While walking the dog and checking some traps on the Chayne in the rain this afternoon, I wandered past some of the cuts I put into the rushes in September with the tractor. So much of the cutting theory designed to be used on heather for grouse also works for waders in wet pasture, and I have high hopes for this enormous snail’s shell which I cut into a very thick sea of rushes and tussock grass in the last days of the summer. Unlike heather, these cuts need to be renewed almost every year, and some areas will have to be cut again before the curlews and snipe start to breed. It has been so mild this winter that the rushes have grown more than eight inches up from their stumps since they were cut, despite the fact that they are supposed to be lying dormant during the short days.
If it’s dry enough in March then I’ll take a day or two with the tractor and break up some of the denser stands of tall grass and rush, reinforcing the cuts with fresh areas of very short vegetation. An advantage of doing this kind of work in the autumn is that the sheep use the tracks to make inroads into the denser vegetation over the winter, keeping the cuts short and trampling them so that they are sloshy and broken when the waders appear. It also allows me to set up tracks and paths which are easy to snare in the lead up to April when the sheep are down on the inbye prior to lambing and catching foxes on this kind of ground becomes the priority.
In previous years, this kind of deliberately designed “edge” habitat allowed snipe to settle in almost double the density of unmanaged years, and I’m already looking forward to hearing the sky come back to life with whizzing drummers in just a few weeks time.