SOME unusual volunteers are lending a helping hand, or rather hoof, at Baron’s Haugh.
The RSPB nature reserve in Motherwell has welcomed a herd of limousin cows who are aiding in the creation of wild flower meadows and will soon turn their attention to encouraging lapwing and yellowhammer numbers.
A £16,000 grant from Biffa Award, a multi-million pound environment fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), has enabled the reserve to put up new fencing and stop the cows from roaming too far as they go about their work.
Warden Stephen Owen said: “The area at the top of the reserve had been grazed years ago, but is now full of thick grasses so the idea was to fence it off and get the cows grazing to bring it down.
“Later in the summer wild flowers can start to come through and the flowers attract insects who in turn attract the birds.
“Once this work is done the cows will then move down to the area near the river and start to ‘cut’ back the grass down there to make it an ideal nesting site for the likes of lapwings and yellowhammers.
“We do see them from time to time during the winter, but the problem is conditions are not right for them to breed as the grass is too long.
“Lapwings in particular prefer short grass so they cannot be ambushed by predators and with the number of foxes and minks around here they need every incentive to feel comfortable.”
As well as the fencing, the Biffa Award cash is also going towards ditch clearing and sluice replacement to allow better drainage and improvements to the reserve’s traditional orchard.
Along with the cows, Stephen himself is a new arrival to Baron’s Haugh and while admitting he has a bit job ahead of him is relishing the opportunity.
He said: ”Prior to this I was working as a ranger so I’ve been in the conservation field for some years.
“I am particularly interested in urban conservation so to come to a nature reserve like Baron’s Haugh which is right on the edge of a town was a great opportunity.
“There is loads to do and we are working as hard as we can to both attract wildlife and to ensure this is somewhere for people to come and enjoy.”
As well as bovine help, human aid is required to aid in the progression of Baron’s Haugh and Stephen has put out an appeal for volunteers.
He said: “You don’t have to be a cow to come and volunteer at Baron’s Haugh and we have volunteer days every Thursday starting at 10am.
“This Saturday is also the monthly volunteer work party which gives people the opportunity to come along and do some great work in the outdoors and make a contribution to the environment on their doorstep.”