Grassland at Potteric Carr, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s flagship nature reserve in Doncaster, is being grazed for the first time to help turn it into prime wildlife habitat.
For a flock of 100 sheep have been introduced to the beauty spot to help maintain the site and help develope wildlife.
In the past few years the central grassland has been managed through pure hard graft, with staff and volunteers cutting and raking the grass by hand.
Prior to the development of Huxter Well Marsh nearby – a key habitat for wading birds like lapwing – this land had been arable.
Conservation grazing is a widely accepted practice in conservation land management, as livestock at low stocking densities can help encourage less aggressive plant species to grow.
It is also a much less labour intensive way of managing land for increased biodiversity.
Sheep have been purposefully chosen for the job on the central grassland at Potteric, as they are very good at ensuring a varied sward is kept on site.
This means that there should be a mixture of rushes and short grasses on site which is perfect for ground nesting birds who should return to breed next year.
The Trust was able to graze the land thanks to a grant from Biffa Award which provided the funds to fence the central grassland and Rossington Carr Fields to keep the livestock in the right area.
Whilst Rossington Carr Fields has had livestock on it already, grazing on the central grassland was purposefully delayed to allow chicks of lapwings and other ground nesting birds in the area to fledge and therefore avoid trampling.
On the central grassland at Potteric a flock of one hundred sheep of mixed breeds has been introduced; the breeds include Hebridean, blue-faced Leicester and Jacob.
Reserves Officer, Jim Horsfall, said: “The sheep will remain on the central grassland for the next few months and be moved to another site before the lapwing breeding season next year.
“If you are planning a visit to Potteric Carr Nature Reserve in the next few weeks make sure you go and say hello to our new furry friends!”
For more information on Potteric Carr Nature Reserve please see www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/potteric-carr-nature-reserve.