Friday, 22 August 2014

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly....

In my last post I told you about the wiggly beasties in my eye and I also mentioned that Laura telling me she saw living things in my eye was a sentence I never wanted to hear again.

Well, I can now add to this with another sentence I never want to hear again in my entire life, which was when I got the results of my eye tests back yesterday as to what the creatures where, and the missing link as to why my sinuses have been a sneezing, running, blocked and irritated mess ever since the eye incident.

Oestrus Ovis: Sheep Nasal Botfly larvae. 
Oh. The. Horror.  

I had sheep botfly larvae (or the after effects of) in my eye and hiding out in my sinuses which was why I’ve felt so rough for 3 and a half weeks and been sneezing and snotting like I was suffering from the worst hayfever ever…aaarrrrrrggggghhhhh it is beyond gross, hideous and just downright bizarre.  However, I have had cameras put up my nose and through my sinuses now (horrible) and had it all washed out and am already feeling much better today and best of all – my sense of smell and taste is returning – hooray!  Hopefully that was an element of the job I will never suffer again…botfly, I mean, just EW.  (When I had the phone call I spent about ten minutes sitting at my desk staring blankly at the screen in silence, and just occasionally uttering the word ‘botfly…’ in whispered horrified tones, until Laura told me to stop repeating it as it will not help.  Googling it didn't help either as it was just full of horror stories.).

Anyway, so all seems well again and I can focus on the job without feeling like my sinuses are about to explode anymore.  So let me move on to nicer things and talk about the Marsh project

I mentioned a couple of posts ago, about the river bank restoration work that we have started undertaking on Stockbridge Common Marsh this Summer.  The last I wrote, we had installed a fence and put in the geotextile edging into the river following the line of where the bank should be, before it got so eroded.

The geotextile in place in June

 Well following on from this in July, I had contractors working in the river to plant up the backfill area and try and fold down the bank turf to create a sloping margin.
There were a few teething issues; turns out that instead of a peat bank, the bank in this particular area was two thirds chalk, from previous years of bank repairs and track installations dating back decades.   This meant the bottom third of the bank was peat, and this was what was getting washed out by the river until the top two thirds of chalk were so overcut that they collapsed in.  This gave our contractors a problem in that they couldn’t dig out and slope the bank as planned because the chalk would just crumble and give way.  So they ended up managing it in some areas, and in others where the chalk had already cracked and fallen, this was made into sloping areas.  Plants were taken from the other side of the river and planted in between the bank and the geotextile – again, more difficult than planned as they should have had more peat backfill from the bank to plant into.  But as the bank turned out to be chalk, the plants had to be planted direct into the silty edges of the river bed.  This will still result in sedimentation and stabilization, but will take longer than if there had been peat backfill to put in with it to begin with.

However, they planted up all along the area and will do two more days of planting in autumn once things have silted up a bit more.  The visual difference after they finished was brilliant and when I went back there a few weeks later to add some more faggots across inlet areas, I could see even more growth of vegetation.  Fleabane, water forget-me-knot and water parsnip were thriving on the bank side already, a marked difference to the eroded wasteland that it had been only 2 months earlier. 
From this.... this - see the water forget-me knot...

...and this!  Within a month, you can see the amount os peaty silt that has begun to fill in this inlet section.

Planted up.

So it is ongoing but the early results are promising.  We cannot possibly foretell the future – this winter will obviously have an impact as if we had flood levels like last year it may pose a risk to the planted vegetation.  We also know now that the re-profiling of the bank is not something that can be done with picks and spades if chalk is present so we will potentially have to plan something else for further stretches.
Still, I am sure you agree that from these photos this stretch of bank is looking healthier than it has in many years – so all we can do now throughout winter and into the next growth season is watch and wait and hope.  Grow nature, grow!

I leave you on a nicer note than the one i began with - took this shot in the Mottisfont rose garden of my favourite butterfly species.  Butterfly season is almost over - enjoy them whilst you can!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Rotting Flesh and crawling vision - the perks of the job...

Rarely a week goes by in the summer months when I am not chatting to someone, a visitor or office bound colleague, who remarks on how much I must love my job and how lucky I am to work outside at this time of year.  To which of course I reply, with a suntanned grin, that yes, spring and summer are the bee knees of working outdoors and I wouldn’t swap it for anything (needless to say, they do not make this comment in the depths of winter when they see me trudging into the office soaking wet and frozen to the bone).

However, I feel it is only right to share with you the aspects of the job that come this luxury of days spent working in the sunshine and fresh air, for with the peak growing and living season it is not only the nice plants and animals that emerge and thrive…

Our Wiltshire Horn sheep flock are a hardy breed that has the excellent quality of shearing themselves, by shedding their fleeces off in warmer weather.  This and the combined attribute of having a very short fleece means that they are generally not very prone to getting hits of Blowfly strike.  Blowfly strike is a hideous scenario that comes in in the warmer, wetter months of late Spring though to Autumn.  Sheep are very prone to it as are long haired pet rabbits (I’ve heard).  Flies will hover round areas of a sheep that are mucky and moist, such as very dirty back ends where the fleece is soiled with faeces or afterbirth and they will land and lay eggs on this soiled fleece.  The eggs hatch, and the maggots eat their way through the soiled fleece…and keep eating.  Eat, eat, eat they burrow their way down through the flesh, with more eggs being laid and hatched continuously.  If the problem is not caught quickly, it can lead to a horrible toxic death within only a few days.  With this cheerful thought in mind, I have been paranoid about fly strike this year and have trained the sheep lookers in the early signs to look for, which includes dark stains on the fleece, scratching, stamping and the sheep generally acting off colour.

We have treated the flock with a flystrike preventative since March this year and I had my fingers crossed we would get away with it…but a few weeks ago Mike, my Thursday looker rang me to say he was concerned about one sheep he had spotted with dark staining on her neck.  I went up to the Down and it didn’t take me long to find the ewe in question and even from a few metres away I could see, without a doubt that she had been hit with blowfly strike.  I coaxed her to me with a bucket of nuts, got the halter on her and commenced a 30 minute battle to get her to the holding pen – she may have had maggots in her neck but they obviously hadn’t weakened her yet as she kicked, jumped, bucked her way to the pen, sometimes lying flat on the floor and refusing to budge – and I defy anyone to try and drag a 70kg sheep by a nose halter if she doesn’t want to move.  However eventually with a mixture of nuts and tough love I got her in the pen, tied her halter to the fence and commenced the clean-up job.  And eeeuuuuurrrrrgh!  What a joyful hour I spent!  On closer inspection I found the poor thing had two holes in her neck both heaving with maggots.  Cracks radiated out from the holes showing where the smaller maggots were starting to spread outwards in fleshy highways and there was a lot of bloody fluid leaking out.  Bearing in mind that the lookers check the sheep daily, this must have been the result of only a day’s worth of hatched maggots which, in the high humidity and very hot weather had accelerated their devastating munching march.  As I scooped out maggots with my finger, reaching as far down into the neck wound as I could reach, I tried not to throw up at the stench that wafted up and around us.  Rotting flesh flavoured my nostrils and the incessant buzzing of more flies around my face had me muttering, swearing and retching at the maggots in equal turn even as I decimated them with the Finger of Death. 

After an hour’s worth of baby wiping, trimming away the blood stained, crusty fleece and ejecting maggots I quickly called Ryan to ask him to come up with suitable sheep transport so that we could take her to our Vet Field at Mottisfont for her recovery.  I poured in some Crovect fluid which did the very satisfying job of burning out all the remaining maggots that were lurking further down under the neck skin and which I couldn’t reach with my finger.  Out they came, wriggling in agony and shrieking their maggoty cries as they abandoned their fleshy ship and threw their grotesque plump bodies over the edge.  I watched with cold eyes and helped them on their way with more scooping actions.  Finally the poor girl was clear of maggots.  I applied various treatments to the holes in her neck including antibacterial and antiseptic spray and, when Ryan and the volunteers arrived we loaded her and one other lucky ewe (to keep her company) into the truck and took them back to Mottisfont.

From this... this...

 this!  Finally looking much better, only a week after the last photo was taken - amazing really.

It is now 3 weeks later and, after a daily routine of cleaning out pus, cleaning the wound and surrounding fleece (I tried several methods to get the blood stained fleece clean including shaving, trimming and a natural nettle shampoo which worked best) she is healing well.  The vet had to come and cut off two big chunks of over granulated gristle which had swelled up out the hole and was preventing it from healing over (I know, more bleurgh) but now she is looking like a much happier sheep again, with the surrounding flesh returned to a healthy pink, and the holes almost fully healed together.

Even now though, as the hot spell has let up slightly and some wetter weather has moved in, I keep my eyes anxiously peeled for any more cases of flystrike…

And talking of eyes, I had an interesting experience with another creepy crawly recently.  During one of my daily clean up visits to Maggot Face (as I fondly named my poor ewe) I was besieged by…well no one knows what.  I had just caught the sheep and was in the process of tying her halter to the gate when I felt and saw something land on the lower lashes of my right eye – and then the pain kicked in as it went in my eye.  Fumbling with the halter I finished tying up the sheep and then climbed over the gate and ran to the truck and looked in the wing mirror looking for the fly or whatever it was that had flown into my eye.  I looked and looked but couldn’t find anything and, blinking hard, I decided I must have blinked it away.  Well throughout the rest of that day, the pain returned off and on to my eye and each time I looked in a mirror and saw nothing, finally concluding that I must  have scratched the lens, or that a fly or a hair must be stuck at the back somewhere and would work its own way out.  I used an eye wash to try and flush it out and carried on with my day. 

However by evening, the pain was still off and on and when it did return it was getting more intense and my eye was more irritated.  My housemate Laura finally got tired of my yelping in pain and running from the kitchen to the mirror that she had me pinned down and peered in my eye with a torch, looking for the elusive hair or whatever it was.

After a few seconds she inhaled and then putting down the torch she put her hand on my arm and calmly said a sentence I never want to hear again in my life:

‘Now.  I don’t want you to panic….but...there is something crawling around in your eye.’

‘Oh very funny!’ I snapped, sure she was joking.

‘Noooo, seriously, I’m not kidding.’

Disbelievingly I looked in the mirror myself, holding the torch to my eyeball and there…at that exact moment…SOMETHING crawled across the black pupil of my eye and disappeared into the other side.

Cue Panic.

As I hopped up and down beating the side of my head and gibbering about staying calm but oh its soooooo gross, Laura grabbed her car keys and ushered me out the door (we realised later how rubbish we would be in a real emergency, as we both ran out the house without money, phones and barely even shoes).

As it was late evening and everything was shut, Laura drove me to the Eye Unit at A and E and I had to endure the disbelieving looks of the receptionists, nurses and eye doctors as I retold my tale.  However once the eye doctor had me strapped in the chair and examined my eye….he almost gave up looking when ‘aha!’ He extracted out the little wretched creepy thing, using the most sophisticated of tools, a wooden stick (very painful on the eye!).  I sighed in relief – until he picked up the stick again and went back into my eye…and again…and again!  After the fourth one he switched to tweezers as he assured me it would be less painful (gibber) and 7 alien beasties later, he washed my eye out and gave me some eye drops to prevent infection whilst assuring me that nothing in the UK lays eggs in eyes or can cause blindness….

Getting home to a ruined dinner and feeling slightly depressed at the whole situation, I shuddered with horror when I felt the familiar pain return…and consequently I plucked two more of the tiny things from my eyeball before finally feeling like they were all gone.  Argh! If they ever get the results back on what the things were, I will let you know – Dylan’s bet is on aliens, other people thought it was something that jumped off the sheep, but based on how they floated down into my eye and the way they wriggled more like some kind of water larvae I am not convinced. 

So the next time someone remarks on how lucky I am to work in the great outdoors, I will smile and nod in agreement, all the while remembering that after the nettles stings, bramble scratches and insect bites, we still have flesh eating maggots and eye dwelling beasties to contend with – but I will still be content, knowing these are only the slightly less desirable perks of the job.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Jewel in the Crown – and baby pandas’.

Now this time of year brings our site of Stockbridge Down, into its own.  On these warm, clear sunny days it is the Jewel in our Crown, with stunning views across Hampshire and Wiltshire, wildflowers smothering the slopes and butterflies fluttering thick and fast around your feet, your heads, everywhere you look.

If you walk the slopes and the glades you will find large areas of shorter turf in which wild flowers have exploded, with Wild Thyme, Birds Foot Trefoil, Harebells, Salad Burnets, Eyebright, Rock Rose, Vetches, Marjoram, Centaury, Ground Ivy, Bugle, Wild Strawberry, Speedwells and many more all creating the annual technicoloured cloak of Stockbridge Down.  I have watched the areas I had cleared of scrub, two winters ago, blossom and bloom with a new layer of ground flora, the seed bank of which lay hidden under the mossy turf and degenerate canopy of the scrub that was there before, just waiting the chance to be brought out into the light.  
So many colours...Wild Thyme

...Rock Rose (a personal favourite)...

...and Eyebright; a gorgeous little flower that is used in eye washes and eye drops.

With this incredible array of flora comes, of course, the butterfly spectacle.  I realise I mention Stockbridge butterflies in most of the summer months but that is because they really are just too fantastic not to.  My weekly butterfly surveys have shown the numbers to be soaring up as we hit into midsummer, from 64 one week, to over a hundred the next, to 264 this week and still climbing.  The Marbled Whites are covering the longer grasses and thistles in their hundreds, closely followed by the Dark Green Fritillaries and the Skippers in all their orangey buzzing glory.  And this very week has bought out the first of the Gatekeepers and the onset of the Chalkhill Blues.  The Chalkhill blue butterflies will peak around late July into early August and are just phenomenal – thousands of silvery blue butterflies floating like vapour across the slopes and, quite often, on dog turds from which they like to take the salt.

A Marbled White - wings like a Magic Eye picture.

17 Chalkhill Blues and 1 Peacock on a single turd - could it be a record!?

 I am giving a guided walk of Stockbridge Down on the 18th of July, so if you want to come and see these wonders for yourself and hear about the history, archaeology, habitat and management of the Down then ring Mottisfont Abbey and book yourself a place.  If you don’t want to come on the walk, then go and visit the Down anyway I urge you- you might even be lucky enough to hear the elusive Turtle Dove as I did, in the scrub on the lower slopes recently.  It has a beautiful deep ‘purring’ coo, much deeper than a pigeon and much rarer.  Stockbridge Down is a stronghold for these summer visitors and as I didn’t get to hear one last year (although others did) I was very chuffed to hear one this summer.

The sheep flock are doing well on the Down and are looking superbly sleek and bright now that they have finished shedding their ratty, dreadlocked, winter coats.  This breed shears themselves (thank god) and I must say they do a far neater job than I ever could.  They have plumped up with the summer flush of grass growth and are looking very healthy.  The two new lambs that we bought back in May have been added to the main flock and after some initial nose touching and bottom sniffing of the newbies, they all happily settled down together without any apparent need to settle the hierarchy.  The lone male was a bit sheepish at first (snigger) and let his sister take the lead which was unusual for him as he is normally very bolshie and first in line, but as Ryan said – ‘he’s a bloke that has just been chucked in a room with 28 women; of course he looks terrified!’.  Fair point.
Summer fleeces - very sleek.

Now as I have mentioned before that we have a population of ageing Juniper trees, those Giant Pandas’ of the plant world.  I have written before about their struggle to survive and reproduce as a species (see Winter Hymnal blog post), which is due to a number of factors such as being dioecious, lack of seed viability, seed vulnerability to predation by small mammals and mites, their need for completely bare soil on which to germinate as even grass will shade out and kill any emergent seedlings and so on.  All in all, a rather difficult species to try and preserve but one which, as one of only three conifers native to Britain (the other two being Scots Pine and Yew), it is important to do so.  There is also a whole host of life that relies on Juniper alone for survival, such as Juniper Shield Bug, Juniper Carpet Moth and of course – our gin and tonics.

We have spent two winters clearing the scrub from around the mature Juniper trees in order to save them from being shaded out (detailed in past blog posts).  I have spent the following summers spraying the scrub regrowth to kill it off and prevent it from returning, a job which I did again last week in the sweaty heat of spraying overalls and welly boots.  This is helping to preserve the mature Juniper trees which are welcoming the chance to be free of shading scrub.  However what we really also need is for the Juniper to regenerate which is very difficult to get it to do in the wild down in the South.  Whether it’s the lack of suitably viable trees and gene pools, attacks of mites and parasites or the conditions of the surrounding site, it has always been an ongoing project for agencies like Plantlife (see their ‘Juniper; Breaking New Ground’ online article for a good scope on the challenges of preserving this species) and landowners of any Juniper sites.   
One of our countryside volunteers Tony took a special interest in the Juniper, having spent many a day helping clear the scrub from round it (which seemed to put most people off it, but Tony was hooked!) and together we visited another nearby National Trust site called Pepperbox Hill, where they have similar issues with scrub and Juniper, and where they have tried a number of seed cage designs.  Tony took one of these designs, created by Plantlife and made ten sturdy seed cages.  The aim of these cages is for them to be placed beneath a berry bearing female Juniper with bare soil left within.  The area around it may grow up with grasses or other plants, but the soil within the cage would be kept bare and clear of weeds.  This would give the potential for any berry that fell into this soil from the tree above, to be able to germinate successfully in the soil (uneaten by rodents as they would not get into the cage) and begin to grow (without being shaded and out-competed by grasses or weeds as we would keep the soil clear of them). We could also potentially sow seeds into them from trees on the site, to try and help kick start the process. We installed these cages across the site a few months back with the aim to weed them throughout the summer and hope that in a couple of years’ time, they would bear fruit.  
Installing the cages

In place beneath a berry filled female

 Tony and I came to weed them this week, for the first time since their installation.  Some had barely any grass or weeds at all; others were deeply surrounded by bramble which we hacked back.  We worked our way round them, expecting only to be weeding and clearing when suddenly…..there, poking up out the ground just below my weed clearing fingers…there grew a baby Juniper.  I choked slightly, uttered an expletive and pointed it to Tony.  We looked and saw another one…and then a third!  Three! Three baby ‘panda’s’ in one seed cage, a first for the site and a rare occurrence in Hampshire – natural Juniper regeneration!  These little blue green, spikey seedlings stood only about an inch high, all too fragile and vulnerable but there – against all the odds and to my complete astonishment as I honestly hadn’t thought we would get any seedlings in the cages within the first few months - these babies take years to ripen and germinate, and yet here they were, the first of their kind to be born onto the site (that we know of) in many, many years, possibly since the original, mature trees themselves.

We whooped and hollered and I ran full pelt back to the truck to get my camera to record the evidence.  We cleared the few weeds from the cage – oh so carefully, so as not to disturb the children – and just stared and gawped for a while more at these little things which I hadn’t imagined we would succeed in getting after so short a time.  Then we carefully replaced the lid, tucked them in, and crept away.

We shall weed the cages again towards the end of summer and see what the others bring us.  I now feel the burden of parenthood, with three rare youngsters in my charge and the fear that some calamity may befall them before they reach adulthood. There will be a long way to go but it has shown us that we have viable seed trees and thus the potential to save our Juniper population here – may these three be the first of many.

Hope for the future - viva la Juniper!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Life Aquatic

Greetings!  And a long time it has been; I have been off-blog for a good few weeks due to events such as holidays, moving house and the hectic workload that June bought us.  Weeks of warm breezes and sunlit hours also ensured that our working time was spent on outdoor jobs, leaving the office stuff for a rainy day – a plan that never works well in winter but comes into its own in summer.

The summer solstice has been and gone already, and it is almost inconceivable to me that we are halfway through the year and heading back into the shorter days of winter - however, I won’t dwell on that for now as we are still enjoying the heat in which to get our work done.  And with the onset of June came, of course, the first of the three annual weed cuts on our river stretches.  Our river keeper Neil dove (haha) back into action and spent every waking minute for 2 weeks in the river trimming the Ranunculus whilst obtaining a small population of ticks on his various body parts as he went – he is one of those useful people to have around as he draws ticks towards him before anybody else.  I did my part where I could and helped him push on the weed down the River Dun which, in the hot weather was a delightful task, even when we had to start over again due to more weed coming down from the upper stretches.
Salute of the weed Cutters

The weed cut period has also allowed me to begin a project that has been years in coming and will be ongoing for years more.
Stockbridge Common Marsh is a site of ours that lies in the village of Stockbridge, just down the hill from Stockbridge Down.  It is a 23 hectare site alongside which runs a tributary of the River Test, called Marsh Court River.  Now this site has some valuable fen and marsh habitat as well as important chalk stream habitat, both of which serve to class the marsh itself as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the river tributary as a separate SSSI.  Consequently these designations as well as the beauty and tranquillity of the habitat for both humans and wildlife alike, mean we have to do our best to protect and preserve them both.
If you have ever walked on the Marsh you will have noticed the badly eroded river bank on the Marsh side.  Now any river bank that is made of peat, as this one is, is going to suffer some erosion from natural river processes as it is a soft substance that the current of the river is able to wear away.  However this process is usually buffered by a marginal fringe of bank side vegetation of rushes and reeds, water parsnip and so on, all of which help stabilize and protect the banks and provide brilliant habitat for water voles, damsel and dragonflies and water birds found here.

The bank side of Stockbridge Marsh is almost entirely devoid of vegetation due to river erosion and the pressure of livestock, people and dogs climbing in and out and breaking off the overhanging turf which has suffered river erosion beneath it.  There have been many plans over the years to try and improve this bank and save it as the erosion evidence is plain to see – you can see chunks of bankside turf that have fallen in over the last few months, just lying in the river. 
In order to re-stabilize and allow the bank to regenerate I have worked with Natural England and the Environment Agency to come up with a plan of action.  Consent was then sought from both agencies and gained, and I was finally able to begin the first phase of work during the June weed cut.
We have erected a fence along the first 200M of the river, which contains some of the worst eroded stretches.  This fence will remain in place until the bankside vegetation has grown up enough and the bank has recovered enough to allow it to better stand the pressure that is put upon it.  A fence was erected some years ago along the top part of the river and the vegetation that has grown up there has proven how beneficial it has been in keeping it protected until it has recovered.
The new fence

So the fence went up and then come the weed cut (when the fisheries downstream would not be disturbed by work we would be doing) I started installing a geotextile material, with the help of work experience students and our countryside volunteers.
This geotextile material is essentially an engineered form of faggoting, but one that is more durable than faggots and better for long-term works.  We installed it by post banging down some specially treated stakes that came with the material, designed to be used in rivers.  These were hammered down into the river bed and the geotextile contains ‘pockets’ through which you slide the stake before hammering it so that you can then pull the fabric tight along to the next stake and so on.  You end up with a long edge of geotextile that will basically serve as the new bank side whilst the area behind it begins to grow in.  This was very hard, hot work as we had to do it all manually due to the sensitive nature of the bank – no post banging machine would have been able to be sat on the bank edge as its weight would have collapsed it.  So, waders were dug out from the sheds where they had sat since last year, and we jumped in the river and worked from the waterside.  

The geotextile in place
The geotextile in place


The geotextile was finished in June and now, with the July weed cut looming, we can begin the next step, which is to work on the banks themselves.  The bank will be manually dug out under their overhanging edges; just enough so that the top layer of turf can be folded down to create a shallow slope.  This will slope down into the water behind the geotextile and the remaining area will be filled in using peat dug out from the bank and vegetation transplanted from other areas of the site, to help it begin the regenerative process.  By creating this shallow sloping margin, you are making a far more natural habitat than the current steep sheer sided banks that erosion has created.  Different plants, invertebrates and other wildlife utilise different areas of the bank based on the different gradients and provides far more diversity than the sheer faced eroded bank side.
The stretch that we are working on contains the shallower part of the channel.  There are some parts of the channel that are much deeper and would require the river bed raising before we could do bank works.  However this first step will enable us to gauge the success of the bank work on the shallow channel (and I believe it will look fantastic in a growing season or two) and thus plan our next step.

Obviously this is a very sensitive project as the Marsh is a beautiful and popular place for people to walk their dogs, enjoy a picnic or just come dip their feet on a hot day.  The work we are carrying out has had both supporters and opposition, mainly due to the presence of the fence.  Whilst another 500m or so of the river remain unfenced and therefore perfectly accessible, we appreciate that people may find the fence along the first bit visually disturbing and it may look like we are trying to bar people from being able to enjoy walking by the river.  This is obviously not the case as we do in fact want to try and preserve this stretch of river for the future so that more people can enjoy it, hence the work.  If we did not carry out this bank work, the bank would continue to fall and the river would become wider, deeper, and siltier and lose all the important features and aspects that are so valuable in the ecology and make up of a chalk stream.  

So, many thanks to the Stockbridge Court Leet who have funded the fence and geotextile materials for this work and thanks to those people who stopped to talk to me whilst I was working on the bank work and boosted us with their support – it means a lot when you realise that people know you are trying to do what is right for a habitat in order to preserve it – forever, for everyone, right?