Its been a while since I last updated you, which I apologise for! The weather hasn't exactly been fantastic recently and I'm afraid many of the trips to Cullaloe have been entirely for work purposes, in as much as they have been quick stop-overs to fill feeders, count birds and generally check the place over.
One of the most recent visits,though, was as much about enjoying a day outdoors with like-minded people as it was about hard work. The cadets from ATC 859 Squadron (Dalgety Bay) were welcomed back to the reserve for their second visit of this year, to continue the willow coppicing they have been doing such a brilliant job of. Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the reserve since Christmas can't have failed to notice the impression the cadets have been making on that pesky water-sooking willow on the Snipe Bog (to the right of the path as you walk to the loch). Where once there was willow standing as thick as the hedges around Sleeping Beauty's castle, there is now a sandy-coloured sea of bog vegetation, spinging up to fill the space that has been created :-)
The cadets were last on-site on Sunday 24 January 2009 and we set them to work at the left-hand edge of where they had last been cutting - and boy did they cut when they were let loose! Grahame and I were very pleased to note that 12 cadets had pitched up ready and willing to work, accompanied by 4 adult supervisors!! :-) What a show of support!! :-)
I am going to focus on the cadets themselves on this blog entry because I really do think that they have come a long way since their maiden visit on 02 December 2007! :-) Some of the group on 24th January this year were newbies to the reserve, but don't think that held them back! No Sirree Bob! Given a pair of branch lopers or a bow-saw and pointed in the right direction, it wasn't long before they could be seen breaking off into groups of 2 or 3 with more experienced cadets and taking the willow down as if they had been doing it all their lives! :-)
As well as the newbies, some of the cadets have been coming to the reserve on each scheduled visit since the start of our volunteering sessions with them and it has been a pleasure to see how self-assured they have become - and how justifiedly proud they are of their ongoing achievements! :-) And seeing as 24th January was marked as being the date of the first ever drawing of blood when the cadets have been on site (a very small slip involving a thumb and the business end of a bow-saw - all very accidental and never to be repeated!) the cadets can actually say they have given both blood and plenty of sweat to the project! ;-) Joking aside, it is an achievement in itself tthat we have managed to go more than a year before having even the smallest of accidents with the coppicing tools, and that is testiment to the mature way the cadets have gone about their work - even if one or two of them (you know who you are guys) like to challenge themselves by thinking of taking down the bigger trees that perhaps we might be wanting to save! ;-)
For anyone that is concerned about the taking down of the willow - and may perhaps be wondering if it is the best thing for the reserve - please don't worry. The willow warblers, white thoats, and other little brown jobs ("LBJ's") like them will still have many perches around the Snipe Bog area in the shape of mature trees of species other than willow. The Snipe, who until now have never been known to nest on the site, but are regular visitors, will almost certainly prefer the more waterlogged conditions in the Snipe Bog, and you dear Cullaloe walker, bird-watcher or bug-spotter, will have more chance of seeing some of the larger animals that inhabit the reserve, and may see the reed dwelling birds and insects we have to offer more easily too! :-) I'll tell you this much - I wouldn't suggest venturing off the path onto the Snipe Bog without a good pair of wellies any more! It is very muddy and wet over there - which is just what we were hoping for! :-)
Anyway, I'll round off this post by letting you know that the cadets will be back with us on Sunday 07 February between 12pm and 3pm, where they will be sweeping in an easterly direction through what remains of the willow on the Snipe Bog. We will also be taking wee tours around the reserve to show the cadets what else can be found in and around the area, so if you see us about, please don't hesitate to come and have a blether! Tell us what we may have missed while we have been up to our knees in mud! ;-)
Till next time!