Invasives non-native species – how to ID and control

logosOn Friday, a packed room of participants came together in March to learn about identifying and controlling non-native invasive water plants.

This was a very good event, judging from the numerous positive responses heard by my colleague Abby and myself, both of us attending this event to up our own skills and to meet a range of stakeholders.

Johnathan back grappling

Consultant botanist Jonathan Graham in July 2014 during fieldwork in local ditches near WWT Welney reserve as part of the OWLP’s ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project; using his grappling hook to collect plant samples. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

This event was made possible through the Heritage Lottery Fund grant money for one of the 25 projects within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, the ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project. Following successful fieldwork carried out by Jonathan Graham (consultant botanist) and Martin Hammond (consultant aquatic invertebrate specialist), Jonathan Graham, together with Cliff Carson (Environmental Officer, Middle Level Commissioners) delivered this exiting training half-day event.

After an introduction about invasive species, and a differentiation between ‘non-native’ and ‘invasive’ species (‘invasives’ being ‘non-natives which have a tendency to spread and pose a threat to the environment and/or human health), we continued with an overview of the mist important invasive water plants to look out for.

DSCN0029

Packed room during Friday’s event; Cliff Carson, Middle Level Commissioners, setting the scene for the day. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

The top five ‘hazardous species’ (some of which are already wide-spread, some still only locally present) are [click on links to get to relevant description pages on www.nonnativespecies.org – note: click on ‘link to ID sheet’ for handy pdfs for each species]:

  1. Floating Pennywort
  2. New Zealand Pigmyweed
  3. Parrot’s Feather
  4. Floating & Water Primrose
  5. Water Fern

With examples on each table of these species, as well as native species with which they could be confused, we then all went to learn to identify these, with the help of several specialists walking around the room  (including both speakers as well as Charles Turner, Research Associate Quaternary Palaeoecology, for the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge).

A range of very useful handouts also passed on the day; these include:

 

DSCN0037

Jonathan Graham helping with ID of specimens, both native and non-native invasive water plants. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

 

This workshop/ training event was a very practical approach to finding out what is there and how to identify the non-natives; plus guidance how to avoid mis-recording (e.g., some similar-looking rare fen specialist plants that could be confusing).

DSCN0043

A range of plant specimens and ID guides on each table during last week’s event. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

 

The event was attended by a wide range of people, including staff from Internal Drainage Boards, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England, several conservation organisations as well as representatives of various local community groups. Some of the abundant positive feedback we received from participants:

“Good to have some training, much better than just looking at books or cards”

 ” It always opens your eyes when you are shown what to look out for!”

“Session invaluable, very useful to see plants up close”

” The various methods of control were compared, contrasted and explained”

“Excellent idea for promoting and sharing knowledge of invasive plants”

Related posts:

Look out for wonderful wildfowl

This month’s guest blog from Paul Stancliffe of the BTO…

This is the month when the Ouse Washes comes alive again. Wildfowl that has spent the summer months further north and east will be making their way to the UK for the winter months, with many heading for the Ouse Washes.

Whooper Swan by Andy MasonWhooper Swan by Andy Mason

The first Whooper Swans from Iceland, could arrive any day now, although the end of the month is more likely. Wigeon, Pochard, Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck, largely from western Russia and Eastern Europe, should begin to increase from mid-September on, with numbers continuing to build throughout the month.

Bird Track reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

BirdTrack reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

The fields around the Ouse Washes are also good places to look out for Corn Buntings, that can form quite large flocks, particularly as the autumn progresses. During the last twenty-five years Corn Bunting has declined by 65% and become quite a scarce bird in our countryside but Bird Atlas 2007-11 shows the Ouse Washes as one of the few remaining strongholds left in the UK.

September and early October is also a good time to keep an eye out for Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers as they arrive back for the winter months. Both can often be seen hunting over fields adjacent to the washes, often alongside the odd Barn Owl or two.

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Several species of wader spend the winter months in and around the Ouse Washes, and these will also be arriving any day now. Birds such as Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe and Ruff can occur in impressive numbers and can be seen roosting on the washes during the daytime, moving out to the surrounding fields as light begins to fade.

The last month has also seen a few scarce birds using the washes which have included a Spotted Crake on 14 September, seven Spoonbills on 13 September and several Curlew Sandpipers from mid-month.

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson BTO

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson/ BTO

Now is a great time to get out and about around the Ouse Washes, with so many birds on the move, you never what you will see.

Paul Stancliffe

British Trust for Ornithology.

We all need Ecosystem Services…

Great blog by my colleague & summer intern Emily explaining Ecosystem Services and how these affect your life – happy reading:

Water Care Partnership

Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005 there has been increasing emphasise on the importance of conserving and enhancing our ecosystem services. But what is meant by this term and how does it affect you and your community?

Whether you realise it or not, you and every single person on Earth benefits directly and indirectly from the environment and the ecosystem services it provides.

Downstream View of Old Bedford River Downstream View of the Old Bedford River. Source: Cambridgeshire ACRE

What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystems are a combination of all living (plants, animals, organisms) and non-living components (water, air, soil) in the environment around us. In turn ecosystem services are defined as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems”. These include security, health, basic material for a good life and good social relations. The services provided by the environment fall into four categories: Provisioning, Supporting, Regulating and Cultural.

How do they affect me?

The…

View original post 624 more words

Rare beetle is re-introduced to Wicken Fen

Great good-news story about reintroduction of rare Fen beetle. This also shows that landscape-scale habitat creation schemes – this is the Wicken Fen Vision, just up the road from the Great Ouse Wetland Vision the Ouse Washes LP scheme is promoting – can directly help threatened species:

Starting my volunteer summer placement…

logosHello, I am Emily Stacey and I have just begun a Volunteer Summer Placement with Cambridgeshire ACRE working on both The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership and The Water Care Partnership. Having always lived in a rural area I have a great passion for our local countryside and am strongly supportive of the conservation of its unique wildlife and habitats. This summer I graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in Physical Geography. I now dream of a career in environmental management where I can play an active role in promoting the importance of the environment as well as work closely with communities.

???????????????????????????????

The Old Bedford River at the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve. Images by Sheils Flynn for OWLP.

Alongside my position at Cambridgeshire ACRE I work for the National Trust at Wimpole Hall Estate where conservation of the property, land and the ‘Spirit of Wimpole’ is a key priority. With significant background in public interaction I believe this placement is a great opportunity for me to gain the relative experience I need to build my CV, and utilise the knowledge I have gained throughout my study.

My time at Reading…

At University I was able to shape my study to attain fundamental knowledge to support my interests in conservation, biodiversity and sustainable practices. I extremely enjoyed the practical side of my course including the opportunities to visit diverse areas of the UK including the Lake District and Pembrokeshire where sustainable land use was a key focus. Travelling to the Akamas Natura 2000 Conservation Area of Cyprus was a highlight and I was able to explore the vast landscape and learn about the continuing conflicts in land development experienced between developing interests of the local people and conservation interests of environmentalists.

???????????????????????????????

Cattle grazing causing bank erosion along the Ely Ouse.

My participation in such trips has not only allowed me to develop skills in data collection and surveys but also enabled me to experience the expansive habitats that our planet has to offer. Furthermore having worked closely with agricultural students on joint modules and through the University of Reading Agricultural Society my interest for sustainable land management and farming practices has grown.

My personal research project…

Like projects within both partnerships my final year dissertation took on aspects of land management. Through assessment of phosphate and nitrate concentrations along a stretch of the River Cam I developed an understanding of the effect of sewage discharge and agricultural input on the water quality.

???????????????????????????????

Typical Fen IDB Drainage Ditch

Primary data illustrated significant variation in river concentrations with changing land use. I found sewage effluents to have a particularly noticeable influence on phosphate loads which is a key issue that has arisen in the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment covered by The Water Care Partnership. Furthermore through communication with Cambridge Water I was able to obtain groundwater nutrient concentrations from which I concluded elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater to reflect the occurrence of landfill sites, both Historic and Authorised.

My study also investigated aspects of biodiversity. By method of percentage cover I aimed to understand the effect of water quality on the species present. With my previous study and experience relating to aims and interests of The Water Care Partnership I recognise this placement to be hugely valuable for my progression and interests.

My first few weeks here…

Within the few weeks of my placement I have already had the opportunity to attend meetings at the Brampton Environment Agency Office where I have developed deeper understanding of the projects underway and the issues the organisation is up against. Furthermore I now fully understand the importance of the creation of partnerships in enabling smooth interaction and clear communication between groups as well as in making full use of valuable local knowledge.

Summer walk

Summer Walk at WWT Welney Reserve

Although enjoying the office based tasks I have undertaken I am excited for the chance to venture out of the office and to assist in the organised walks, aimed at educating people on the issues arising within the Ouse Washes. With the Fenland landscape very different from my local area in Hertfordshire I want to get involved in the local community of the OWLP area and enjoy the wide range of habitats and wildlife, identifying the native species as well as fenland non-native species that I have already learnt to be a current issue. I believe this placement is going to be a valuable experience and a great learning curve. I look forward to meeting more of the partners involved in the partnerships and the opportunity to play a practical role in the progression of current projects.

My future aims…

Having thoroughly enjoyed my degree course I aim for a career where I can use the knowledge and skills I have attained. Along the way I developed a deep interest in the environmental impacts of land use and measures taken to tackle these whilst ensuring benefit to all stakeholders. In turn conservation and land management is the route I want to follow.

Interaction with people is of huge importance to me and is a strong personal skill of mine. Therefore I would love my future career to feature great involvement with communities as well as work within a close-knit team.

A Walk On The Wash Side

We (Myself, Jono and Abby) took ourselves out for a few hours to see (and lunch at!) a major reserve, WWT Welney Reserve, that is within the OWLP area and on the Ouse Washes to experience part of what we are promoting…

We were not disappointed! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It is a direct experience on the washes itself that is only possible during the summer because in the winter it is flooded and flocked with birds.

LogosWe hadn’t even got out of the car park – with its good samples of their wetland wilderness – before we coincidently bumped into and chatted to Carolyn Ash, who is one of the artists working on the Ouse Community Murals Project as part of the OWLP scheme, and Carolyn was also with a colleague from Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire which is a key partner in the Partnership. We were also lucky to see a beautiful example of Carolyn’s large damselfly mural. After crossing a sustainably-made bridge and pond, we entered the airy building that afforded fantastic views of the landscape beyond and met a few of the friendly WWT staff team.

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

As we crossed the large foot-bridge we saw the introductory interpretation for children. There were sizable hides – one barer and more serious and the other family-friendly and informative with fun displays and colourful artwork. The landscape was filled with bodies of water, wildflower and greenery, and featured various species of wading birds and cattle in the distance. The lake itself had interesting banks, and trees dotted the scenery, so the diversity on the land under the large Fenland sky is immense.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind. We followed the “Summer walk” route.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind.
We followed the “Summer walk” route. Source:  https://ousewasheslps.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/wwtwelneymap.pdf

 

You can download a pdf copy of the Welney map here: WWTWelneyMap

We ventured out on the tracks – the wilderness of medium to tall vegetation and trees surrounded us for the first part. We came across several features of interest – a few tiny, combat-like hides, a vegetation-rich dragonfly pond area (with a table and seating), a popular and well-equipped pond dipping platform, a bird-ringing net structure and sticks with woven ends holding useful information.

It was Charlock!

Wildflowers such as Charlock and Purple Loosestrife were spotted, and the verge was varied into patches of Nettles and Reed. The path soon became a grassy drove populated with Silverweed and an occasional Forget-Me-Not and continued. Great blocks of different species like Reeds dominated our scenery, which was peppered with other species like Water Mint and Meadow Sweet. Butterflies like Gatekeeper

Sunbathing on a leaf

Gatekeeper sunbathing on a leaf

and Red Admiral fluttered past and rested, a possible grass snake slithered past, evidence of mammal browsing persisted and a dragonfly couple mated as we walked and talked.

Love in the air!

Love in the air!

The Summer Walk we took wiggled onto dense, enclosing surroundings that consisted of Reeds, some Sedge and a patch of scrub where a bench is, and the immediate landscape variegated into tall vegetation, water and trees. We reached the loop at the end of the walk, saw the wilderness beyond and around then strolled back as we discussed our work and other things, we took the opportunity to sit in a hide and then on our return to the centre, browsed in the shop which held a wide range of wildlife-related merchandise.

We reluctantly left the centre glorying under a hot sun, having seen a handful of other visitors whilst we were there, and returned to the office more knowledgeable and enthused about our work.

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Waders and warblers

Logos

At this time of the year it is all about waders and warblers. Many adult waders are now at the end of their breeding season and are making their way south – for some it might only be as far as a UK estuary, whilst for others this is only the first leg of a very long journey that could take them to a beach in West Africa, or even further in the case of Ruff; a 10,000km (6,000 miles) journey to South Africa.

Ruff BTO (John Harding)

Ruff – John Harding/BTO

The Ouse Washes is ideally placed to see some of these waders as they pass through the area, and that has been the case this month. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers have been reported at several sites, along with the first Greenshank of the season. Rarer waders often get caught-up in the movement of the regular waders that pass through and winter in the UK, and mid-summer is probably the best time to keep an eye out for any of these.

During the last few weeks the Ouse Washes has been graced with the odd rarer wader. Having arrived in the north-east in mid-June, the Black-winged Pratincole that slowly made its way down the east coast, was found on the Ouse Washes RSPB on 19 July. The same location also hosted a Temminck’s Stint. The former breeds no closer to the Ouse Washes than the Black Sea, whilst the latter breeds in Arctic Scandinavia, and very rarely in northern Scotland – the last confirmed breeding here was in 1993. The Ouse Washes also played host to a Glossy Ibis – a freshwater wading bird from the Mediterranean.

Glossy Ibis BTO (Kevin Carlson)

Glossy Ibis – Kevin Carlson/BTO

Warblers are also beginning to make their way out of the country, their final destination will be south of the Sahara Desert, largely in West Africa. Currently it is mostly Sedge Warblers that are on the move, and the reed-fringed ditches in and around the Ouse Washes seem to be full of them right now. Willow Warblers are also being seen and numbers of these are beginning to be recorded at south coast watchpoints and observatories. Swift migration is also well underway and the drop in numbers around breeding colonies will be very noticeable in the next few weeks. So, whilst we are still in mid-summer mode, for quite a few of our birds Autumn is definitely underway.

sedge warbler BTO (Anne Cotton)

Sedge Warbler – Anne Cotton/BTO

All of the BTO satellite tagged Cuckoos have now left the UK and seven of them are already in Africa. Six of these have successfully crossed the Sahara Desert and are resting and feeding before making their final push to the winter quarters in Congo. There are still another twelve tagged birds spread across southern Europe – follow them as they too make their way south.

We are currently unsure of the whereabouts of another four; they haven’t transmitted for over ten days and are no longer on the map but this doesn’t mean that we have lost them for good, they could pop-up again. The next month should see waders passing through the area peak, as young birds join the adult birds, the almost complete disappearance of Swifts, and a few ducks turning up on the washes. One thing’s for sure – there is always something to look out for.
Paul Stancliffe – British Trust for Ornithology