Saturday, November 3, 2012

Autumn work and birdwatching in the fog

'Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, northern migrants and rare vagrants, and preparing for the winter.

The cut hay ready for raking up.
Over the last few weeks we have been busy doing some much needed maintenance on the Bayfield Wildlife Walk and our own wildlife field behind the Glandford shop. Now that the wild flowers have set seed and the majority of the grasshoppers and other insects have reached the end of this years life cycle it was time to cut the meadow. The plan is to keep the filed as mostly open grass and flower meadow with bramble and hawthorn scrub patches at the top end and cover around the edges. Cutting the grass once a year not only stops scrub and eventually trees taking over but also removing the cuttings gradually reduces the nutrient in the soil, creating conditions that deter thistles, nettles and rank grasses dominating and favours a more diverse grass and flower mix. An added bonus is the heap of cuttings provides a warm refuge for grass snakes and as it decays a rich source worms and insects for the birds and small mammals. The small size of the area (half an acre) means that an appropriate level of grazing would be difficult to achieve, and whilst we try and keep the use of machinery to a minimum a petrol brush cutter was the best option for managing this field. Decked out in the appropriate safety gear and with a period of cool overcast weather the task was complete two days and five litres of fuel later. With smell of new mown hey in our nostrils and a sense of satisfaction at a job well done we then turned our attention to revamping the Bayfield Wildlife Walk.

The first of the new
way markers
The way markers had for a long time been an incomplete rag-tag collection of yellow arrows tied and nailed to trees, fences and posts often concealed by vegetation. We replaced these with treated round posts with sloped tops onto which we nailed yellow plastic arrows (recycled from old margarine tubs!). The idea is that now there are consistent and easily spotted markers at all the points where there is a opportunity to take the wrong path. These are complemented by a new information sign at the start of the walk next to our shop showing a map and some things to look out for around the walk.

This is one of my favourite times of the year to be working outdoors, with the cool air filled with the rich and musky scents of the soils and woodland, wildlife in abundance and the satisfaction to be had from preparing for the winter and new year ahead.

One of the Ring Ouzels in our field at Glandford

Over the last few weeks northerly air movements and low cloud brought in unprecedented numbers of migrant thrushes and chats to Norfolk. The best rarity of this fall was a very confiding red-flanked bluetail atStiffkey, but the most impressive spectacle was the shear numbers of thrushes and especially ring ouzels. During the few days of fog almost anywhere you went along the coast the hedges, bushes and fields held dozens of these robust and wary 'mountain blackbirds' in amongst the flocks of redwings, fieldfares and blackbirds. Taking advantage of the newly cut field we even had two ring ouzels stop at Glandford and at least two black redstarts outside both shops.

For more information on the Bayfield Wildlife Walk and a printable map download please go to the Cley Spy website.

Cley Spy.

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