Conservation Diaries with Paul Trevor

Reserves Officer Paul Trevor gives us a week in the life, working in conservation at Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

This blog was meant to be a typical week in the life of a Reserve Officer at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, but I think it’s safe to say that ‘typical weeks’ have been slightly different over the past year.

Here at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, our annual work programme has been extremely impacted upon. Normally I would be out with a fine band of merry volunteers, finishing off the last of the winter work such as hedge-laying and coppicing; but, as with many workers, we have had to adapt.

However, that doesn't mean we haven't been busy and the wildlife still requires our efforts! So the following diary is a record of the tasks that I’ve been working on in the past week.

Rutland Water

Tony Clarke

Monday: Usually a day of work planning for the week ahead and various office admin-type tasks. Anecdotally, I’ve found that with so many people working from home and with possibly more time on their hands, the number of emails I’ve been receiving has gone up significantly! Here’s to everyone getting out a bit more in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday: Rutland Water Nature Reserve is currently closed, while this is disappointing for our visitors, it has given us a great opportunity to work through the reserve safety work necessary on such a large piece of land. 

Late last year we conducted a whole site survey looking at any hazardous trees, broken infrastructure, and any other possible dangers. Today I was working on some of the follow-up tree work, looking specifically at the rate of deterioration of roadside ash trees suffering from ash dieback.

Cattle at Rutland Water

Cattle at Rutland Water - LRWT

Wednesday: The hardest working members of the team have to be our livestock. They help us maintain our grassland and riparian habitats and have been hardworking all the way through the pandemic, blissfully unaware of the changes going on in the wider world.

As part of our responsibilities towards the livestock, we have to check on their health and wellbeing and ensure that they are in the best of health, along with checking that they are all present and correct and none have gone for a wander into the next field! 

Thursday: The reserve infrastructure is an important part of how we move and manage both people and livestock around the reserve. We are always looking for improvements that can be made, along with repairs and replacement. Today I worked on installing a gate - but had to battle with a rather large rock, which unfortunately was positioned right where the gate post needed to go!

Sheep at RW

Friday: Today I was very lucky I was able to get some valuable experience in using a small excavator to help re-profile the islands on Lagoon 8. Under the careful tuition of our Senior Reserve Officer (and digger master) Joe Davis, I reduced the height of some of the islands on the lagoon in order for us to be able to control the vegetation more easily by raising the water level and flooding out the islands during the winter.

This means that any vegetation that has grown up during the summer can be killed off during the winter and the islands become more appealing for the next years breeding waders. 

One of the aspects of the job that always keeps me going is the fantastic landscape that I work in and the wonderful wildlife that we are very lucky to have. Highlights over the past week have included a good number of our winter visitors that are still present. Great white egrets are still enjoying the reserve and may hopefully stick around through the breeding season, 800+ golden plover enjoying lagoon 4 before heading to the uplands to breed, and the delightful sights of half a dozen smew and several Great northern divers are still around the reserve and the wider reservoir.

The weeks certainly seem to be flying by. Which in some ways is disappointing as we still have so much work to get done, but in other ways is great, as it means we are closer to spring and closer to things hopefully returning to normal, and the return of our volunteers.