Preparing for the floods and willow bird feeders

Very mixed weather today – as forecast, though the lovely weather this morning and even this afternoon on and off (actually better than predicted) did draw in a number of visitors, some of whom joined in todays DIY willow bird feeder event.

On the wildlife front an otter was seen again today this morning – “just” one, and a distant view, to the south of Ivy South Hide, but still more than I have managed to glimpse! Bittern, great white egret, red crested pochard and black neck grebe and the mealy redpoll were also all reported at different times throughout the day.

Unsurprisingly after the terrific rainfall yesterday afternoon and last night (10 mm when I checked the gauge at the end of yesterday and an additional 14mm by lunch time), the main car park has been closed again today due to flooding – though the Tern Hide has been open as normal, but only accessible in wellies. Depending on how much more rain we have today and overnight it may be possible to open it (the car park) again tomorrow. I’m afraid Goosander Hide is still closed, but I am reasonably confident that it should finally be sorted by next weekend at the latest.

Following a request which I made a couple of weeks ago, and somewhat appropriately given the current weather, the Spinnaker Sailing Club have donated us a small dinghy – it needs a bit of work, but should be ship-shape soon:

Pete and Rex hard at work restoring our "new" boat.

Not Noah, but rather Pete and Rex hard at work restoring our “new” boat.

It needs a bit of repair work to the fibreglass to tidy it up and make it safe, which we won’t be able to do until we have a reasonable spell of dry weather, but I’m looking forward to its being installed and ready for use – and not for the heavy rain which I suggested earlier, but rather the floods of children who I’m sure will enjoy playing on it when they visit the Centre.

This morning was the “Weave a feeder” event, which went rather well I think, with some lovely feeders constructed by some lovely people – two different fat ball holder designs, both made out of willow and both functional, though one rather fancier looking than the other! First of all here are a few of the participants with their finished articles and then I’ll take you through the steps for making the fancy one if you want to have a go at home (don’t have willow? Don’t worry, speak to a member of staff when you visit us next and we can provide some for a suitable donation to the Trust!):

First to finish! Max with two expertly crafted feeders

First to finish! Max with two expertly crafted feeders

Ruth and Susan proudly display their finished feeders!

Ruth and Susan proudly display their finished feeders!

How to make a fancy feeder:

Prepare a surface to work your willow from – in the past I’ve just poked the withies into some soft ground, but given that the forecast was not looking so great yesterday I prepared some blocks:

The "starting block"

The “starting block”

Next insert your 5 withies (if using a block like that pictured DON’T make the mistake that I did the first time and jam the willow in as you’ll have a devil of a job removing them when you are done!):

140201Blashfordwillowfeeder3 by J Day_resize

Note the safety glasses – the willow withies, or whips, really are quite whippy and safety glasses are recommended, particularly if you are working with some one else.

The next step is to bend over withy 1 into the inside of withy 3. Number 1 is the withy that is the “odd one out”, i.e. that which does not form a corner of the square frame:

Withy 1 bent to the inside of withy 3...

Withy 1 bent to the inside of withy 3…

Next take withy 3 and bend this on the inside of withy 4:

Withy 3 bent to the inside of withy 4...

Withy 3 bent to the inside of withy 4…

And then, you guessed it, bend withy 4 over to the inside of with 5:

Withy 4 bent to the inside of withy 5...

Withy 4 bent to the inside of withy 5…

Withy 5 bent to the inside of withy 2...

Withy 5 bent to the inside of withy 2…

And finally, withy 2 bends over to the inside of what was withy 1, now in the original position of withy 3 (yes I know that doesn’t make sense, but hopefully it does if you look at the picture!):

Withy 2 bent to the inside of withy 1...

Withy 2 bent to the inside of withy 1…

And now you carry on round, always folding the next withy in the sequence to the inside of the next to form an ever decreasing spiral:

...now just keep going...

…now just keep going…

...and going...

…and going…

....and going! Until it looks something like this...

….and going! Until it looks something like this…

Next take the withy ends one at a time and post them back on themselves through the small hole at the top of your “pyramid” and round to come out and pull tight alongside the “legs” holding the feeder in the block (a flat bladed crew driver at this point can help to prise the feeder out enough to give you a bit of “wriggle” room and also to coax the withy through):

Tidy away the "tops" by posting them through on themselves.

Tidy away the “tops” by posting them through on themselves.

Finally prise the feeder out of the block, being sure to keep hold of withy 1 at the base to prevent your hard work all unravelling and then secure this by trapping it between the join made by withies 2 and 5.

Sorry! At this point I didn’t have a hand free to take any pictures! You are nearly done now; just take a couple of the longer “tops” and weave/tie them together to make a hanger and then trim off all the extra lengths of willow, leaving a length of ~2cm so the feeder doesn’t unravel as/if it dries out:

As viewed from the side...

As viewed from the side…

...and the top

…and the top

Now just add the fat balls of your choice, or mix up some suet with a seed selection and pack it in. The birds will love it, it looks great (I think so anyway!) and it is 100% sustainable and compostable (but not squirrel proof!).

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