Wednesday 5th February 2020

Horswell Ditch today

Ringing at this stage of the winter is often unproductive as most wintering birds are already ringed and many are starting to move on. The increasingly mild winters have also significantly reduced the numbers of wintering thrushes, finches and buntings so I wasn’t expecting a great deal today. My expectations were realised with just 16 new birds processed together with 36 re-traps. Totals included 24 Chiffchaff, 7 Goldcrest, 5 Firecrest and a solitary Reed Bunting.

Marsh Ride bridge – now with wire-mesh surface.

I took advantage of the low workload to put the finishing touches to the bridge to Marsh Ride. It’s now covered with wire mesh to provide grip and sufficiently clear of the water to prevent the mesh from trapping floating vegetation in the future.

I also walked around to Horswell Ditch to check on the stability of the bank I rebuilt at the weekend. It’s still there at the moment! Only time will tell if I have done enough but the water level has risen to the top of the sluice and was pouring merrily over the top, which is a good sign.

Full again – Horswell sluice with the repaired bank at the lower right

Sunday 2nd February 2020 – The 2nd reed cut

The cleared area (almost 10,000 sq.m!)

The winter reed cuts at South Milton have always reminded me a bit of ‘Dad’s Army’, with a team of, not exclusively but largely, elderly volunteers and somewhat unreliable equipment. This impression was reinforced this morning when, after a night of heavy rain, the reserve manager gave a fantastic imitation of Private Frazer (you have to imagine a dour Scottish accent here!) – “We’re all doomed – nay body will turn up – the reeds will nay burn – you should have cancelled!”

These fears proved unfounded and 27 volunteers made short work of clearing the last of the area we started two weeks ago. It was damp underfoot but the reedbed remains alarmingly dry considering the rainfall we have received in the last few months. Around a hectare was cut in the end, fully meeting our stewardship obligations.

The repaired bank around the top end of Horswell sluice

I contributed very little on the day but concentrated on fixing a major leak beside the sluice on Horswell Ditch. Despite repairs by our contractor last autumn, the pressure of retained water had once gain punched a hole through the soil beside the sluice, partially draining the ditch. Vic and I managed to reduce the flow by jumping up and down on the earth above to compact it. I then spent the morning digging out and carrying shovel loads of clay to consolidate the bank, trying to build up a sufficiently robust buttress of soil upstream of the sluice. I finished off by topping the repair with turf in the hope that plant roots will help to reinforce and stabilise the bank.