Recently, the wildlife rangers were allowed to start conservation work on a small patch of woodland in the Testwood Lakes nature reserve. This was exactly what we had been looking for, as our aim is to discover, explore, conserve and share pieces of nature. The first job upon arriving at the new ground was to clear it of litter. It is shocking how much litter ends up in natural and beautiful places and just how much it affects the local wildlife. After removing all visible rubbish, we started work on removing what remained of the last "conservationists".
Seb's John Muir award
About twenty years ago, to help trees grow unhindered, plastic sheets were put in place around the bases of them. These were installed to inhibit the growth of weeds around the tree, but ended up being a serious threat to the surrounding wildlife. Our job, our huge job, was to take up these sheets from the ground, which was not easy, as they were mostly buried by twenty years' worth of soil and some trees had grown through or around them, so they ripped if pulled, leaving impossible to remove scraps in roots.
The task was going to take days, so we stopped for a while, to move on to placing bird boxes on the trees. They had to be facing in specific directions on the trees, according to the different birds meant to be inhabiting them.One box was equipped with a sensor to count how many birds came in or out, but some of us had already stuck our fingers in there to leave the counter already on 4 or 5. The plan was to come back to them in a few months to see how many birds had been using them.
Another project we embarked upon was to build a small bird hide, consisting of three walls woven willow around thick branches stuck into the ground, with small willow rings as windows woven in. It took us a few monthly sessions to finish, even now I don't know if it is complete, but we are all proud of it and we can use it to survey the diversity of the bird population in the area whenever we need to.
At our monthly meetings, we try to do something constructive so as to aid the local environment, or give members valuable conservation experience to make a positive impact in later life. For example, we take surveys of various species found around the site, like butterflies, which we observed in order to contribute to the national butterfly count. We have also put down corrugated iron and felt sheets at various locations at our reserve to find out which material is preferred by what in different environments. This yielded results ranging from ants to spiders to even grass snakes, though we were not quite sure of the identity of this last one due to the very short time we had before it darted into the undergrowth.