I’ve had a very busy few weeks trying to get through as much scrub cutting as possible before the end of February. Since the 4th February I’ve had a student from Sparsholt with me on work experience. Chloe is studying Ecology and Conservation and is in her first year, so we have spent a lot of time out doing practical conservation work and talking about why the work is needed, and the species that may benefit from the different work we’ve been doing.
Working with the Fishlake Meadows volunteers we have been trying to get blocks of scrub cleared, and the material added in to the dead hedges. This winter has been much wetter than last year and there have been several days when the water has been too deep to get to the scrub. Clearing the scrub prevents succession in to wet willow woodland, allows the reedbeds to expand and improves views from the canal path. Building the dead hedges with the cut material creates wonderful habitat for birds and invertebrates to find food and shelter in.
At the end of Chloe’s first week, we headed to St Catherine’s Hill to help the Winchester team with some hedge laying. This turned out to be a very wet and windy day, so was a little miserable being on top of a hill! It was a great opportunity for both of us to practice our hedge laying, and we were able to get quite a bit done. The day had to be cut short when the wind picked up in the afternoon and it began hailing. Fortunately it didn’t put Chloe off enough not to come back the following week.
We have also had quite a few days with the Blashford volunteers, allowing Chloe to see a different reserve, experience working with different volunteers and to see how work can differ between sites. With the Blashford volunteers we have been doing more tree felling of sycamores and grey alder and clearing up larger trees felled by contractors. In between all of this we were able to have a look around the hides so Chloe could get a good look at the birds and learn a few more of them. This included a very good view of the bittern as it moved from one area of reeds to another.
Along the way we’ve seen some great wildlife, lots of flowers are coming in to bloom, including some lovely patches of snowdrops at Blashford. While walking to the hides at Testwood Lakes we saw some lovely bright pink hazel flowers. There have been plenty of birds around at the Fishlake Meadows screens we’ve seen pintail, teal, shoveler and pochard. We’ve heard lots of cetti’s warbler, water rail and reed bunting, and have in fact had a few very good views of cetti’s warbler, which as many of you may know is a novelty. At Testwood Lakes around 200 lapwing were flying around or resting, giving us a good look at their beautiful green colouring and crest, it was also a delight to hear their squeaking calls.
There seems to be a lot of colour appearing already as many spring flowers are coming through, primroses are now in flower at Blashford, as well as lesser celandine and wild daffodils. At Fishlake Meadows some violets are flowering and scarlet elf cups are adding to the colours to be seen, they are getting particularly large now.
Yesterday on Chloe’s penultimate day of work experience she was very lucky to get some even better views of the bittern at Blashford Lakes. I went along a bit later to see if I could get a glimpse and hopefully a photo too. I did manage to get a photo, but was only a record shot at best, it was lovely to see it again and I may get a chance next week to get a better photo. We finished Chloe’s placement with a final walk around Fishlake Meadows, it was a bit of a grey foggy morning but there was plenty of noise coming from the reed beds. There were lots of reed buntings singing away, which we didn’t hear on Wednesday and many cetti’s warblers and water rails joining in. We even got another very good view of a cetti’s warbler as a wren chased it away. At least 2 great white egrets were moving around, and lots of geese and gulls were making a lot of noise, I suspected a bird of prey may be troubling them, but we didn’t manage to spot one.
Think I passed you both at Fishlake this morning. There was a kestrel up on the wires by one of the pylons but I only saw the one GWE. I also saw lots of gulls circling but again I could not see an obvious bird of prey although by then the kestrel had moved and was no longer on the wire.
Great work by the Fishlake volunteer team once again!