I am conducting a biodiversity survey for la réserve naturelle de la Chérine to see what species of Diptera (flies) there are on the reserve. One of the things we are interested in is the difference in diptera species present in a number of fields which are managed in different ways. This field is grazed by Konik Polski (Polish Ponies), who took a great interest in our activities (or, more likely, a great interest in the possibility that we may be carrying tasty pony treats).
Koniks are the closest breed we have today to the extinct wild horse, and are increasingly popular on reserves which need large grazing animals to maintain the status quo of grassland habitat. Without grazing, this field would revert to scrub. With these thoroughly charming ponies in residence, several species of rare orchid and a rare umbellifer are able to compete because the grass is kept shorter and the scrub eaten or trampled before it can take over.
Please note that access to this field is restricted to authorised persons only, and not open to the public. This is particularly important as many species of birds are breeding in the area, and the ponies have new foals. We had to take care not to disturb ground or hedge nesting birds and keep a respectful distance from the two day old foal so as not to upset its mother, who was clearly still keeping her baby away from the rest of the herd. The ponies you can see in the picture above are a somewhat older foal from this year who is allowed to explore and investigate a bit by his Mum, and one of last year's progeny, now quite independent.
For more on orchids, please click here