A full week of burning undertaken by my team saw us complete all of the areas that we had planned to burn, for safety reasons we normally look to burn in pairs, one man driving the tractor and cutting strips around the perimeter to ensure that the fire doesn’t burn a larger area than required, and the other man being the “Fire Starter” (man in charge of the lighter). All of my team have recently attended the NGO ran burning course, so we were all kitted up with our protective clothing and fire extinguishers, luckily we didn’t have any out of control incidents to contend with so the fire extinguishers stopped in the tractor, which is always good!
When we finally got a covering of snow we headed straight out tracing, mainly foxes but also stoats and weasels, this involves very early mornings as we need to get out in the fresh snow before their are too many footprints for us to follow. Ideally this job would be made a whole lot easier if we had a new covering of snow each night. It’s very important for us to find as many foxes as we can at the beginning of the year as they normally start pairing up and mating in December, therefore we need to find as many as possible before the cubs are born as otherwise our problems could increase.
Something I really look forward to seeing is the migrant birds returning as this is a real sign that spring is upon us, already this year I’ve seen lapwings, cuckoos, oyster catchers, ring ouzels, curlews, golden plover and merlins. For me another great spring reminder is frog spawn, I was out for a walk with my children and couldn’t believe the amount of frog spawn that we found, they’re definitely doing well this year, as are the toads they seem to be crossing my road every night I drive home.
Another sign that spring is here is the grouse sitting foil, I spotted the first lot this year on the 12th April, however after the really bad snowfall we encountered on the 26th April it leaves me apprehensive as to the damage that has been done to the nesting grouse. Only time will tell as to whether the 12th August is successful, hopefully the nesting grouse below withstands the weather.
A project that our estate has decided to work on at the moment is building nesting boxes for barn owls. Over the last few years we have noticed a real decline in these particular owls and we as an estate have made a real effort in trying to assist them in their survival. We decided to design and make some nesting boxes, it was quite a lengthy process but felt the design would be critical so spent much time trawling the internet for help in creating a box that would hopefully attract the barn owl. We have so far created 20 boxes which we have placed in various locations across our estate in the hope that the barn owls will seek solace and nest in these their very own safe houses. At the moment we have various sightings of the birds around the boxes but as yet we have not seen them inside, fingers crossed they make the brave step.
My final words are on the Clean For The Queen that our estate completed on the 31st March which was a really nice project to be associated with. There was a full compliment of keepers out from our estate and all 7 of us covered and litter-picked all the roadsides on the estate, not the nicest of jobs, but the results are good and this is something we do try and keep on top of but it’s just never ending.
I hope you have enjoyed our keepers diary, look out for the next installment.
Information kindly supplied by Jimmy Brough, Head Keeper from Rosedale & Westerdale.