Grassland plants, small mammal surveying and building nesting posts

Another day of our fascinating National Trust Working Holiday at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. Another rather damp day, feet squelching, recording sheets sticking together, ink smudging. Despite the weather it was a great day.

We started early again, out checking the mammal traps in the Wetlands from 7.30am. 

Some damp and sleepy voles greeted us as we checked the traps. It was so exciting to see these delightful little creatures up close. We scruffed the back of their neck to hold them to check their sex for recording purposes before releasing them as quickly as possible. One I was holding wriggled free and scampered up my arm and over my back quick as a flash, before someone caught them and safely lowered them to the ground.

The traps checked and breakfast consumed, we were on our way to Appleyhead Borders to survey the grassland plants. This area of the park is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) protected due to the grassland plants but there is some concern that it is becoming more rank pushing out some of the rarer species that grow here. The monitoring we did, recording the species present and mapping their extent, will be used to compare against future surveys to see how the grassland is changing and to assess the impact of any changes to the management regime.

We started at one end of the borders, where the lime avenue turns to grassland. We recorded the plant species, logging the grid reference and number of each type of plant on i-record and (increasingly wet) survey sheets as we went, and noted on a map the size and extent of each type of plant. It was interesting and sometimes detailed work, noticing the changes in plant types, getting down low on the wet ground to see the plants closer and identify what we were looking at. In amongst the grasses and the increasing areas of bracken at the ranker end of the border, were a whole variety of grassland species- lady’s bedstraw, eyebright, bird’s foot trefoil, rough hawkbit, wild thyme,  white and red campion, st john’s wort, heather, field rose, dog violet, yarrow, germander speedwell, dwarf gorse and more. Along the edge of the roadway viper’s bugloss bloomed, pink and blue flowers on tall green spikes, unusual looking and beautiful. A really interesting, if rather wet, morning.

The mammal traps were checked for one last time in the Wetlands, more cute as a button voles and a surprise spot of a large yellow underwing moth tucked away above where one of the traps was placed.

Our task for the afternoon was some practical conservation work. We installed a series of posts, made from cut birch, digging holes in the damp woodland area next to the lake, in the hope that these will provide an ideal nesting habitat for willow tits in the future. Willow tits are unusual for tits as they excavate their own holes for nests in rotten trees. Putting the posts in place will replicate standing dead wood and provide extra habitat for these birds. They are not currently recorded at Clumber Park, but providing this space for them will helpfully attract them in the future. It was great to do something to help the wildlife here, as well as surveying what was there, expend some energy and get a little dirty!

A really wild day for our penultimate day of the 30dayswild challenge, and of our National Trust working holiday.


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