The highs and lows of managing a nature reserve

Loch Lomond NNR

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An osprey watched the afternoon’s proceedings.

I spent the afternoon down at the Loch Lomond reserve earlier this week. We have had staff resources chopped so there isn’t as much time spent down there as before and because of this we have been unable to do much in the way of dealing with the invasive non-native plant species (INNS) that spread at the expense of the native plants. A lot of work has been done in previous years and the main problem plant,  Himalayan balsam, was on the decline so I wasn’t sure what I would find.

I headed out onto the reserve and climbed over the fence to the part of woodland previous infested with balsam. Just by the fence were a few plants so I immediately started pulling them only for things to turn pear shaped very quickly. A sharp pain in my arm told me that something was stinging me, quickly followed by others. A fast sprint with a lot of arm waving and swearing got me away from the wasps’ nest that I had disturbed but the final score was 5 – 1 (stings to dead wasps, in their favour).

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The last few Himalayan balsam plants left to pull

Once things had calmed down I was able to look around the rest of the woodland and found that where only a couple of years ago there were 10 000’s of Himalayan balsam plants now there were about 80. If the plants are pulled before they set seed then they won’t come back so all of the previous work, 100s of hours of pulling by volunteers and staff, had virtually conqueror the invaders in this corner of the reserve. Absolutely brilliant.

It is these successes that make reserve management so satisfying. A lot of effort put in but resulting in a good result, with native flora flourishing on a spectacular site. And it is an example to other teams working across the country that might be just starting on this type of INNS work. At times it can seem like it is making no difference but by keeping plugging away eventually you can achieve a great result.

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Himalayan balsam free natural wet woodland.

So from this amazing high, the afternoon went down hill rapidly, first there was an adverse reaction to the wasps stings that left me looking like a cross between Ronald MacDonald and a plate of baked beans.

And then the dog rolled in something disgusting.

It was a long drive home.

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