Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cattle, ponies and fences

Hope you all had good weekends!

Today was a REALLY windy day, so we were blown around from place to place outside...It definitely feels like winter is finally arriving!

Spent the morning doing the weekly checks on all the animals, and the monthly checks on the bulls. Most things are well with all of them, though there have been a few scraps between the bulls recently. Two of the stallions in the breeding group of horses had a bit of a fight when we were carrying out the checks as well. It is amazing to see them properly fight, they just have so much power in them!

In the afternoon we fixed some of the kissing gates around Guinea Hall/Bakers. It wasn't that tricky, and I'm gradually getting better at my DIY skills... Saw some different birds out and about around the fen too today - lots of fieldfare, a few snipe, teal, barn owl. There's been quite a few short-eared owls sighted around Burwell Fen/Harrisons so it's worth popping down there at some point to have a look if you can!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 25 November 2011

The end of another month...

As this month comes to an end, all the grazing animals at Wicken Fen are coming towards their monthly condition checks. This morning I walked out to Verralls to do this check on the group of non-breeding koniks - it took a while to find them as they had hidden themselves away very well! In these condition checks, they are given a score out of 10, relating to their weight and general condition, and notes are taken on the state of their hooves. These checks are made a lot easier if you can get hands-on with the animal, which some are more than happy with, standing and being made a fuss of, though others are not quite as cooperative... Over on Verralls, some of the ponies are...well...rather chubby. Because they are all geldings, they don't have any breeding to worry about, and so put more weight on as they aren't spending energy chasing females around and chasing other males away!

Later on, I cycled over to Baker's Fen and Guinea Hall, to do the weekly checks on the cows and the breeding herd of koniks. As people who have visited Wicken Fen may have noticed, some of the grazing animals have managed to acquire quite a few burrs on them over the summer (such as the picture below of Sorrell!).

Although this may look uncomfortable, they all fall off over the winter, and don't seem to bother any of the animals! Apart from multiple burrs, all of the cows on Bakers are well - they were all soaking up the sun and grazing away the morning. Such a hard life! Over on Guinea Hall, the koniks were also happily grazing and relaxing in the sunshine. The newest foal, Flynn, is gradually becoming bolder, and he's happy to come up and have a little nosy at who I am, though is still a bit wary. However, the slightly older foals don't just have a 'little nosy', and their curiosity and playfulness definitely overcomes any wariness they ever had!

Once all the checks were done, it was over to the bulls on Harrisons. The mini-research project I'm hoping to carry out may be looking at the bulls' aggressive behaviour towards each other - challenges, threats, etc - though over the next couple of weeks I am (hopefully) going to figure out whether it's worth doing this. There are 2 females over on Harrisons, and both have recently come into season, after the birth of their calves about a month ago. Since their seasons have come and gone, the bulls have calmed down recently, and so if I am trying to collect data on aggressive behaviour when there isn't any, it may not work. Either way, by christmas I will have chosen a definite project and may be at the early stages of some data collection...hopefully!

Anyway that's all from my day and thanks for reading!

Thursday, 24 November 2011


I am a few months into my year long placement at Wicken Fen and I hope that over the rest of my time here, through this blog, I can help keep people updated on things going on in the grazing area of the fen!

After settling into Wicken (and getting used to the fact that the closest shop isn't just down the road) I have spent lots of time becoming familiar with the grazing animals that we have here - highland cattle and konik ponies. I have spent lots of hours gradually learning each individual animal by name and this IDing is definitely an ongoing process! At the moment, the main things I am involved in are IDing the konik ponies on site and trying to plan a small research project of my own. Alongside this are daily and weekly checks that are carried out on both the highland cattle and konik ponies, writing down data during data collection for the grazing warden Carol's research, and any other event that occurs in a day - one thing I quickly learnt here is that each day is not the same!

Anyway, I will be writing more posts soon and thanks for reading!