Wet, wet, wet…

Although the winds have subsided, keeping the reserve closed today as well as yesterday was definitely the right thing to do as when I arrived this morning Ellingham Drove was flowing like a river and the water levels definitely rose in the few hours I was on site.

I didn’t venture too far, only checking the paths between the Woodland and Ivy Lake hides for any trees that had come down in yesterday’s strong winds, but wellington boots were definitely needed for stretches of footpath around the Woodland Hide and down towards Ivy South. I decided to save the rest of the checking until tomorrow in case the river on Ellingham Drove became too deep and I struggled to leave – there was at least one car further down the Drove towards Moyles Court that had become stuck in deeper water and a number of drivers decided to think twice, turn around and head back towards the A338.

The only trees of note, which admittedly I could have missed as I haven’t unlocked or locked up for a few days, were well away from the path but unfortunately in the middle of the woodland log circle area we use for bug hunting. They seemed to have just toppled over, lifting up the saturated ground as they went:

woodland

I know the boardwalk past Ivy South Hide does occasionally flood when Ivy Lake and the silt pond are both at capacity, but I have never seen water flowing over it before:

The Dockens Water is also fuller than I’ve ever seen it, resulting in it spilling out over Ellingham Drove and into the main reserve car park.

The water was flowing just shy of the river dipping bridge. It will be interesting to see what our dipping area looks like once the waters have dropped again, our ‘beach’ had been looking quite good after the last flood!

Given it was still raining when I left and there really isn’t anywhere for such a huge volume of water to go, it is going to take a day or so for the flood waters to subside from the main car park, even if Ellingham Drove clears relatively quickly:

The photos above don’t really do it justice, the water was flowing into the car park with some force in places, and although I could wade along the road in, I was up to the tops of my wellies not far past the waymarker post in the foreground of the photo of the car park and Tern Hide.

It would be very advisable not to visit in too much of a hurry tomorrow! It is highly likely the main car park will remain closed for a day or two, depending on how quickly the levels drop, and even if Tern Hide becomes accessible by skirting the edge of the car park along slightly higher ground, welly boots will definitely be needed.

The south side of the reserve will hopefully open as usual tomorrow, although again welly boots might be useful for some parts!

Sadly we have had to cancel tomorrows Willow Bird Feeder event, in addition to today’s Weave a Willow Snail event which had been postponed from last Sunday, but hopefully it will stop raining soon and we can get back to normal!

Reserve CLOSED Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th February

The nature reserve will remain closed this weekend, Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th February, again due to the forecast of strong winds and heavy rain. This closure applies to all hides and footpaths.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused, but don’t think a visit here will be a pleasant one!

We anticipate being back open Monday morning as usual, but will post again if this is not the case. Hopefully the weather will improve soon!

Boxes for birds and bugs

At the end of January we made bug homes and bird boxes with our Young Naturalists. They took their bug homes away with them but the bird boxes have since been put up on the reserve by volunteer Brenda who monitors them throughout the nesting season. The past couple of years we have enjoyed spending a session with Brenda and helping out with the nest box monitoring, and we are looking forward to doing the same again this spring.

They particularly enjoyed using Geoff’s bench drill to drill the holes in the bug homes and his pyrography kit to decorate both them and the bird boxes.

Their finished bug homes and bird boxes looked great and I’m sure the birds and bugs will appreciate them.

As we were building the boxes we were distracted by the kingfisher which has been frequenting the pond behind the Education Centre. Best viewed from inside, they enjoyed taking photos through the windows and viewing it through binoculars.

Photographing the kingfisher

Watching the kingfisher

New member Issy managed to take some great photos:

Kingfisher 9 Issy Fry

Kingfisher by Issy Fry

Kingfisher Izzy Fry

Kingfisher by Issy Fry

Our woodwork filled session would not have been possible without the huge efforts of volunteer Geoff, who pre-cut all the bug home and bird box kits and provided all the tools and fixings including the bench drill and pyrography kit. The group do really enjoy building things and it’s great to see how much those who are now on their second or third box building session have grown in confidence. Thank you Geoff!

We also found time during the session once again take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch, visiting the Woodland Hide for the fourth year in a row. Our records were definitely not as numerous as previous years and we recorded 14 species and 32 birds altogether: 8 chaffinch; 3 blue tit; 3 long-tailed tit; 3 blackbird; 2 dunnock; 2 great tit; 2 coal tit; 2 goldfinch; 2 robin; 1 nuthatch; 1 jay; 1 magpie; 1 reed bunting and 1 song thrush.

Jay Issy Fry

Jay by Issy Fry

By comparison, last year we recorded 91 birds and 18 different species. Our missing species this year were siskin, brambling, woodpigeon, jackdaw and great spotted woodpecker (last year we did not record song thrush). The most abundant species last year was also chaffinch, however we recorded 38 at one time compared to this years 8.

This was also the first year our number of different species had decreased, with 15 different species recorded in 2017, 16 in 2018 and then 18 in 2019.

Comparing the results to the past three years is interesting – this winter has definitely been milder resulting in fewer birds coming down to the feeders and fewer finches in general. The absence of brambling this winter, the odd sighting of a lesser redpoll and fewer siskin on the feeders has certainly been noticeable. As a result we have not been ground feeding like previous years as there haven’t been the bird numbers and the feeders have so far provided enough food.

There is still time for a cold snap, but perhaps we will have to wait until next winter for our usual winter visitors.

Our Young Naturalists group is kindly supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

 

Feathered Friends

Last Monday we went bird watching with our Wildlife Tots, enjoying some bird themed craft activities before heading outside to see what we could spot.

We began by making bird puppets out of recycled materials and binoculars to help us with our bird watching.

They loved the binoculars!

We then headed outside in search of some cuddly toy birds and had a go at naming them and deciding whether each bird would prefer to live in the woodland or on water.

We then headed to the Woodland Hide to see which woodland birds we could spot and visited Ivy Silt Pond in search of some ducks. In the afternoon with a smaller group we also managed to visit Ivy South Hide.

Jon even did a bit of bird watching from the badger:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bird watching from the badger by Rex Waygood

We finished off the session by making bird feeders, mixing suet, raisins, sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts together before squishing the mix in to a pine cone.

Hopefully the birds will enjoy them!

Next month we will be looking for signs of Spring and enjoying some fun sensory games and activities on a short wander around the reserve. Details including how to book via Eventbrite can be found on our website.

A huge thank you to volunteer Rex for joining us on both sessions and taking some lovely photos!

Reserve closure update

Following the upgrading of tomorrow’s weather warning, we have decided to completely close the reserve. All car parks and hides, including Tern Hide, will remain closed for the day.

As the weather warning is continuing into Monday, we will post again to confirm we are open so please do check with us before making a special journey.

It is probably best not to travel tomorrow, if you do have to please stay safe!

Advanced warning: reserve closure…

With the current weather forecast for the weekend predicting strong winds from Saturday evening into the early hours of Monday morning, we are anticipating keeping the reserve closed this Sunday,  9th February.

Tern Hide and the main nature reserve car park will open as usual allowing visitors to view Ibsley Water from this point only, all other hides and reserve footpaths will remain closed.

Should things change we will post again Sunday morning to say we are open.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused, but the forecast suggests a day somewhere indoors away from the wind and rain would be advisable!

Not a bad first visit to Blashford Lakes…

Nine year old Justin, from St Catherine’s Primary School in Colehill, visited Blashford Lakes for the first time with his Dad on Sunday – and, following their memorable encounter with “the” kingfisher at Ivy South Hide, Justin’s Dad went to the trouble to share a couple of the pictures he (Justin) had taken and which they were both, justifiably, very pleased with!

Thanks for sharing!

Kingfisher by Justin (aged 9)

Kingfisher by Justin (aged 9)

Kingfisher by Justin (aged 9)

Kingfisher by Justin (aged 9)

Signs of Spring…

Yesterday was grey, murky and pretty miserable – this morning the sun is out and everywhere is looking beautiful, and yes, despite an apparent lack of winter so far this year, Spring does seem to be drawing near, if not upon us already.

Although we have yet to encounter any on the nature reserve earlier in the week I found some frogspawn in a shallow pool near home in the New Forest and the last couple of evenings I have encountered “toad patrols” out helping  migrating toads cross roads safely outside Poulner and Sway – these volunteers do an amazing job under difficult, and, at times, dangerous conditions in the dark, saving many thousands of toads from an untimely and unnatural demise under the wheels of our cars. Readers of this blog are likely to be considerate, respectful and appreciative of their efforts, but of course many motorist’s are not and quickly succumb to “road rage” if required to slow down on their commute home so do watch out, take care and vouch for the toad volunteers where ever and whenever you can!

On the reserve itself the great spotted woodpeckers are drumming on their favourite drumming posts, including the usual dead “stag head” branches of the large oak between the river and the centre car park, tits are being seen investigating nest boxes and although the snowdrops have been flowering for some weeks, and scarlet elf cups fruiting for some weeks, this week they have been doing so in force and, down by the Woodland Hide, the first of our wild daffodils is now flowering too:

A more unusual, or at least early, first sighting of the year was that of a large female grass snake outside Ivy North Hide this morning and reported to me by visitors Mark & Alison as I wrote this blog post! Mark very kindly emailed me his picture:

First grass snake of 2020 by Mark Dartnall

First grass snake of 2020 by Mark Dartnall

Elsewhere it is really business as usual with not much changing – still no bittern, still a kingfisher at Ivy South Hide, still loads of wildfowl on Ivy Lake and still a starling murmurartion in the valley, although this does now seem to have moved from Mockbeggar to a roost site west of the A338 just north of Ellingham Village and best viewed (hopefully against a stunning sunset!) from the viewing platform at the back of the main car park.

With the lighter evenings the starlings are now starting to gather shortly after 4.30pm and going to roost by about 5pm. It’s not often the car park is closed bang on 4.30pm, but it does happen on occasion and although we are as flexible as possible sometimes the staff or volunteers locking up do need to leave when they need to leave. As the evenings continue to draw out do consider parking the car outside the car park gates, safely off the roadside, so you can watch  the starlings perform without interruption should the site need securing in a more timely fashion!

Birds, Birds, Birds

Blashford Lakes are a great place to see lots of birds. Both Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake have large numbers of duck at present with each often having over one thousand wigeon on most days recently.

wigeon

drake wigeon

There are also hundreds of pintail on Ibsley Water, they have been attracted up the Avon Valley along with a lot of the wigeon due to the flooding of the fields. These ducks tend to spend the day resting on the open water, only going out to feed in the valley after dark. By contrast most of the gadwall will be found feeding on the lakes during the day, with fewer flying out at dusk.

gadwall

drake gadwall

Ivy Lake is home to a large cormorant roost, these fly in at dusk to perch high in the trees around the lake shore, so far this winter I have managed to count only about 150 birds, but this roost can get to over 200.

cormorant roost

cormorant roost

For really large numbers of birds the time to visit is just before dusk, if you stand on the viewpoint at the back of the Main Car Park, from where you can see several thousand gulls fly in to roost on the water and tens of thousands of starling. Last evening the starling roosted in two locations, most to the north of the lake, but several thousand also to the west.

roosts-001

Starling murmuration

The birds were making impressive shapes in the air as they were being chased by at least one peregrine and we also saw a marsh harrier fly past. We could also see goosander flying in to roost on the lake and as it got dark a load of cackling greylag flew in to spend the night on the water.

The reserve is not all about birds though and as I locked up in the morning there were three roe deer feeding in the reeds just beside Ivy North Hide.

roe deer

Roe deer in the reeds

If you are visiting, I can now report that the Main Car park is open as usual as the flooding has now receded.