Abberton Assistant Ranger Blog

Happy New Year! 2020 is upon us and I am very excited for all the projects and wildlife excitement we have planned for the coming year! Christmas and New Year was filled with lots of joy and wildlife wonders here at Abberton!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year! Here at Abberton we had a magical time. With lots of fabulous Christmas events such as wreath making and Santa's Grotto, there was something to get everyone in the Christmas spirit! The festive period was met with wonderful wildlife across the reserve. Exciting sightings of a Black-Throated Diver, Cattle Egrets, Merlin, Smew and Hen Harrier

The WeBS count of December counted as many as 1166 Pochard, 2705 Tufted duck, 3289 Teal and 3902 Coot in one morning across the whole reservoir! We have amazing over-wintering wildfowl here at Abberton, definitely worth seeing! 

Over the winter of 2019 we managed to plant over 4, 500 trees! Our lovely volunteers worked very hard to create a new woodland scrub on surrounding reservoir land for Essex and Suffolk Water.  We planted a great selection of Dog Rose, Dog Wood, Guelder Rose, Spindle and Hawthorn. 2019 & 2020 was a sustainability success- as we are now using biodegradable tree guards made from 'Lactic Acid'. These work by supporting the tree until it is strong enough, then after a certain amount of time UV filtering stops and the guards start to biodegrade. By breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces they eventually turn into natural matter such as H2O and CO2, which in turn goes back into the soil to feed all our lovely invertebrates! Unfortunately, plastic tree guards was the go-to material for most places until recent scientific research highlighted the negative impacts of plastic and micro-plastic. Now we are aware of the problems plastic can cause and alternatives have come onto the market, we are now only using sustainable, eco friendly tree guards for all our planting! 

Our Outdoor Classroom has been nearly finished! The main structure has been built and the pathing nearly completed. Our 'Eco-Toilets' and 'recycled plastic benches' will go in once we have finished the 'wildlife garden'. Here we will have many bug hotels, bird feeders and bird houses along with many flowers and plants to attract pollinators! This project aims to get children learning outside and to help educate them on the wonders of nature! Our resident Barn Owls discovered the new classroom the day it was finished and already use it to roost in! 

As the New Year approached, on January 1st a Swallow was spotted on the causeway and then every day since on the reserve. This is a very unusual sighting for this time of year as Swallows are usually still over-wintering in Africa.This individual is possibly of a late brood in late 2019 and did not migrate or, migrated back early for unknown reasons (possibly climate?). Other sightings of Swallows have been made in Dorset and Cornwall. Whatever the reason for his presence, fingers crossed for the continue of mild weather to enable a food supply of insects for the Swallow and other early arrivers. 

This month we will catch up on jobs around the reserve just as hedge trimming, ride cutting and glade strimming. Once the new batch of trees and guards arrive we will work on hedge infilling and planting a new hedge on ESW land, exciting! 

The 25th - 27th of January marks the RSPB's 'Big Garden Birdwatch' to gather data on bird numbers across the UK. We are celebrating by doing a 'Brilliant Birds- Make and Learn' event on the 26th January for children to learn about birds, contribute to counting, making bird feeders and dissecting owl pellets! All information is on our website events page and on our Facebook page.  

See you next time, have a great month! - Katie :) 

work party volunteers