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On Monday 30th January 2023, the Kings Dyke team and our valued volunteers embarked on the first management day of the year.

The task for the day was cutting the grass in the reptile meadow, to manage the thistles/nettles and ensure the area remains a tussocky, grassland, reptile haven.

Grassland is usually managed in the summer but due to the reptiles present in the area, works must be completed during the reptile hibernation period (approximately between November and February depending on temperatures).

New scythes were purchased to cut the grass with. These are long handheld tools with a sharp curved blade at one end (resembling that of the Grim Reaper – see image above!) Using these helps to create a sward with a more variable height. Also, creating less disturbance to wildlife during the cutting process, than using loud machinery.

The cut grass was raked into large haystack-type piles which will start to decompose over time and form fantastic egg laying opportunities for grass snake. Due to their inability to incubate their eggs, grass snakes lay their eggs in such piles, so the heat produced by the rotting grass can incubate and hatch their eggs. If you have a compost heap in your garden, be sure to keep an eye out for your own resident grass snake(s)!

Care was also taken to not damage any of the established ant hills in the meadow. These hills are created by Yellow Meadow ants Lasius flavus and have great ecological importance. They provide food for insect feeding birds, such as green woodpecker Picus viridis which may form as much as 80% of a green woodpecker’s winter diet.  The ant hills also provide excellent sunny basking sites for butterflies and reptiles such as common lizard Zootoca vivipara, and results in a greater diversity of flora and fauna within the grassland.

It was exciting to find several old harvest mouse Micromys minutus nests during the day, which shows we still have a thriving population at the reserve.

Overall, a successful and worthwhile day. We are thankful, as always to our fabulous volunteers, who’s help is always appreciated.

*(Please note that flying drones is not permitted across any part of the nature reserve, other than that used by reserve management for monitoring purposes).