The Life and Times of the Ranger
Speaker: Steve Peach
Date: 24th April
Steve tagging a Snake
Steve told us he had been a Ranger for about 37 Years, inspired as a youth by ITV Wildlife survival programmes. He also spent time on Cosham railway line looking for lizards and butterflies.
Steve then gave us a very well illustrated and informative talk about his exciting life as a Ranger in Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
His duties as a Ranger include being a wildlife guardian, an interpreter and manager of the countryside, an educator, researcher and wildlife presenter and an enforcer of wildlife laws. Necessarily a multi-tasker!
He pointed out that the landscape is not natural and has been modified by man over the millennia. Habitats include chalk grassland (50/60 species per sq. m), wetland, woodland and forest, all of which have to be managed and conserved. Coppiced areas are good areas for wildlife. Woodland becomes dynamic when gaps are produced.
His research involves catching reptiles and small mammals in traps and studying their migratory habits among other things. Adders can be identified by the scale pattern on their head.
He has corrugated iron painted black under which snakes and slow worms hide. Micro transmitters are fixed on snakes to study their movements and breeding/hibernation sites. Grass snakes, the largest British snake, lay their eggs in compost heaps. He has yet to discover if the snakes are territorial.
He told us the common lizard is a particular favourite of his. The more species there are the healthier the environment. Animal pooh is particularly loved by Rangers as it can tell a huge amount about what going on. Badgers have dung pits and reveal their territories. Rangers have to know the tracks and signs left by wildlife. Habitat must be right for species to thrive.
The silver spotted skipper butterfly has recently been re-introduced and the chalk hill blue is also present with its complicated life cycle involving ants. The ants protect the caterpillars in return for a sugary substance that they produce.
Children are still interested in wildlife and their horizons have been widened globally by television. They still love pond dipping and nature tables though.
Steve arranges guided walks and tractor/trailer rides in the forest. Christmas in the Park is special with a visit from Father Christmas.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park has 15 thousand visitors each year to manage and that results in lots of litter needing to be cleared up. This is one of the roles of the army of Q. E. volunteers.
They also do patrolling, digging holes and clearing out ponds. They have other skills like woodworking and making wooded toys and bird boxes for sale from wood from felled trees, play areas are also made of wood to connect children to the countryside. Health and Safety also plays an important part in the volunteers culture.
Steve told us that we have no sense of bio-security in this country and as we have no large mammals to make the environment it must be maintained by man. The Dutch are better than us at solving environmental problems. We choose to chop down trees to make down land which if not grazed reverts to woodland after becoming scrub first.
Steve finished off his talk by referring to Rangers worldwide and the dangers they face doing difficult jobs, some even get killed. Q. E. Parks Project has a partnership with Uganda Rangers and swap Rangers from time to time, schools in Liss are also twinned with Ugandan schools, they all learn from each other, exchange gifts and communicate.
Steve is optimistic about the future, envisaging less use of fossil fuels, mote tree planting, more pollination projects and gardens linking up to form wildlife corridors.
Altogether a wide ranging and fascinating insight into a Ranger’s world, followed by discussion about conservation in general.