…out like a lamb, or so they say about March. We are almost into the last week of the month and it’s still feeling very lion-like and the forecast is only set to get colder and wetter through the week. It’s making the reinstatement work very difficult at Ricketts Mill. A few dry days last week and some of the moisture had started to come out of the clay but now we’re back to bog and heaven knows when we will will be able to get any machinery on it. Still, having said that, the grass seeds are taking off (where the pheasants haven’t eaten them) the willows we are planting are really shooting on and there is masses of toadspawn in the big lake. We have relocated a few hollies and ashes from the mill leat to the drier bits of land around the lake, let’s hope they take, one never holds much hope for the poor ash trees though. We’ve raised the water level by about 6cm and have also fitted outfalls to two of the smaller off-line ponds to raise the level in them. A few more leaning willows and alders along the river have been cut back and the resulting brash piles are already being made use of by wildlife. All we need now is a bit of sun!
Really gratifying to see new tadpoles hatching in one of the ponds we have recently made. Toads are doing well here too but it’s saddening to see how many are being killed on the road every night. The herons too are taking their toll. They kill them but then find them unpalatable so it’s a rather tragic and pointless end.
The willows we have planted this winter are starting to come away as is the grass seed and hopefully the wildflower seeds too. This weekend saw a couple of new visitors – a pair of goosanders and the trees are alive with bird song.
Another healthy crop of Himalayan balsam is germinating. At this time of year you can really see the effects of its powerful seed projection mechanism. The old stalks are still clearly visible and the newly germinated seedlings can be spotted up to 4 metres away. Its rate of spread is quite terrifying.
What a remarkable evening! I went down to count the beavers in the Skinny Dipping pond enclosure last night to find them all there and very busy but I also found that the water was alive with frogs. Once the noise from the quad had drifted away the frog chorus started in earnest and their charming little croaks filled the valley. With the stars burning their way around the sky, the happy beaver grunts, the croaking frogs, teal calling, mallard contentedly feeding and owls hooting it was quite magical.
I know it’s an every day sort of thing but I have to admit that this morning I was transported for a few minutes! I went down to the far end on the far to check on the tack sheep – they seem to get stuck in brambles for a pastime, when I stopped the quad to open the gate the air was vibrant with bird song. It resonated along the valley and was counterpointed by the drumming of woodpeckers. I was transfixed.
Yesterday we hosted a group of interested folks from both NRW and Carmarthen Council. Organised by Craig at JCR Planning, it was a great opportunity to talk to people about the work we are doing at Ricketts Mill and the broader beaver project. Over the past couple of weeks we have also attended the PONT conference, given a talk to the East Carms. Wildlife Trust Group and were given the opportunity to put in our opinions at the Natural Resource Policy Consultation Engagement Event in Cardiff. Jo and I were pleasantly surprised by this last event. It had all the makings of a dreary, slightly pointless event but in actual fact it turned out that it was the Welsh Government actually wanting to hear the opinions of rural stakeholders and turning it into policy. A great step forward.
Western Power Distribution – what can I say? Their amazing guys have been working to get the old power lines down today in appalling conditions. A real heroic effort.
And what a difference it’s made. Already the view is much improved but much more importantly, wildfowl and other birds visiting the lakes are now much less likely to collide with cables. I have walked around many marshes shaking my head sadly at the sorry corpses of swans, geese and duck underneath the power lines. Indeed, I once saw a swan hit the lines and tumble to the ground in the half light.The Exminster marshes in Devon were particularly bad, I remember, as a line of huge pylons stalked across the landscape, claiming the lives of many species.
So now, thanks to the generosity and effort of the folks at Western Power Distribution, at least some small patch of sky is safer for the birds. Thank you!