Saturday, 15 April 2017



I have had a mixed bag since my last post.
I visited two reserves on one weekend down the A14 in Cambridgeshire. One ran by the Beds/Cambs/Northants (BCN) Wildlife Trust and the other a RSPB reserve. One I actually fell in love with after about 10 feet of walking into the reserve. One sadly left me feeling...well, thinking 'what the fuck'. I actually left feeling 'extremely angry'.
So the reserves were Woodwalton Fen (Wildlife Trust) and RSPB Fen Drayton. I'm actually doing a separate post later so will only say this, Woodwalton Fen is pretty special. You don't walk onto a reserve and within moments are just blown away by your surroundings. I'm actually glad I'm a member of the BCN when you walk onto a reserve like this, shame it's not in Northamptonshire lol.
But what's really pissed me off was two site visits. The first was an after work evening visit to Blueberry Farm and hopeful Barn Owl or early migrant passing through. But as I rolled up along the track I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I'd given Short Eared Owls and Barnies a miss this winter so hadn't been in the area for a while. So was shocked and angered at the butchery of the hedges, trees and the fields such a huge habitat gone, gone for probably in preparation for farming. The only camera I pointed was my phone camera.

My second site visit was my favourite local site Quarry Walk. My favourite site has been butchered too.
Now I'll settle this now the Aggregate company to my knowledge wasn't the culprits, unless they were asked to. I really want to know who actually 'managed the habitat' a lot questions remain about who owns/manages the site. There are Natural England signs attached to fence posts/gates along with other organisations of which I've no knowledge of/heard of. The land was I believed owned by Pastures Farm, not sure.
But added to the habitat management of the reed bed the aggregate company is expanding which apart from one irritation/habitat destruction was always to be expected, firstly it's called Quarry Walk for a reason it was always great seeing unique species living next to an industrial site and doing OK. The same aggregate company that left a huge Sandmartin colony in a big sand pile. Plus the expansion does not effect any species appart from Lesser Whitethroats.
As you enter the site you're greeted by this now.  In the first image the hedgerow immediately to the left hosted one pair of Lesser Whitethroat. Positive=the fence will prevent disturbance. Negative the hedge at the back,  on the companies land has been thinned given the local cat better access but generally less cover for then Lesser Whitethroat too.

 You now have to cross a conveyor belt via a brilliant bridge that just might discourage some dog owners. There's a ditch if it doesn't get polluted that could become interesting....but
Sadly a slice of the hedgerow has gone to make way for the road and conveyor belt.
It's a sizeable chunk exactly where the second pair held territory. If you look at the hedgerow in the background to the right was dense brambles and nettles that gave the Lesser Whitethroats cover. Will they return. In my opinion one pair might but not two.
But it wasn't as bad as I'd thought it might be. The real horror came at the boardwalk.
This is what it was like
And now
The section of boardwalk in the image below on the boardwalk
Looking down the section in the past on the boardwalk

OK it's Willow, yes it can clog up and dry out reed beds. It spreads so easy, blah, blah, blah.
Bollocks, the Willow on this section was multi-purpose, gone are four Long Tailed Tits nests, sure they have a chance elsewhere but let's not destroy nesting sites when we've got them, the Reed Warblers and Cetti's would venture out of the reeds into the willow (wasn't just willow either by the way) in search of food and for protection from Grass Snakes. The cuckoo would perch on the willow sometimes calling, sometimes feeding off the numerous species of catterpillars. Take another look at the first image you can see a field then the gravel company. Dog walkers come through this field but often stopped as the brambles and Willow blocked the paths a little. Now dogs can approach the reed bed and disturb the Water Rail, Reed Warblers and Cetti's Warblers, no protection from the wind (thick Willow coppice took the wind off) for the Reed dwellers. The Reed bed already shows signs of people and dogs (flattened and pooh bags) venturing too far. A selfish point from me-in the summer when it was hot I'd sit up against the fence and using the willows as shade, no longer.
 But even the section on the embankment and overlooking the embankment has been molested. A lot of brambles and more willow have been completely removed the brambles preferred by the Common Whitethroats. The Willow used by the Sedge Warblers and the Grasshopper Warbler. Sedge Warblers on this site were already a concern with me as the last four years has seen a steep drop in the numbers. I had just one solitary bird last year. My first year visiting the site 10 birds!
And the Grasshopper Warbler a recent newcomer will be in for a shock too

Instead of Reed, Willow,overgrown grasses looking from on top of the embankment you now get perfect views of the huge electricity sub power station.
Two things have possibly happened here.
Lack of birders so alternative use of land or someone with limited knowledge of the site and it's summer visitors has come along  and worked on the principle 'Willow Bad' mustn't coppice small chunks, but rid the whole site of it (appart from the massive plantation drying up the quicksand on the quarry side, so coppicing a bit pointless). I believe it to be the latter since the one big clump of Willow on front of the screen hide is gone (not sorry about that bit going lol). I honestly do get the idea Willow is bad for wetlands and Reed beds. But even the most over managed reserve leave some Willow behind but all still burn the dead trees releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, rather then using them for something else, I think how Willow was once used in the manufacturing of aspirin and nowadays fencing and screens and baskets and always think of it as waste when it's just burned away.
Is it possibly RIP Quarry Walk?


  1. I fully sympathise with your dismay at this destruction, Doug. For some years now, I have been of the opinion that the name 'Natural England' is a red-herring to disguise the true objectives of a government organisation, the prime objective of which is to disguise the effects of projects that support the economy, but are environmentally dubious or unsound.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    1. I've talked to two quarry workers today. The habitat destruction at the Reed bed had nothing to do with them. So all the coppicing was done either by the farmer or individuals. I know (and so hope not the case) some birders have gone to the site after the species I photographed (always the way) and moaned about the amount of Willow etc and talking how 'they'd' chop it down etc. If it turns out to be a bunch of birders there will be blood spilt. If it's the farmer (which I doubt as I always saw them walking the site and enjoying it) then complaints will me lodged
      I didn't think it would be the aggregate company as they've contributed to so many reserves and schemes. Due to Willow gone from screen hide it screams birders wanting better views

    2. If it's birders, Doug, that's a very sad situation indeed.

  2. What a hudge and unconsidered damage of nature! I understand your annoyance very well! Maybe it's possible to draw the attention of the authorities to it that perhaps some areas could get restored again to its natural state?

    1. Thank you. I have to look into who did what and to which organisation/governmental body to complain to. I can't get hold of relevant organisations until after the public holidays.
      The aggregate company has an exceptional record in this county for restoring back areas etc