Saturday 11th May, the sun was shining and by 9.15am the main car park and pedestrian area outside Tern Hide was already crowded with volunteers and staff from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological Society, along with young people from across the south of the County.
You could be forgiven for thinking there was an unusually rare bird sighting given the buzz but in fact it was the gathering point for the Bird Trail 2019 bird watching and wildlife event for groups of children and young people organised by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in partnership with Hampshire Ornithological Society.
With teams from Blashford’s very own Wildlife Watch & Young Naturalists groups, Titchfield Haven Wildlife Explorers, 1st Burley Cub Scouts, 4th Sway Beaver Scouts and two teams entered from both 3rd Ringwood and 1st Fordingbridge Scout Groups a wildlife packed day was install for all.
Once assembled and registered the groups were introduced to their HOS volunteer for the day, who would serve as both a guide and bird sightings verifier, and everyone made their way across the road to await the event briefing, practicing their binocular skills en-route.
Then they were off – each team vying to be that which saw, identified and recorded the most species of bird (and other wildlife – the number of which would be critical in the event of a tie in the number of birds seen).
Following a prescribed route encompassing Tern Hide, Ivy South Hide, Woodland Hide and Ivy North Hide and interspersed with a raft of other wildlife activities all the teams were kept plenty busy enough throughout the day!
One of the highlights of the Trail is always the bird ringing demonstration, this year kindly provided by regular Blashfords British Trust for Ornithology volunteer bird ringers Kevin Sayer and Brenda Penwarden.
There was not a huge catch, but it was steady for most of the day (all bar the team saw “birds in the hand” and a couple even saw jays which was a real treat).
At the end of the event the totals were; Great Tit 7, Blue Tit 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Greenfinch 6, Wren 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Jay 2 – as recorded on Kevin’s record form below:
Groups also enjoyed a close encounter with captive birds of prey at a static demonstration by Liberty’s Owl, Raptor And Reptile Centre :
… and a bird feeding strategy activity provided by New Forest National Park Authority Rangers who also talked to the groups about the pressures that recreation is having on ground nesting birds in the New Forest and stressing the importance of walking on footpaths and keeping dogs on leads at this time of year in particular to minimise disturbance to these birds.
At other times and elsewhere during the event the children also had opportunities to make badges with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, dissect kestrel & owl pellets, learn about moths at the light trap and pond and river dip.
All in all a real treat for wildlife enthusiasts and an opportunity for HIWWT and HOS to hopefully inspire the next generation of conservationists and bird watchers!
Lunch was the only point in the day to stop, relax and recover in readiness for the next whirlwind of wildlife watching activity:
All good things must come to an end though and by 2.45pm the first of the teams were on their way back to the new Welcome Hut, which doubled as team registration and event contact point for the Bird Trail, where Kay and Linda then had the not insignificant and unenviable task of checking and tallying the bird sightings totals at high speed while I adlibbed with the crowd until the results were in!
And finally the results were in!
…and just in case there are any calls of foul play given that it was a Blashford team that won overall, I should point out that 4th Sway Beavers, of whom I have the honour of being the Scout Leader, came in last place. Even so, they still managed to record a total of 30 birds, so well done to them :o) !
Everyone who took part (including volunteers and group leaders who desired them!) left with a unique woven badge (sponsored by Cameron Bespolka Trust) and a Bird Trail certificate (kindly printed by Pearsons – Romsey office) personally signed by Bird Trail advocate, HOS President, naturalist, photographer and television presenter Chris Packham:
Thank you to our sponsors, to everyone who took part and, in particular, to all of the volunteers who gave up their time to help make the day the great success it was – some at the very last minute following a late plea for additional help.
The Bird Trail 2019 was sponsored by:
In addition we would like to thank the following organisations for supporting the Bird Trail 2019 with their displays and activities on the day:
British Trust for Ornithology, Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre and New Forest National Park Authority.
Planning and preparation for Bird Trail 2020 will start soon!
All photo’s kindly taken by HIWWT volunteer photographer Rex Waygood unless stated otherwise on the caption.