Weather warning news and a general catch up

Have been planning on writing a blog for a while as it has been far too long since the last post, but a yellow weather warning for wind and particularly strong winds forecast for overnight has finally prompted me to post!

If the weather is as unpleasant tomorrow as the forecast predicts it will be we don’t anticipate the reserve being particularly busy tomorrow (we’re aware of only two visitors so far today and they weren’t here long!).

If you are planning a visit here tomorrow (Thursday 11th March) do check here on the blog for site opening updates first, and do not plan to arrive first thing as even if the site does open tomorrow we will certainly be doing a site check when we arrive to ascertain that it is safe to open to visitors before opening the gates to the car park a little later than normal, assuming they open at all.

Todays weather is a far cry from that of the last few days which have been really very pleasant out of the wind in the sunshine. Nature has certainly been responding to the increase in temperatures and daylight length.

Bob reported seeing his first grass snake on Wednesday last week and indeed Tracy and I have both also seen the same snake basking in the same location on several occasions since. Adders have also now emerged and can be seen basking from the shelter of the dead-hedges along the footpath through the reedbed between Lapwing and Goosander Hide.

A beautiful and most welcome sight of Spring! One of several females seen on Monday – you can tell she is female due to the bronze colouration, males being silver.

Other animals who are stirring or making their presence felt this Spring include black-tailed godwit who have been present around Ibsley Water in significant numbers of up to 2,000 or more last week and really putting on quite spectacular flight displays at times. Although staff have yet to see one, sand martins have also been reported flying around Ibsley Water over the last few days. Green woodpecker, noticeable by their absence the last couple of years have been “yaffling” fairly consistently and the great spotted woodpeckers have also been drumming of course too. Nest boxes and natural cavities are all being investigated for their potential as nest sites by any number of birds, most conspicuous of which have been the nuthatches who have been very busy in numerous locations as they inspect the “real estate”.

Drier nights (tonight and last night being the exceptions!) have also led to our running the light trap more regularly for moths and although not teeming with moths in the morning, the rewards have generally been worth the effort of putting it out:

Yellow horned moth (is it just me or is it doing rather a good impression of a cat?!)
Oak beauty

On the mammal front the badgers, whose sett is in the vicinity of Woodland Hide, seem to have made a massive comeback – they all but disappeared from this location a few years ago for reasons unknown, but were clearly back last year and this Spring are incredibly active with any number of fresh diggings, latrines and piles of discarded bedding materialising!

One of the new (or newly “renovated” at least) sett entrances, with the old discarded bedding turfed out and visible on top of the spoil to the left of the picture.
Signs of so much badger activity!

The first of the wild daffodils started flowering 2-3 weeks ago but have only started to come into their best over the last few days:

Wild daffodils adjacent to Woodland Hide
In my opinion at least, one of our loveliest of Spring sights

Other wildflowers that have been becoming more prominent in recent days include coltsfoot, lesser celandine, primroses and willow catkins:

Coltsfoot
Beautiful lesser celandines
“Pussy” willow catkins, just now beginning to open and reveal their pollen riches.

I’ve often pondered the “yellow-ness” of Spring – certainly not all of our Spring flowers are yellow, but it is true that a great many are, as illustrated above, so I did a bit of research on this phenomena a couple of weeks ago and the general belief seems to be that this colour must be the most obvious to insects throughout the relatively low hours of daylight early in the year. Whatever the actual reason, all of these bright, colourful, flowers are a most welcome burst of colour after the greyness of winter! Another such welcome splash of colour is the vivid red of the scarlet elf cups which thrive on the decaying wood in the damp and shady areas of Blashford woodland, although having been fruiting for several months they are now starting to lose some of their vibrancy and will not be with us for very much longer:

Scarlet elf cup fungi

Other welcome signs of Spring include the slow but steady greening up of our tree’s and hedgerows, with the leaf buds of both elder and hawthorn now swelling and opening:

Elder
Hawthorn. This in the planted “lazily laid” hawthorn hedge that Bob has been working on in sections with the volunteers along the A338 for the last few years: reaping the rewards of all their hard work, it is becoming quite a fine dense hedgerow which, although not as pretty as a traditionally laid and woven hedge, is far easier to produce and at least as good for wildlife!

A less welcome sign of better weather is an increase in the number of “rogue” visitors accessing the site. Although by far the majority of visitors visit, use and respect the nature reserve as we intend a small minority do not. Illegal fishing and poaching activity has noticeably increased on the nature reserve, particularly on Ellingham Lake where it is less of a wildlife conservation issue, but also on Ibsley Water where it does pose significant risks to the ground nesting birds who nest around it and who are so readily disturbed by trespassers, be they anglers, birders or walkers who “just want to look at the lake”. Fly-tipping and of course littering, the latter of which is not usually an issue at Blashford Lakes fortunately, has also increased, and I was very saddened to see that most awful and unnecessary of modern British countryside sights for the first time at Blashford Lakes just a couple of weeks ago: that of a plastic bag of dog mess swinging from the branches of a tree along the Ivy Lake/Rockford permissive footpath 😦 .

Readers of this blog are, I am sure, all respectful of our wildlife generally and of our nature reserve particularly, so please do let us know if you witness anyone behaving inappropriately. There often is no one in the office to pick up the phone but you are welcome to call 01425 472760 and leave a message, or alternatively email blashfordlakes@hiwwt.org.uk – if you could include a date, time, place and brief description of the wrong-doer and wrong-doing it would be very helpful, particularly as at least some of the inappropriate activity is undertaken on a fairly routine basis by the same individuals.

Please do not however attempt to challenge anyone directly as we would not want a more significant incident to deal with!

Sadly, like elsewhere in the County and across the country, we are seeing a small increase in antisocial behaviour at Blashford Lakes 😦

With this Monday seeing us, as a nation, begin our journey out of lockdown with the children returning to school, the Trust is reviewing how we manage our work and sites alongside the easing of restrictions.

Some of our volunteer wardens will return this week adding to eyes and ears “on the ground” which will no doubt help with some of the aftermath of less welcome visitors and all being well our Welcome Volunteers will return at the end of the month and it is at the end of the month that we will review making the portable toilets available to visitors as well. For the time-being the guidance from the Government is to “stay local” and we are operating our sites under that premis.

Look forward to welcoming everyone back soon! In the meantime, stay safe.

4 thoughts on “Weather warning news and a general catch up

  1. A lovely blog Jim. Well done. That “cat” moth is an incredible photo!!!! Much great news in the season’s progress but as always some sad news….such pay my Pension now πŸ˜‰
    Looking forward to getting back to Volunteering when travel restrictions allow πŸ™‚

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