The Big Blashford Bird Watch – with a little help from our friends

It’s been another busy week of school holiday activities this week – and to be honest, pretty busy generally with the lovely sunshine we have had every day except Wednesday filling both the car parks and the hides with visitors.

Being winter, and birds being a Blashford winter speciality, birds have been the theme of all of our half-term activities this week, be they with families from the Ringwood and Fordingbridge Children’s Centres, public events, or our “Wild Days Out” activities.

This week we were delighted to host Jayson and John from Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre . The centre is named after Liberty, their Alaskan Bald Eagle, whom they did not bring, but they did bring a number of native birds of prey to “show and tell” to the children on both Wild Days Out activity days and the children were treated to an intimate talk about, and close encounter with, a kestrel, peregrine falcon, tawny owl and barn owl, all of which can of course be seen wild on the nature reserve. Therefore the golden eagle was somewhat of a (nice!) surprise – for all that it fit the bill of native, I’m not sure when last a wild golden eagle will have graced the skies above the Avon Valley! Indeed it was with the golden eagle which one of the children almost had a VERY close encounter with:

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Whoops!

Fortunately it missed her (very narrowly)!

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The golden eagle was a surprise!

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Peregrine falcon – apparently with their telescopic vision they can pick out a wood pigeon from 40 miles away!

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A kestrel in the hand worth two in a bush?

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Tawny owl

The highlight for I think everyone (staff included) was not only being so much closer to the birds than would have been the case at a “normal” demonstration, but also being able to stroke both the tawny and barn owl:

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Befriending a barn owl

We are very grateful to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre for supporting our event this way – it was really appreciated by the children and I must stress that they very kindly demonstrated their birds free of charge to support Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, something they were only too pleased to be able to do as long standing “Wildlife Investors” of the Trust.

To find out how your business can support the work of the Trust at Blashford Lakes, or anywhere across the two counties, follow the link or contact Steph Watson on 01489 774412 or email Steph.Watson@hiwwt.org.uk.

But back to “Wild Days Out” – to be fair Liberty’s were a hard act to follow but the children did thoroughly enjoy a range of activities the rest of the day, including making popcorn bird feeders, bird puppets out of a mixture of woodland and recycled materials, making wooden “crow calls” (they were supposed to be duck, but in the end we decided that they were probably nearer crow – if not peacock some of them!), and finished by splitting into two teams for a “bird race” competition to see who could see the most bird species.

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Popping corn for bird feeders (any excuse for a camp fire)

It has to be said that the bird race really captured the children’s imagination and many of the visitors who were (un)fortunate enough to share a hide with us commented on how lovely it was to see the children as keen and excited by the wildlife as they were.

Tracy’s team won day one with 38 species verses our 30, (even after I had included the plastic eagle owl from the water skiing clubs pontoon!), but I’m pleased to report that my team won day two with 36 species verses her 30… either way none of the teams did badly in about an hours bird watching. Credit for that probably more down to how good Blashford is rather than our birding skills!

Wild Days Out will be back at Easter with amphibian and reptile themed activities see the Trust events page to find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

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