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Simon Beard kindly updates the Hawk and Owl Trust on the Winter period so far at the Shapwick Reserve.

Even with the various lockdowns, life still continues at Shapwick Moor.

 

Our grazing regime means that the last of the Red Devon cattle were removed from our fields at the end of December. This enables the fields to have a 'rest' from heavy grazing and soil compression in the wettest months. Grazing will start again in April on most of our fields.

We are moving several of our fixed field margins in the coming year. This is to prevent excessive scrub build upon the land that has been within field margins for the past 4 years and to position them in areas that are easier for us to maintain.

The last of the yellow rattle seeds were sown on November in strips of land that will not be grazed next year. We now have to wait to see if the germination is as good as it was in out trial plots last year. The long term plan will be to increase annually the areas that are sown with this species that is vital to reduce grass grown in our meadows.

Volunteer work has been greatly reduced this year due to Covid and the cheerful chatter of volunteers has been greatly missed. Limited individual volunteering continued until December, but even that has now stopped. The ancient overgrown hedge leading up the main track toward Shapwick Heath which was almost woodland full of dead and dying trees was, hopefully, saved by clearing out lower growth scrub and removing timber that was leaning in a manner that suggested it would fall in the next few years.  The remaining larger trees will be pollarded and smaller ones will be used to lay the hedge.

Our collecting box was badly damaged early in the Autumn and the box & its contents were stolen. Due to the skills of several local 'friends' a new box has been constructed and it will soon be placed in a new 'cairn' that is designed to prevent a nuclear attack!  Our visitor numbers are very low at the moment due to lockdown. Mostly dog walkers who live in the neighbouring villages.

Our winter months are the times when we have good numbers of wetland birds. This year we have had some notably large flocks of lapwings some days. Snipe are present in good numbers but elusive and tend to only show themselves as they fly off in front of us as we walk the reserve. Cattle Egrets have been on the reserve most days, but with the removal of the livestock that I mentioned earlier, these birds seem to disappear.  The Great White Egrets that the Avalon Marshes have become famous for are seen regularly along our ditch edges.  

2021 will continue to be a challenging year for us, but the reserve is in very good condition and we have a long list of 'jobs to do' once our volunteers can resume their efforts. 

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