On Sunday a small but extremely keen group of youngsters gathered for our first ever Blashford Lakes Wildlife Rangers session. We spent the day exploring many different aspects of the reserve, beginning with some Himalayan balsam pulling in the wet alder area to the right hand side of the path which leads to the Woodland hide.
Now is a good time to begin balsam pulling as the young plants are becoming more recognisable and their seeds have not yet developed. Himalayan balsam can spread quickly as its seeds have an explosive nature and disperse widely, with many dropping into water courses and travelling downstream. As this particular part of the reserve is prone to flooding by the Dockens, it’s a good place to look.
Another good reason for pulling the balsam up now, is that the nettles haven’t quite overtaken everything else and it’s easier for us to remove the invasive plant without being stung in the process! The recent showers though have put paid to any slow growing nettles!
We combined our balsam hunt with some tracking, as the ground in amongst the alders is particularly soft. We were lucky enough to spot some good deer tracks in the mud and had a go at taking a plaster cast.
The hooves leave two slots which are usually parallel but can appear splayed if the deer is moving at speed. We placed a ring of card around the track, paper clipping it together at the top and bottom and pushing the soft mud up around the outside to make sure our plaster mix didn’t run free.
We then carefully mixed the plaster before pouring it into the ring of card, and carrying on with our search for balsam while it dried.
After carefully cleaning up our plaster cast and removing a large number of young Himalayan balsam plants, we decided it was a good time to have some lunch! The afternoon was filled with having a go at fire lighting, pond dipping, and a visit to both the Woodland hide and Ivy North hide, so all in all we had a varied day!
Our Wildlife Rangers group is specifically for young people aged 13 to 18, providing them with the opportunity to get outside, learn new skills and improve their wildlife knowledge whilst having fun. The group meet monthly from 10am until 2.30pm, usually on the last Sunday of the month, for practical conservation tasks and other activities such as bushcraft and surveys. There is no need for parental accompaniment, but all young people must have completed a parental consent form before coming along to a session.
If you love the sound of our Wildlife Rangers group and would like to join in, please contact us for more details by emailing us at BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk or telephoning 01425 472760.