Another fine, if cold, Volunteer Thursday, today's tasks included clearing rhododendron. There is only one thicket of this plant on the reserve and we started to clear it last year and left it stacked. This was not laziness, the idea was to see if any of the original ground flora had survived before we burnt up the cuttings. Sadly it turns out the answer was no, which is a shame as this is one of the few areas of the reserve where the original ground surface remains. The massive size of the hazel stools testifies to a long standing woodland, but now without any ground cover plants, or it would seem surviving seed. We will still keep the fire sites small, just in case. I try to avoid having fires on reserves, the cut branches are habitat and a fire both sterilises the ground and produces a nutrient "hotspot". In this case the rhododendron is in huge quantity and is home to very little so the best way to restore the old woodland character is to get rid of it and after the fires to remove the ash. This was actually the first fire I have had on the reserve in four and a half years, the picture shows the fire in the early stage.
This was not the only task we did though, one of the signs at the entrance that had been bent by over exuberant driving on someone's part was replaced and two trailer loads of willow were added to the dead hedge around the main car park.
The cold wind following the overnight frost made looking out from the Tern hide less than pleasant first thing, in the quick look that I had I saw a green sandpiper and 3 black-tailed godwit. At the Ivy North hide the sheltered shallow water at the edge of the lake was frozen for the first time this winter, a calling Cetti's warbler was the only bird of note. Around the Centre feeders a brambling and a few lesser redpoll in the trees were about it.
Rather impressively, considering the overnight temperature, there were two moths in the trap, a December moth and a sprawler, unfortunately it was late in the day when I checked the trap so the picture of the sprawler below was taken in rather low light.