Busy week and a January grass snake

Another very busy (but satisfying) week on the reserve has left very little time for blogging, but on the plus side we’ve achieved a lot. As usual we are in debt and grateful to the efforts of our brilliant volunteer teams. We’ve cleaned hides, coppiced and pollarded willows, harvested firewood, translocated blackthorn and aspen saplings, replaced signs and cleaned river debris from the Tern hide car park.

car park

Cleaning Tern hide car park after the Dockens Water flooded it


Volunteers putting up signs

My favourite day of the week was yesterday when we carried out a count of all the water birds and wildfowl on every lake in the area. After some heavy rain first thing the sun came and conditions were ideal for counting. We’ve not had time to collate the data yet but some of the highlights were just under a hundred pintail on Ibsley Water, 38 pochard on Spinnaker lake, 15 goldeneye on Rockford lake, 92 teal, 2 kingfishers and a bittern on Ivy lake. The mid morning weather was exceptionally good for a while, the kind of morning you cannot fail to be glad to be out in the countryside.

By far the most unusual sighting of the day though came in the afternoon when volunteer Emily was trimming bramble back from a planted guelder rose by the education centre and we spotted a basking grass snake.


Grass snake (photo by Emily)

It’s not unusual to see January adders or common lizards occasionally but a grass snake is very unusual as they are a far less hardy species with a more southerly distribution. It appeared to be very healthy and slithered quickly away into the vegetation, so the only explanation must be the exceptionally mild weather we are experiencing.

Other wildlife sightings reported yesterday included the great white egret from Ivy North hide at 3.30pm, the Slavonian grebe, black-necked grebe, and ring-billed gull on Ibsley Water and a firecrest feeding amongst holly along the Dockens Water.

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