There are lots of challenges when it comes to managing lowland wet grassland, the biggest and most fundamental is control of water levels, if you get water control right then everything else becomes much easier. Waders that breed on wet grassland, in particular, Lapwings, require fields with short vegetation and shallow pools with exposed bare mud around the edges. Holding water in the fields through the breeding season and then removing it in the summer for grazing and cutting of vegetation is the biggest challenge we face at Ynys-hir. To do it we use adjustable pipe dams and drop board sluices. Currently a lot of these control points are not big enough to move water effectively off site in late summer to draw down the water table and allow access for agricultural vehicles. If we can’t get on and control the rush which is a consequence of the high water levels then we end up with a monoculture which is too dense and long for waders to consider breeding in.
So, this week we set about fitting a new sluice at a key point on the reserve, we replaced a 150mm pipe dam with a large box sluice attached to a 600mm twinwall pipe. Below shows the difference in size between the two pipes.
The key to installing any new feature like this is to know how the hydrology of the site works, prior to installing it I took the level of the two pipes where water leaves the site, if I match the bottom level of the sluice to this height then it means I can lose the maximum amount of water from the ditch. Any higher then I could be left with water I can’t get rid of and any lower and I could pull water in from elsewhere. The reason for the big diameter pipe is that I don’t want the size of the pipe to be the limiting factor for the amount of water I can remove in a short space of time after the breeding season.
One of the major challenges on the day is that when working in peat it can be hard to set a solid base, for this we used stone and sandbags filled with concrete. We then lowered the sluice into place and attached the pipe onto the back.
Above is the sluice in position, prior to lowering it in I had taken the level where it is sitting, making sure it is at exactly the same level as the outflow on the Afon Ddu.
Finally, we built up the sides with more concrete bags and then removed the coffer dams we had built to drain the ditch and let the water flow back in.
This is the finished sluice in position, at the moment we are letting water flow through it but come spring we can put boards in the front and effectively it will become a dam, backing water up in the ditch and raising the water table in the field. This will mean that in the breeding season the Lapwings have their nice wet field and when I want to get on with a tractor I don’t sink!
After the long hot summer . . . It’s time to introduce our new Interns at RSPB Ynys-hir.
Here at Ynys-hir we offer two 6-month internships. A internship catapults aspiring conservationists on to the front line of work undertaken by the RSPB. This can include anything from helping with bird surveys, to getting involved with large scale land management projects. Teaching and inspiring the next generation of wardens.
We would like to share with you the experience and progress of our new members of the team. So, let’s meet them.
Ben . . .
Hi everyone, my name’s Ben and I’m one of this year’s conservation interns. I spent 4 years studying zoology and conservation at university, and have spent the last 3 years working on various projects, from conserving little tern colonies at Chesil Beach, Gronant Dunes and Spurn Point, to conducting ecological research in Borneo and South Africa. I would love to pursue a career in conservation, and this internship is the perfect opportunity to improve my skill set for this goal.
Having grown up in Wales, it’s fantastic to be back at last, and nothing could be a better welcome than seeing the red kites circling overhead once again.
Since starting at Ynys-hir last week, I’ve already taken part in a varied programme of work, including rhododendron clearance, wader surveys, and the installation of a new sluice to improve drainage. I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck in to more projects throughout my time on the reserve, developing new practical skills and gaining an understanding of project management.
After completing an Engineering degree, I decided that I wanted to forge a different path and work in conservation. As a young man I joined the RSPB because I wanted to help protect the environment for birds to live in. I found the volunteer internship at Ynys-hir through their website. This looked to be an opportunity to see conservation in action, as well as gaining some hands-on experience.
I can say that this placement is already so much more than I hoped for. Ynys-hir is like a treasure island. It boasts a variety of undisturbed habitats to explore, all within a designated UNESCO biosphere. It has been such a privilege to join the staff and volunteers. All the different parts working together to make the whole. Everyone is very friendly and supportive, and the pool of knowledge to draw from is huge. I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Continue to watch this space as we follow the interns their experiences during their time at RSPB Ynys-hir
The end of the school holidays signals a change in the Seasons.Most of the visiting summer migrants such as the redstarts and pied flycatchers have left to make their journeys south. Last week saw the leaving of this season's Dyfi Osprey Chicks, one visitor was lucky enough to watch one of the 3 young catch a fish and devour it before heading south. Barnacle geese began arriving back at the end of August and we have enjoyed some lovely views of black tailed godwit on the pools at Marian Mawr. WEBS count this week with the high tides.
Along with the turning of the Season we welcome two other visitor who will be with us over the Winter months, Theo and Ben are our two new interns who are here to get stuck in and learn about the managment of the reserve. You will be hearing more from them in the coming months.
Recent sightings include: green sandpiper, marsh harrier, osprey, whinchat, cetti's warbler, lesser spotted flycatcher, green shank with wonderful views of kingfisher.