Frosty Days

It’s been a busy time with the beavers. We worked flat out to get the new beaver fence ready at the new enclosure, trapped a family of five and got them in, only to find that one of the adults found a weak place in the new fence and escaped. To make matters worse, three of us were away for a week at a conference in Ireland. However Sion, Pete and James got the traps out and caught him on the second night. The problem was that in one place the fencers had used C clips to join the above ground part of the fence to the below ground part. This need to be well over-lapped and twist wired together.

Now the family has settled down and they are occupying the artificial lodge on the island. This lodge has an underwater entrance and is a big cavity covered in green willow logs. It must be quite a squeeze for all five of them but they have been working on it and adding more sticks on top. Most beaver watching at this time of year is done in complete darkness using a thermal imaging scope. You can see the heat signature of the occupied lodge. There are also mice on the island and it is surprising how much the mice and rats climb right up into the tops of trees. They must be very vulnerable to tawny owls.

Meanwhile the great news came in that the Scottish Government has now accepted the Beaver back onto the list of native British species! Now it is just a matter of time before the English and Welsh governments follow suit. The plan is to set regulations in place so that beavers can be actively managed but at the same time properly protected. This is a massive hurdle overcome and will influence our licence application here in Wales.

We’ve also done a newsletter for farmers along the river but Jo has been away for three weeks so we have had a delay in sending all of them out. Thankyou Graham for translating the Welsh version.

While we are having this frosty dry spell, Steve and John have been busy with the digger and dumper truck down at Ricketts Mill. They are clearing up around the buildings and building up the hedge banks properly. It all looks messy at the moment, but once the banks are all planted up it will look good in the spring. There are a number of overhanging oak trees and branches that are dangerous so we are doing those as well to make a clean sweep of things. We will save any straight bits for the timber mill and the rest goes to firewood. There is plenty of natural regeneration but we have new young trees ready if there are any gaps needing filling.  The surveyors and planners have been out and given us the all clear so we will soften the edges of the two ponds to create some reed bed areas and overhanging willows. This will provide shelter for wildlife, better than clean hard edges.

frozenpond
A Frozen Skinny Dipping Pond

The hoar frosts are building up in areas that don’t get the sun. On the north banks of Blaencwm it looks black and white, stark like a Breugel winter painting. Just across the gulley, with the full sun and remnants of golden autumn leaves, the grass is still green and it looks quite benign and warm. At lunchtime in the conservatory the dogs are lolling about panting, but coming home in the evening on the quad bike my cheeks are totally numb with cold. The beaver pond has frozen over and I watched as one of the adults surfaced in the only clear spot and then systematically set about breaking the ice over an area of about three double beds near the dam. Having only been in a couple of weeks they have not had time to embed winter stashes of willow in the bottom of the pond, but with the ice broken the kits can still get out and forage on the banks.

Nick

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