All in a days work!

Do you remember back when the kids were all at school stuck inside and doing exams etc. etc. when the sun shone all day and the temperatures soared?! No, I don’t either, but I do have a vague recollection of it and I think it must have been warm back then when Tracy and I were planning our Wild Days Out activity days or I’m sure we wouldn’t have come up with such a hare-brained scheme as snorkeling in the Dockens Water!

Actually, maybe we would…

Anyway, with the date drawing nigh this week I decided it was about time I braved the water to recce the river and complete the risk assessment for the activity. Having put it off until today (all for perfectly valid reasons I might add) I really had no choice but to go for it this morning, much to our regular and stalwart volunteer Jacki’s amusement I have to say. She very kindly agreed to be my “shore cover” for my intrepid exploration and, after various jokes at my expense, she performed the job admirably and very obligingly chose to ignore the expletives as I entered the water (glad I’ve got that out of the way in advance of going in with the children – I shall be biting down very hard on my snorkel mouthpiece in a couple of weeks time!). As well as providing safety cover she was also able to record the first ever(?) snorkel of the Dockens Water for posterity!

Dockens Water Snorkeling by Jacki Griffith

I’m going in!

River snorkeling by Jacki Griffith

…and in! Brrrrrrrrr!

Actually it wasn’t too bad once I’d acclimatized (gone numb?) to the cold and I’m sure the kids are going to have a ball – any children interested in joining us can still do so as there are (surprisingly few!) spaces left on the Snorkel Stream Safari Wild days Out events on Wednesday 30th August (7-12 year olds) and Thursday 31st August (5-8 year olds). Follow the links from the HIWWT Shop events listings here for booking instructions:

Sadly I did not find myself surrounded by an Eden like plethora of brown trout, bullhead and caddisfly and dragonfly larvae – or if I did the water was too dark to see it. I could see my hand in front of my face but that was about it! The only wildlife sighting of note was that of a mink (unfortunately not the otter only moments before I had mused over my chances of encountering…). It jumped off a shallow shoal back onto the river bank where it paused on a tree branch to contemplate us watching it at really very close quarters (just not close enough to get a picture with my phone camera under the trees as we were). It only scampered off when I tried getting closer, approaching to within about 4m. I can’t decide if it was just audacious or completely perplexed by the sight that I presented!

More welcome than the mink was this sighting of otter spraint on a prominent rock in the river channel a little further on – otters use their faeces as territorial markers and as such deposit them in obvious locations of which this was a classic example. And it was definitely otter rather than mink as I did give it a sniff and it had the characteristic tell-tale whiff of jasmine tea.


Otter spraint

Earlier in the week we joined the New Forest National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission for the WildPlay Day at Whitefield Moor near Brockenhurst and had lots of fun and played with lots of families with our “What’s brown and sticky?” activity station:


What’s brown and sticky?!

The answer? A stick of course! And clay – both of which were put to good use making a rather fine menagerie of stick and clay stick people and creatures!

It seems like a really long time ago now but this time a week ago we were meeting visitors at Ellingham Show and promoting the Blashford Lakes Partnership and the Wildlife Trust whilst showing off some of the pond life in a live virtual pond dip display and before that we were “Wild Days Out-ing” again, last week with a bio-blitz theme. Should I mention that my team beat Tracy’s on Thursday with 82 species to 81? Oh, I just did! I won’t mention she beat me the day before however…

Sweepnetting by Jim Day

Searching for inverts to add to the winning total in the meadow!

I think both teams managed to miss kingfisher on both days, but then we did not make it over to Goosander Hide where kingfisher have been perched most of the day every day as has been their want for the last few years at this time of year, much to the delight of the photographers. Word is getting out though and photographers are starting to moan that there is standing room only at times! There’s still a few sand martins coming and going from the wall and Walter (our semi-resident great white egret) is also often in the bay, as he was this afternoon when I headed up there to see how things were going (and yes, the kingfisher was there too!). If you just want to see kingfisher and aren’t worried about taking pictures Ivy North Hide is a safe bet at the moment too – volunteer Geoff took this one at Goosander though. Thanks Geoff:

Kingfisher by Geoff Knot

Kingfisher by Geoff Knot

And finally a lovely little flower to finish: Autumn ladies Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis, its scientific name very much “does what it says on the tin”!) a late flowering orchid, don’t flower every year on the reserve, or if they do are easily overlooked, but I saw this lovely little cluster of three this afternoon (thanks to Martin for his tip off earlier in the week!):

Autumn ladies tresses by Jim Day

Autumn ladies tresses

1 thought on “All in a days work!

  1. Pingback: An adventurous couple of days… | Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve

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