Large areas of the Arne reserve are managed by grazing which helps keep the vegetation under control to create ideal habitats for wildlife. Much of the Estates Team’s work over the last few weeks has therefore involved making sure that our fences and gates were in good condition before the cattle went out onto their summer grazing land. Miles of fences at Arne, Stoborough and Grange have been checked and, where necessary repaired to reduce the risk of animals escaping. Gates have also been repaired and replaced to make them easier for members of the public, staff and graziers to use.
While the fence repairs have involved battling with gorse and ants, and removing a huge tree that had fallen on the fence at Grange, there have been compensations. For many volunteers it was the first time they had been to Grange to see the curly-haired pigs, and Sand Lizards and Slow Worms were spotted basking along the fence line.
Removing a large tree from the fence line at Grange
At our Radipole and Lodmoor reserves in Weymouth the focus has been on keeping paths clear and cutting back vegetation. At this time of year, especially when the weather has been both warm and wet recently, plants at the side of paths like Hemlock Water Dropwort grow rapidly and can take over if not cut back occasionally. Cutting back some of the taller plants allows more light in for flowers like the beautiful Bee Orchid, as well as making sure our visitors can get past.
At Radipole we have also been keeping the reeds around the visitor centre short in readiness for the planned extension to the patio area where visitors will be able to sit out on sunny days and admire the birds on the lake.
In other Radipole news a very rare spider has been found on the reserve this month. Until one was found last year during a butterfly survey Hyposinga heri had not been recorded in the UK since 1912! Radipole appears to be a nationally important habitat for this species so we will have to watch out for it when planning future work.
Hyposinga heri, photo courtesy of Allan Neilson
There has also been a lot of fence and gate work at Garston Woods but there the aim has been to keep grazing deer out of areas of hazel that were coppiced over the winter and to prevent them becoming trapped in areas where there may not be enough food available. Coppicing is a traditional method of managing woodland by cutting the stems of trees back almost to ground level and allowing them to regrow. This allows more light to reach the woodland floor as well as producing hazel poles we can use to build shelters for events such as our Big Wild Sleepout. As the stems regrow the new shoots make tasty treats for deer. As well as fencing these areas off we have been loosely covering the stumps with twigs to try to foil the hares who also like to nibble on them.
New deer fence at Garston
It is always a pleasure working in Garston, and over the last few weeks we have been able to watch the carpet of flowers on the woodland floor develop, from the appearance of early wood anemones and bluebells to the blooming of orchids and the pungent flowers of Wild Garlic. It has been particularly encouraging to see the flowers taking advantage of the sunlight in the coppiced areas.
On the 11 May a group of staff and volunteers had some reptile survey training in preparation for increasing the surveys we do at Arne. During the course we found Smooth Snakes, Sand Lizards and Slow Worms and hope to find many more over the next few months when we put our training into practice. If you are interested in seeing any of these fascinating creatures for yourself you might like to come along to the Reptile Weekend on 23-24 May at Arne. There are only limited places available for the morning Reptile Rambles but the Show and Tell event each afternoon is open to all. If you can’t make it this weekend there will be a further event in July. See the Events section on the Arne webpage for details.
It 's a sunny day here in Radipole and spring has definitely arrived.The reed beds are now alive with the chirping of the cetties and sedge warblers while pochard, gadwall and shelducks are paddling about in front of the Discovery Centre. Today we had two welcome visitors, a redshank on the island and two common terns. There have been sightings of a family of swans, five cygnets in all and a coot family with two chicks. The swallows, house and sand martins have all arrived to spend the summer with us. I've even heard the elusive Bearded Tits today but unfortunately did not see them. A few butterflies were around today mainly cabbage whites and red admirals.
The hedgerows around Radipole are also becoming ablaze with colour. Outside the Discovery Centre and lining the car park are Alexanders, the first of the umbellifer family to flower.
The Cow Parsley is also coming into flower, May being the peak month. The Cow Parsley is accompanied by the white and purple flowers of the Common Comfrey.
The cuckoo flower is dotted about on the damper parts of the reserve. This plant is well know for being the fool plant for the orange tip butterfly. The buttercup family is also coming into flower. The Lesser Celandine with its bright yellow flowers and heart shaped leaves are to be found along the damp paths. The much larger Marsh Marigold is at it's best at this time of year adding a welcome yellow splash to the hedgerow. Yellow irises are also coming into flower.
If you look closely you can see the small purple flowers of the Ground Ivy bordering the paths adding a purple hue among the green leaves and hedgerow cranesbill. The trees are also bursting forth with the white blossom. Some of the hawthorn trees are densely packed with white flowers making the branches look like they are covered in snow.
Just off the reserve near the kingfisher gate is a mini meadow of flax flowers and common cornsalad.
For information on recent sightings of birds and the events on this coming Bank Holiday, please contact the Discovery Centre on 01305 778313.
Monday 25th May from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Reptile Day
Expert handlers will be at the RSPB Radipole Lake, Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre DT4 7TZ providing hourly talks and offering the chance to handle some of the animals. Talks will be on the hour from 11:00 a.m. No need to book for this free event.
Saturday 30th May Binocular and Telescope Day
The RSPB are holding an optics demonstration day between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Radipole Lake Discovery Centre.
For more details for both these events contact The Discover Centre on 01305 778313.