Guest blog by Kirstie Last, Assistant Retail Manager
We are delighted to announce that the delicious jams and chutneys have arrived in RSPB Shops this week, as a mouth-watering addition to the Love Nature range which includes our Love Nature Shortbread, extra-virgin rapeseed oil from our very own Hope Farm and our bird friendly fair-trade fresh ground coffee beans.
When looking to introduce jams and chutneys to our food range, we wanted to choose a supplier that had the same ethos as the RSPB when it comes to keeping things natural and loving nature.
Located in the small town of Stroud on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, Kitchen Garden foods produce delicious jams and preserves in the building that was formerly the Stroud Brewery.
All their ingredients, including sugar, are certified organic, and are sourced from the UK as much as possible. The jams and chutneys do not use thickeners or emulsifiers, they are also suitable for vegetarians, and really let the ingredients speak for themselves!
All of their Jams and Chutneys are produced to the highest standard in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The selection including strawberry, blackcurrant and plum jam and, plum and cranberry, real ale and country fruit chutneys are all available from our Minsmere shop now.
Some of our delicious Love Nature range to tempt you: coffee, rapeseed oil, jams and chutneys.
It's mid April, so the arrivals and departures board at Minsmere International is constantly changing as new arrivals land and old friends depart. Although numbers of most new migrants are still quite low, the number of species seen is growing by the day.
Here's a quick summary of migrant arrival dates so far (note: blackcap and chiffchaff are not included as one or two overwinter, so spring arrival dates can be difficult to judge)
A wheatear by Jon Evans
Other migrants include black-tailed godwits (96 this week), ruff, spotted redshank, knots (28 on 11th) and turnstones on the Scrape.
Departure dates are harder to judge, but several winter visitors are still hanging on. The highlight here is undoubtedly the jack snipe that has continued to show regularly at Island Mere until yesterday at least. A short-eared owl was seen again on Sunday, as was a hen harrier. A few redwings and fieldfares were still on the heath late last week too. On the Scrape there are still a handful of pintails and good numbers of teals, but most of the ducks have now left. Offshore, the few remaining red-throated divers are acquiring their summer finery.
Other birds of been merely passing through, and not actually touching down at Minsmere. There has been an excellent passage of buzzards so far this month (and a pair displaying near Eastbridge), along with the odd red kite, though numbers of the latter on down on recent springs. A real highlight for those lucky enough to see it (sadly not me, again) was the raven seen on several dates between 124 March and 10 April. I missed the last sightings as I was in the middle of a long phone call - very annoying!
There's also increasing breeding activity, with avocets, black-headed gulls, lapwings and redshanks already establishing territory on the Scrape, great crested grebes displaying at Island Mere, ten booming bitterns and several pairs of marsh harriers in the reedbed, bearded tits feeding chicks at Island mere, the sand martins, and nuthatches calling at Canopy Hide. Among the commoner nesting birds, the pair of great tits using our nestcam box now have seven eggs. They can be watched on the TV screen in the shop.
Of course, birds aren't the only things to see in spring. It's been a great week for butterflies, with the following species all seen regularly: peacock, small tortoiseshell, comma, speckled wood, small copper, orange tip, brimstone, small, large and green-veined white. Other insects seen on the wing this week include buff-tailed and early bumblebees, seven-spot ladybirds, alderflies, bee-flies and honeybees. Adders continue to be seen regularly, while mammal sightings include water voles, brown hares, stoats, otters and grey seals, as well as the more regular rabbits, grey squirrels, red deer and muntjac. And, of course, there are some interesting flowers to look out for, including cuckoo-flowers, mossy stonecrop and gorse.
Water vole by Jon Evans
Guest blog by Annette Rayner, Assistant Warden
Those of you who have visited Minsmere over the past two years will have been aware of the general hub of activity around the sluice as workers from VolkerStevin, Black and Veatch and various sub contractors have replaced the culverts and sluice gates and repaired the brickwork in the chamber as well as capping exposed asbestos sheeting along the banks. I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you a view from the inside and give you a better insight into what has been going on down there. All of the photos I have used here were taken by Dan Livermore of VolkerStevin.
There are three ditches flowing into the sluice chamber: the Scotts Hall drain from the north, the New Cut from the west and the Leiston drain from the south. We were aware that some of the old sluice gates were not functioning as efficiently as they should be and needed replacing, but on closer inspection they were badly corroded and the one in the Leiston drain (as seen in the picture below) was permanently wedged open with debris.
The brickwork inside the chamber was also in a bad condition, the extent of which wasn’t realised until work had begun. This, and other unforeseen delays, meant that instead of being completed over the course of a year, the project was taken into a second phase.
The picture above shows the extent of the damage to the brickwork in the main sluice chamber.
The ‘before’ picture, showing the old, corroded, sluice gates and the wall dividing the two chambers within the sluice which had a large crack running from top to bottom. The damaged section of wall had to be removed and rebuilt.
This is a great picture for showing the work in progress, the ditches have been dammed off and bungs have been used on the sea outfall pipes so there is no longer a flow of water through the sluice. The sluice chamber itself has been pumped almost dry and repairs have begun. The damaged section of the dividing wall has been removed (seen here in the centre of the picture) and the old sluice gates have been removed from both of the New Cut culverts (seen here on the right of the picture). In the top left hand corner of the picture the formwork for the brickwork repair can be seen, this will be a mould for the concrete which will be poured into the void.
The next stage was to line each culvert with glass reinforced plastic (GRP) liner, these were then surrounded by concrete to fill the area of the old culvert. The liners can be seen in the picture above, along with the newly repaired section of the dividing wall.
Each of the sluice gates were fitted into their concrete headwall before being taken down into the sluice chamber. The sluice gates themselves are constructed from a high density plastic (HDPE) to provide greater corrosion protection than the old metal ones. In the above picture, the headwall and gate have been lowered into the chamber and are being guided into position on the end of the liner.
Here you can see two of the sluice gates in operation with the water flowing from the ditches into the sluice chamber. The gate on the left hand side of the picture is from the Leiston drain, this gate has been carefully designed to remain open for a period of time during both an outgoing and incoming tide, which allows saline water to enter the Leiston drain. The old sluice gate had been allowing saline water into the ditch system for so long an important ecosystem had developed which needed to be maintained. It also provides a brackish influence on the east side of the levels which benefits various plant species and keeps a constant supply of water to Lucky Pool which is one of the best places on the levels for wading birds. This design allows eels to migrate through from the ditch out to sea, and in the other direction.
Outside of the main sluice chamber is the penstock that controls the water flow from the Scotts Hall drain (from the North) into the sluice chamber. A great deal of work went into the design of this penstock which includes a fish friendly flap. It will also allow control of the flow of saline water onto the scrape, allowing the brackish influence on north girder (south scrape) to be carefully regulated.
As well as the sluice gates, the steel girders supporting the sluice structure were badly corroded and needed replacing too. One of these girders was very popular with the swallows who nest beneath it, so after it had been replaced VolkerStevin wanted to erect swallow nest boxes to encourage the swallows to use the area again. The picture above shows the new beam in place with the two nest boxes provided by the VolkerStevin sustainability fund.
The first swallows of the spring have been spotted at Minsmere this week. Let’s hope they like their new home, and prove as photogenic to visitors as they have been in the past.