River Nene

Trainee Blog

My name is Michelle Branson and I’m Froglife’s new River Nene Dragon Finder Trainee. I have started this blog as part of my traineeship and will be using it to share my adventures and experiences throughout the year. Links to my previous blog posts can be found at the bottom of this page!

 

Month Two – December 2017!

The New Year marks the end of my second month as a Dragon Finder Trainee! December was a month filled with habitat work, surveys and hedge planting and I have loved getting out and about exploring even more of the places the River Nene has to offer! I’ve attended multiple site visits with Project Officer Cat this month and it’s been great to meet so many enthusiastic people who are passionate about protecting and improving their local ponds! Needless to say, I’m looking forward to all the volunteer sessions and events we have planned for the New Year.

 

One day this month was spent at Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve in the Cambridgeshire countryside. This reserve is owned by Natural England and Froglife have restored and managed some of the ponds here in the past. Our task was to clear the willows and scrubby vegetation that had accumulated on the islands in the ponds to encourage regrowth of many wildflowers that are common throughout the rest of the reserve. Access to these islands wasn’t easy and involved crossing a very thin, very frosty plank of wood carefully positioned by contractor Gary. Amazingly no one fell in, but I must confess I was rather trepidatious and there was much cartoon-style wobbling along the way!

 

Once safely across, we set to work coppicing the willow trees and adding to the existing hibernacula. A huge amount of vegetation was cleared; enough for two mammoth bonfires, the heat from which was greatly appreciated as the day wore on and the temperature began to drop. The haunting barks of muntjac deer echoed around the reserve and at the first call of a tawny owl, we decided it was time to pack the tools away.

 

On several evenings over the past month however, the first calls of the tawny owls have heralded the beginning of night-time fish surveys for me and Conservation Officer Ross. Layered up to the max and looking rather like Michelin men, we headed out onto Hampton Nature Reserve with extremely powerful torches to find our first pond. Hampton has around 320 ponds in total, so only a selection of 60 were to be surveyed. This would be enough to give us an indication of where the fish are and how likely they are to be impacting newt populations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as all the habitat work, I helped out at my first Wildlife Workshop in December with a really enthusiastic group of Brownies! The workshop, which can be tailored to groups of any age, was really informative and the children loved learning about the reptiles and amphibians the UK has to offer! I also had the chance to check out a reserve I had been meaning to get to for a long time, Fermyn Woods. The park was beautiful, with red kites galore and apparently a plethora of unusual butterflies in the Spring and Summer months! I will be sure to head back for a visit as the weather starts to improve!

 

Towards the end of December we also had the Froglife Christmas party! It was a great afternoon packed with loads of games (including football pool!?!) and wonderful homemade food! I decided to get creative with my edible treats and made some penguins and Santas for everyone to enjoy but these were nothing compared to Ash’s Reindeer cake pops!! It was a really lovely celebration of all the Froglife team’s hard work throughout the year and a great chance for me to meet people from other projects too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I spotted my first dragon (of sorts) in December! A beautiful Great Crested Newt at Hampton Nature Reserve, during one of our fish surveys. I had never seen one before and was amazed to see just how big they are! I was also surprised that this newt was out and about in such cold weather, as most of them will be tucked away for the winter! Hopefully I’ll see many more of these not-so-little guys in the coming months as we head towards survey season!

 

Best wishes to you all for the New Year!

Michelle.

 

Previous Blogs!

November 2017: My First Month as a Dragon Finder Trainee