Thursday, 18 November 2010

Clearing a chalk stream

Today being Thursday, the volunteers were out in force at Fowlmere Nature Reserve.  Doug was at a meeting in Norfolk, so Rob, the Cambridgeshire ecology officer (or some such.  Not really sure of his title) got us going, then disappeared, leaving us to get on with it.  This was what we'd expected; he wasn't abandoning us in our hour of need!

The main task was to clear sedge from where it was growing in the main flow of the stream, and cut back herbage on either side to get a bit more light to the water, and as you can see, that seems to have been successfully completed.  I managed to avoid getting wet by accidentally leaving my wellies in the car, though I did have to don waders and replant some of the sedge plants elsewhere on the reserve later.

What you may not be able to see in the photo is that the stream has a series of posts driven into the ground along either edge, with withies woven between them and the space behind backfilled.  This is what I was talking about in my last post.  By making the channel narrower, the rate of flow is increased, reducing silting and keeping the stream suitable for fish like trout and bullhead.

Obviously with sedge growing there, the flow had been seriously impeded and it was important to pull it out.  Once things settle down, the water will flow clear once more.

A satisfying morning's work, rounded off by my seeing a female merlin as I drove home.  First time I can be confident it really was a merlin!  Oh all right:  a bit bigger than a blackbird, much smaller than a kestrel, dark brown all over, but definitely a raptor, with short neck,  pointy wings and long tail.  One of our bird books says to look for the heavily barred tail, but hey, I was driving at the time!

It crossed the road from my right about 3m up in the air, then turned parallel with the hedge that runs along the road, dropping to less than a metre above the ground and gliding most of the way to the entrance to someone's driveway, then banked sharply left and flew in there.  I was coasting quietly behind it, so got a good view, though not of the tail bars, sadly.

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