearl-bordered fritillaries for a Welsh program! Richard our Warden jokingly said that we were obviously having too much fun.
High brown fritillary by David Mower
Small pearl bordered fritillary by David Mower
Huge thanks to Anne for this fantastic look into some of the behind the scenes work taking place here to help give nature a home!
A quick post to say this weekend the new Causeway hide will be open!
Our wardens are out on Friday cutting the vegetation in front of the hide and finishing off the internal varnishing. Then it is open for visitors on Saturday. I am sure you will all agree it looks great, spacious, and offering a fantastic view from within the hide and outside too. The photo below shows off the side viewing slots, giving even more viewing opportunity. I will post a sightings update over the weekend, but for now with new views available from the Skytower and the brand new causeway hide, why not come and enjoy the new experience!
By Kevin Kelly
If you read my blog last week, you'll know that we are in the process of replacing Public hide. The old one was taken down last week by our wardens and volunteers and then on Monday, Gilleards arrived with the brand spanking new one!
The weather on Monday was not kind to them as you can see from this picture of Dan, one of the hide creators, when they got here.....
(Image by Craig Gelder)
However, being the troopers that they are, the Gilleards gang soon got the new foundations in, despite the weather
(Image by Robin Horner)
Then the sun arrived - the flooring went in....
Then the sides went up.....
All the sides up - looking good from the outside....
(Image by Richard Miller)
...and from the inside....
(Image by Annabel Rushton)
The porches and approach are the next step..
Plus we'll of course need a roof and windows, but the new hide is coming along very nicely and it's going to have a new name - Causeway hide
Elsewhere on the reserve, our new Skytower is providing our visitors with a stunning bird's-eye view of the site, surrounding area and of course, the wildlife. Yesterday an osprey flew right past, and an otter came out splashing around on Lilian's pool. The great white egret is on Lilian's pool most mornings, as are flocks of black-tailed godwits. The young marsh harriers are out and about a lot, with their parents dropping in with food. They enjoy sitting on the perches, bushes and the wooden screen that you can see from the top of the tower. Come and see all the action soon!