Almost there…

…by Lucy Wiltshire (Volunteer Placement)

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From earlier posts you may already know that over the past few months we have undergone many changes here at Blashford. Thanks to generous donations from local people, together with funding from the Veolia Environmental Trust (with money from the Landfill Communities Fund) and LEADER (part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) we have been able to update reserve signage, create a new pond, replace the old Tern Hide and add in additional new features for visitor engagement, including the ‘Wild Walk’ sculpture trail and Welcome Hut. Today’s blog will highlight some of these new developments just as they are coming to completion, so please do venture down to the reserve to discover them for yourself along with friends and family.

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The Welcome Hut

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Inside the Welcome Hut

Around the Education Centre much thought has been given to making the space accessible and beneficial for all, with a safer area for visiting groups and families to congregate and enter or exit the building and more picnic benches.  The wildlife has not been forgotten, with three large planters filled with many pollinator friendly plant species. Particular favourites are the Salvia and Marjoram, both of which are regularly visited by many types of familiar insects including the bumblebee (both shown in the photograph below). When visiting next make sure you stop by to look or take a few photographs of your own.  In addition, wildflower turf had been laid next to the Welcome Hut and this is currently being frequented by a dazzling array of damselflies.

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Bumblebee on Salvia

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Azure blue damselfly

As some eagle eyed readers may have already spotted from the photo at the start of this blog, we have also increased our offer to our youngest visitors to the reserve. Re-surfacing the car park to improve the drainage has removed the almost permanent puddle that was so popular with our Wildlife Tots groups and other visiting toddlers, so hopefully to compensate for the loss of this water feature we have built a sandpit, with leaf stepping stones leading from this to a tunnel (which used to be uncovered and behind the Education Shelter) and then on to the boat.

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Sandpit, tunnel and boat

The sandpit is now the first part of this mini adventure trail leading up the bank to the boat, and children can follow the oak leaf stepping stones through the wildflower tunnel.

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Stepping stones leading to the boat

The centre lobby has also been refurbished to include a new wildlife camera screen which currently lets visitors switch between live images of the new bird feeder station in front of the Woodland Hide as well as the popular pond camera. 

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Centre lobby

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New feeder station & Camera by Woodland Hide

New interpretation inside the Centre encourages visitors to think about how they can work towards making a wilder future and inspire not only themselves but also friends and family to take action, no matter how big or how small. Do share your pledge for wildlife with us by filling in a feather and adding it to our egret.

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One of the biggest changes has been to the Tern Hide, which was replaced in Spring with a whole new structure. The Tern Hide now offers a panoramic view of the lake, new seating and most excitingly a living roof which is looking brilliant as it becomes more established.

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Tern hide

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Viewing platform

From the viewing platform and the hide you can also see our newest tern raft which was just moved into place last week. Hopefully next year we will see some nesting pairs using the raft, with the aim to increase the colony numbers and to further chances of successful breeding, with the birds occupying more locations around the reserve.

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Tern raft on Ibsley Water

The new pond which again was dug earlier in the year is the only project yet to reach completion. The pond, located behind the Education Centre and next to the existing pond is awaiting a new fence which hopefully will be constructed over the next few months. This however has not stopped the wildlife from taking advantage and we are looking forward to being able to dip it once it has become a little more established.

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New Pond

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Female Emperor dragonfly egg laying in the new pond

This Female Emperor dragonfly was spotted laying eggs upon the fringed water lily beneath the surface of the water. Moreover this stunningly vivid Common Darter also paused to land on the boardwalk by the old pond – just long enough for a beautiful photo!

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Common Darter on the Boardwalk

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We also have a new donations box for visitors in the main lobby located between the office and kitchen. If you visit and enjoy all the developments to the reserve please do help us to continue improving the site by donating to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Without public donations the daily running and upkeep of the reserve would not be possible.

 

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us so far: our visitors for their support and patience during the interruptions which took place whilst the new infrastructure was being built and fitted; our lovely volunteers who have worked so hard to help us make these changes a reality; as well as to our funding partners and everyone who donated towards the Blashford Project who ultimately made these developments possible.

vet-logo eulogo New Forest LEADER

 

 

 

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Birds on display!

Hi everyone, its Emily here, long – term volunteer.

The reserve has been a hive of activity the last couple of weeks, with the arrival of some very fluffy, but very quick growing Lapwing chicks, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper.

In this blog I would like to send thanks on behalf of myself and the Blashford lakes staff to Lorne Bissell , David Stanley – Ward, and Mark Wright, who were kind enough to send us in some of the cracking shots they have taken, both here at Blashford, and also further a field in the local area.

I hope you all enjoy looking at these pictures as much as we all have!

rff©Lorne Bissell

Ruff by Lorne Bissell

lapwing chick©LB

Lapwing chick by Lorne Bissell

grasshopper warbler©Lorne Bissell

Grasshopper Warbler by Lorne Bissell

Lapwing chick by Mark Wright

Lapwing chick by Mark Wright

Lapwing chick and mum by Mark Wright

Lapwing family by Mark Wright

Common Sandpiper by Mark Wright

Common Sandpiper by Mark Wright

Ruff

Ruff by David Stanley – Ward

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Perfect willow flowers every time!

Hello, it’s Emily the long-term volunteer placement blogging again –  I know its been a long time since my last blog, but don’t worry I’m still alive over here, I’ve just been working hard!

So, what’s this blog all about?

Well in my spare time I like to indulge my love for whittling (and yes I still have all ten fingers) and with the local craft event this weekend (Sunday 2nd April) I thought I should get you all into the spirit of things by giving you a step by step ‘how to guide’ for making gypsy flowers. Don’t worry though, its not as extravagant as the ‘proper’ gypsy flowers, but I quite like this version and it’s a great one to do with the kids or grandkids over the coming Easter holidays.

So enough from me, lets get started!

First things first lets get the right materials, you will needs :- Rods of willow, no thicker then your thumb (any type of wood will do, but I find willow works a real treat).  A sharp fixed blade knife (note that a fixed blade is by far the safest knife to use for whittling). A pair of secateurs and a hand drill.

tools

Using the secateurs, cut a reasonable length of willow (note that roughly 5 / 6 inches should be a good working length, as one flower is about one inch in length). Carefully slice length ways down the rod, cutting thinly into the willow and stopping the cut roughly 10 cm before the end of the rod. Don’t be afraid to push the blade down hard as by its nature willow is a very forgiving material to work with, but of course be careful!

Stage 1

You then repeat slicing into the rod, rotating it slightly each time so that a petal formation starts to form. As you keep rotating the rod, gradually work your way towards the middle. On reaching the middle of the rod, you should have cut all the way through and your flower will become free. Your first flower is complete!

Once you have your finished flower you then want to turn it over so you can drill a hole into your flower base. The easiest way for you to do this is by carefully drilling through the soft core. Once the drill bit is lined up, slowly turn it by hand to drill through the core, being carful to not drill too far and destroy the petal formation.

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Once you have created all the flowers you could possibly need, and you’ve drilled a hole into the base of every one you are then ready to make your bouquet! You will need thin sticks, ideally the same size as your drill bit. You simply need to insert the stick into the already prepared hole, replicating this procedure for all the flowers you have created.

finished flowers

The last step is to find some string or ribbon, and tie your bouquet together. You can then find a vase and place them artistically anywhere in the house for everyone to admire!

And there you have it, 4 easy steps on how to make perfect willow flowers every time.

If you would like to give this a go, or simply watch me for a better understanding, then join us this Sunday, 2nd April between 10.30am and 3pm for our local craft event. There will be hurdle and basket making demonstrations alongside volunteer Geoff Knott demonstrating wood turning on the lathe. Children (and adults!) can have a go at weaving a bird feeder from willow. This is also your last opportunity to enjoy our pop up café, which will be taking a break over the summer and will return again in November. Nigel and Christine will be here offering visitors the all important tea, coffee and cake, so do join us if you can!

 

Abnormal autumn?

Every year is different – the last few winters were particularly mild, this spring was late, summer was dry, last year spring was early and summer a bit of a non-starter! That said  if you look at weather and wildlife observations over longer periods of time for all that things fluctuate from one year to the next overall it has become increasingly clear that our climate and weather is changing and that this is having a noticeable impact on wildlife.

After a ‘normal’ start to this years autumn the weather has turned unseasonably mild, and of course this has a detrimental affect on our wildlife. For example the wasps around the reserve are still very active.

During our regular reptile surveys around Blashford Lakes there was a grass snake still out and about basking instead of finding a suitable hibernation spot called a hibernaculum. Typically grass snakes (Natrix natrix) will occupy one location, and adders (Vipera berus) will inhabit the other. During October snakes and other reptiles should be finding their way to a hibernaculum (usually this is located close to where they were born).

Swallows (Hirundo rustica), predominantly known as the first signs of spring are typically known for being late to leave its UK breeding grounds in recent years, this can be due to several factors, perhaps a few individuals move around to different nesting sites. Some of the later broods throughout the summer may not even start fledging until early October, which will have a knock on effect on migration times and numbers.

Alternatively House Martins (Delichon urbica) have been breeding later on in the year due to colder springs where there is limited food resources, this year for example, there was an icy spell throughout the whole of April so this pushed breeding of the species back several weeks, meaning that as they started breeding later on in the year then they will inevitably leave later as well. (September and October is typically the start of their migration to Africa).

Bats are also still out hunting, making the most of the abundance of insects still about. The abundance of this years November moth species seems to be particularly pleasing to their pallet. During the colder evenings when the skies are clear the bats tend to hunt at the beginning of the evening ‘dusk’ and early morning ‘day break’. Also at this time of year the bats are starting to look for roosting spots, they will typically go for barn roofs, derelict buildings and tree trunks, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the bats locating a preferable roosting area.

Flowers have also started re-flowering; I have noticed this with both our wild flowers on the reserve and also domestic garden flowers. This is not an unusual occurrence in recent years. In fact the only plant species that don’t seem to be doing this are our trees, but on the other hand they do seem to be keeping their leaves for longer than anticipated.

Although a warm autumn may be enjoyable for us this will also have a detrimental effect on our wildlife. Not only does the warm weather affect our hibernating native wildlife, but it also interferes with the migratory patterns of our wintering visitors.  This is particularly noticeable on our lakes as the wintering duck numbers are greatly reduced for the seasonal norm.

Seasonal favourites such as shoveler (Anas clypeata), wigeon (Anas penelope) , and teal (Anas crecca) are not only scarce but were late arrivals to the lakes this year. As far as the wildfowl are concerned the ‘early’ arrivals to the reserve were earlier then expected, so they set the ‘base layer’ for the wading and wildfowl species. However the late arrivals (the individuals that we should be expecting round about now) are later than usual to the lakes.

About me!

I’m Emily Turner and I am the volunteer placement post holder here at Blashford lakes!!

I work with both the education and conservation teams around the reserve getting stuck in with everything the job entails. (I’m here until March, so you’ll probably see me doing all the odd jobs around here).

Over the next couple of months I’ll be writing blog posts based around the “week in the life of a volunteer placement” which will cover some of the experiences I have during the week! So keep your eyes peeled for that. 😀

 

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Me! Emily Turner, the (relatively) new volunteer placement at Blashford Lakes!