August and September are the prime time for managing the grassland on our reserves. This has involved pulling Ragwort within grazing pastures at Shibdon Meadow, Addison Hedgefield and at Rainton Meadows so that our lovely Exmoor ponies can continue to work safely at the frontline of conservation. The grazing they undertake stops grasses and shrubs becoming overly dominant and consequently this allows a greater variety of flowering plants to be present, which in turn supports a wider diversity of insects and other animals. Here are Nicola’s Boy and Barley arriving at Westfield Pasture reserve, as you can see, they enjoy their work.
Managing grasslands with ponies and rakes
We have also been conducting our late summer cut and rake. This is also undertaken to ensure that the wildflowers continue to flourish and aren’t outcompeted by coarse grasses. It’s a case of all hands to the deck to make sure that we get all the cut vegetation lifted off the meadows, otherwise the cut grass lying on top will stop light getting to the vegetation underneath and eventually kill it off.
Over at Shibdon Pond, preparation work has been undertaken to ready the boardwalk for the much-needed renovations. This has involved the removal of the wire on the existing boardwalk and the cutting back of overhanging reeds to streamline the process for the contractors. We are anxious to get started, but are just awaiting delivery of the materials from the supplier.
Finally, at Shibdon Meadow, work has begun on a new fence in front of the bird hide. This area is known to become very wet in the autumnal and winter months and can become very boggy if the horses churn up the ground. Once the fence has been completed, we will be planting hedgerow species like hawthorn alongside the viewing screen to minimise the disturbance to wading birds that utilise the area as a high tide roost off the River Tyne.
A plethora of Speckled Wood butterflies, particularly around the woodland boundaries, Common Blue and Large White butterflies also spotted.
Common Frogs – a very common sight during raking, taking refuge in the long, damp grasses.
Buzzards and Kestrels hovering over the open fields.
Roe Deer- Spotted in the quieter areas of the site.