Reserve (largely) reopen

The Dockens Water has dropped since yesterday meaning Ellingham Drove is reopen and passable once again. Please note that whilst we have been able to reopen much of the reserve again today, there are still some areas of standing water that are yet to drain and have frozen over, including tern hide carpark which remains closed (pictured below). Some other areas of the reserve may also remain closed due to ice, so if you do visit this week, please take care and follow the site signage.

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Reserve closed due to flooding

Following last night’s heavy rain, the Dockens Water burst its banks causing flooding across the reserve and along Ellingham Drove. We have therefore been forced to close the reserve, including all hides and car parks.

Please be advised that the police have closed off Ellingham Drove so if you are travelling in the area, you will need to find an alternative route.

The water may take some time to recede and, with a cold snap forecast tonight, may also freeze over. We will post again to confirm when the reserve is open again, so please do check with us before making a special journey.

Stay safe!

Bird hide works complete and boardwalk update

During planned re-roofing works on Ivy South, Woodland and Ivy North hides, it was found that some of the wooden support posts had rotted through causing certain sections of the structures to subside! This caused some of the windows to jam, the gutters to sag, and in time the floor beams too would have rotted too. Whilst the contractors were still on site, we decided to address the issues straight away. After levelling the hides, the old posts were removed and replaced with concrete slabs and a layer of damp proof membrane to prevent rising damp.

Although this additional work set the completion date back by a few weeks, we hope that it will have extended the life of the hides by a good number of years! With this in mind, we took pre-emptive action to level and re-roof Lapwing hide while we were at it!

Minor repairs were all that were needed to refurb the Ivy South and Lapwing access ramps however Ivy North and Woodland ramps needed replacing entirely. We’re relieved to say that the work is now complete, and that all the hides are open, accessible and dry once again for everyone to enjoy.

Woodland hide ramp under construction
Woodland hide ramp complete
Ivy North ramp complete

With the hides up together again, we have now turned our attention to finishing another big infrastructure project on the reserve – the ever popular boardwalk. With staff changes, weather extremes and increased material costs, the odds have been stacked against us, however good progress has been made and we are anticipating to finish the work in the early part of 2023.

We are super excited to have this open soon for the thousands of people that visit Blashford each year to enjoy once again! A huge thank you again to everyone who donated towards this project appeal – it wouldn’t have been possible without you!

Progress during Summer 2022
Frame going in on the new ‘passing place’
Passing place almost complete
End in sight!

Short but sweet!

It’s been a whirlwind year at Blashford Lakes! I started in the October half term of 2021 as Assistant Education Officer, and I have now finished my role at Blashford, and am off to Indonesia for 7 months.

If it wasn’t for an amazing opportunity in West Java, I would definitely have continued on at Blashford, it’s such a beautiful place, and there are so many lovely regular visitors, volunteers, and the staff are alright too (although 3 of them left once I joined….was it something I said?!). Thank you to Jim, Tracy and Bob, I have learnt so much over the past year.

I wish Jack, Pete, Sam and Karen, and whoever the new face of Education is all the best, and really they won’t get rid of me, I will try my best to wriggle back in (maybe as an OLT) once I get home. Fingers crossed for fewer trees down than last year, and hopefully none of them will hit the power lines! I am looking forward to seeing all the hides waterproof once more, and I am sure I will be kept updated with how many infuriating mice have plundered the loft!

Thank you all for making me feel so welcome! To everybody who came on harvest mouse nest surveys, who helped on education days, and, although I don’t want anybody to feel like I am picking favourites, thank you to Midge for bringing me a variety of animal skulls and for wanting to draw the fallow buck, and to Kate who was always delightfully cheery when I asked whether she wanted to help me with the ‘pond snot’. I do hope the ponds don’t get too snotty again… it’s not as exciting a job clearing it by yourself! Thank you to Liz and Nora who wouldn’t let me leave without an afternoon of cake (and walnut cracking!) and amusing presents.

Upcoming hide closures

As we continue into autumn and are experiencing more frequent (and much-needed!) rain at Blashford, it has become apparent that some of the hide roofs are no longer functioning as they once did. Ivy South, Woodland and Ivy North hides have sprung some rather large leaks which require reroofing works, and with the access ramps also looking past their best, works will commence next week to revamp the three hides.

Please be aware that the hides will be closed whilst works are carried out, however we plan to stagger the schedule so that just one hide will be closed at a time, minimising the impact on visitors. Ivy South hide will be first with work due to begin on Tuesday 25th October, followed by Woodland and finally Ivy North.

Harvest Mouse Survey Winter 2022

Today I took 3 of our regular volunteers out to the north of the reserve to re-survey some plots in grassy habitat, to look for harvest mouse nests.

Highly suitable habitat for harvest mice

During the winter of 21-22, the Mammal Society asked people UK wide to go out and survey for harvest mice nests. It’s now time to head out again to find the nests that were built throughout 2022. This ‘National Harvest Mouse Survey’ is helping to build a picture of where they are found, their associated habitats, and will provide an idea of how much they have declined and what work needs to be done to protect them. To find out more have a look at the link below, and if you want to go out and survey in your local area please do!

We found 3 nests today, all woven into the grassy stalks and still suspended. One was the size of a golf ball – this is a solitary nest. Then another beautiful, newer nest that was much larger – this one was definitely a breeding nest. Then in another plot we found an older nest hidden away which could have been from spring 2022, or more likely we think could be from 2021.

Three harvest mouse nests (top – breeding, middle – old, bottom – solitary)
Harvest mouse breeding nest (around the size of a tennis ball)

We would like to survey more of the reserve to see whether harvest mice are present, and it was fantastic to find these nests in the same plot that was most fruitful last year. We need to ensure that the habitat doesn’t get encroached by brambles, so this will probably be one of the winter jobs for our conservation volunteer groups.

Autumn is here!

As one of the reserves team I get to do a lot of practical jobs around Blashford Lakes to keep it safe and accessible for people to enjoy. One of the best things aside from working outdoors is seeing all the wildlife while I am carrying out my duties. So here’s a little blog post about the things I’ve seen lately.

It was calm dew-laden morning with autumn starting to bite. Ibsley water was an eerie scene with great crested grebes floating silently in the mist. As the sun burnt off the mist, the water was calm and mirror-like. A good day for spotting kingfishers, as I’d hear later from overjoyed visitors and photographers.

After opening the reserve and doing some site checks I went looking for our conservation grazing ponies. All four ponies were found happy and healthy up on the eastern shore by Lapwing Hide. While I was there, I was very lucky to spot an osprey passing overhead! As winter approaches Ospreys are migrating south to warmer climes. It could be a bird from Poole harbour or perhaps migrating much farther to Spain or West Africa. Either way, fingers crossed it comes back in the breeding season to use our osprey nesting platform!

Back at the dipping pond behind the visitor centre I spotted a female Emperor dragonfly. She was dedicatedly trying to lay her eggs in the water. Her young will then feed up as nymphs in the ponds and you might see some if you’re pond dipping next year!

Following on from the earlier post I kept my eyes open for fungi. I am not an expert but I still at least 12 different kinds! How many will you find at Blashford Lakes this autumn?

In addition to the species named above, notable mentions include a single white butterfly (most likely a Large White) in addition to the numerous Speckled wood butterflies; and at Ibsley Water at least five egyptian geese, a male pochard, and a very lost (we suspect escaped) barnacle goose!



Mammals in the education area

I go into the education area fairly regularly, to set-up activities for groups, and to check whether there have been any branches down that might cause an issue, or to see whether there are any precarious ones dangling over our log circle which we need to deal with. When I am there I always wonder, just how much goes on when it’s quiet and still. Turns out…. quite a lot of mammal activity!

Grey squirrel…. who very much likes to jump around the log circle, red fox, and fallow deer demonstrating just how much they can vary in colour. Taken with a Ltl Acorn camera trap. I have a Bushnell also set up to take videos of the badger set, and am looking forward to sharing those soon (although only photos on here, as videos don’t upload).

Fungi fever

Prime fungi spotting time is upon us and there are some crackers about at the moment. Just walk slow and look everywhere. They are really easy to photograph with your phone camera so long as your back is supple but a bit of time spent with a DSLR on a tripod with a macro lens and remote release can pay dividends. Please leave them as you find them and don’t forget there are a number of species that can make you feel pretty sick and more than one than can be fatal if eaten. If in doubt, do not touch!