My Work Experience Placement with NWT - part 6

February has been a strange month, beginning with snowfall and freezing temperatures which are a stark contrast to the 16 degrees we have had towards the end of the month. It is starting to feel like spring with daffodils and crocuses flowering along with the return of curlews and lapwing to the moor upon which they breed not far from where I live.

One of the larger tasks that I helped to complete was the weaving of a willow hedge at Kielder Waterside. The hedge had been woven before but had grown slightly unruly as willow is a very fast growing tree. It is also very bendy which makes it ideal to weave. The first day that myself and Dan began to work on the hedge, the temperature was a barmy minus four degrees and despite numerous thermals and gloves, it was questionable whether we should attempt the task or leave it for another day. Putting the cold to one side, we made good progress whilst all the time being watched by a crowd of robins, chaffinches and great tits who were waiting to swoop in and feast on any insects they could find.

The next week we continued the task with the help of a few volunteers. The frost was replaced by pouring rain and the hill that the hedge was situated on had turned into a quagmire. Apart from myself slipping down the hill, much to the amusement of everyone else, we were able to get the job finished.

All the willow removed from the hedge has been reused to create a dead hedge at the nearby bird watching hide. Dead hedges provide an excellent habitat for birds, insects and small mammals as it helps protect them from predators as well as forming a wildlife corridor. Another reason for the creation of the dead hedge was too prevent dogs from running through the site and disturbing the wildlife.

Towards the end of February, I was lucky enough to go to pine marten survey training which was led by Kevin O'Hara from the Vincent Wildlife Trust. These wonderful mammals are part of the mustelid family and have a varied diet from berries to small birds and other mammals, depending on what food source is most abundant. It is an exciting time to be in Northumberland due to the fact, that after an absence of 90 years, pine martens are finally returning to the county as the population in Southern Scotland continues to grow and expand. With myself undertaking some red squirrel monitoring work towards the end of March, I have my fingers crossed that one will turn up on a camera trap.

A goal of mine which I hoped to achieve whilst on the placement was to lead volunteers on tasks that needed doing for Dan Chapman. I was given the task of leading volunteers removing tree guards from a small site near Rothbury. A fairly simple, yet essential task. After successfully negotiating our way through a field of goats, pigs and horses we were able to begin. Apart from getting sidetracked rounding up the pesky goats after they had sneaked under the fence to munch on the lush vegetation, the task was completed without any problems.