Exciting news at the reserve this week - the raised plant beds are finally getting some plants in them! We started work on these plant beds over a year and half ago so you can imagine how good it feels to finally have reached this stage. Last Thursday at our volunteer work party we took on the fun task of filling up the pond and the bog bed with water. And we didn't just use a hosepipe attached to the outdoor tap, we did it in style, for a couple of reasons. The first being that we didn't really want to use tap water as it has nutrients and chlorine in it. Secondly, it would have taken AGES to fill both beds up from the tap. So we used our petrol driven pump with a big old firemans hose attached, to pump water from the visitor centre pool. Such is the power of the pump that we couldn't just spray the water straight into the beds or the soil and sand would have gone everywhere. Instead we put the hose into a water butt on top of the beds and let it spill over that way, as seen below!
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - Dave and Tom overseeing the pond being filled
You can see how exciting this was for us, we were all out there taking photos. It was especially exciting when the water overtopped each bricked section! An added benefit of using water from our visitor centre pool is that we didn't just get the water, we got wildlife too. Small aquatic invertebrates also made their way through the hose and into the pond and bog beds. The pond bed is practically teeming with life already, including diving beetles, water boatman and water fleas. The bog bed clearly has life in it already too because we've seen pied wagtails standing on the wet peat soil, merrily feeding away!
Filling the bog bed was a bit trickier, as it took a while for the water to seep through the peat and the water was being pumped in quicker than it was seeping through. It may have overflowed slightly a couple of times but we eventually managed to get it filled. There is still a bit too much water in the bog bed but with the warm weather we're having this will soon evaporate and we'll then have to top it up as required. Finally, the wildlife friendly garden outside the office window was dug over and the border completed - planting in this bed will take place tomorrow so make sure you check back next week to see how this is developing.
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - Wildlife friendly garden ready for tomorrow
Many of the plants for the three raised beds will be collected from around the reserve and we have already started doing this. The pond has some common pondweed, water-milfoil and water crowfoot in it while the bog bed now has some meadowsweet and yellow flag iris.
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - yellow flag iris newly planted in the bog bed
The Breckland bed will get a few plants in it tomorrow and more will arrive next Tuesday so by the time I blog next week, each plant bed will have something in it. It'll be so exciting watching them develop, I think we're all obsessed with the pond already and keep going over to peer in and see what we can see!
Our work party tomorrow is not only going to focus on getting the wildlife friendly bed planted. We've got an early start and will be heading off down the reserve to carry out our first booming bittern survey. This will help us work out how many male bitterns we have at the reserve. We'll be dotted around in different places and will record the timing of the booms and roughly where we heard them coming from - this isn't always easy! Judging by what we have heard so far, plus reports from visitors, we think we have at least three so it will be good to get a count. We'll do this a few times to try and get an accurate figure. After the survey some of us will work on the planting and some on odd jobs around the visitor centre - of which there are many! There's a lot to do to get ready for our busier season.
Finally, as David mentioned in his blog on Monday, we've had two school visits this week. I've been leading guided walks to teach the children about the importance of the river Little Ouse to the reserve and our wildlife and to generally see what we can see on our way round Brandon Fen. We were treated to views of little egrets, grey herons, great crested grebes, oystercatchers, lapwings, a great spotted woodpecker and a very vocal song thrush. My last lucky group even spotted a grass snake sunning itself on the path - we got really good views of it before it slithered away into the grass. It was great to see the children getting so interested in everything they saw and asking lots of questions. The weather helped of course, what a beautiful day to be out admiring and sharing our amazing wildlife with others!