About Jim Day, Blashford Lakes

Education Officer at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve, near Ringwood.

Invaded!

If YOU head down to Blashford Lakes tomorrow (Sunday 22nd May) you should be prepared for a big surprise!

A giant surprise even.

In fact a giant crayfish surprise!

James Fantom, South West Lakes Trust Invasive Species Officer, will be here in costume between 10am and 3pm to raise awareness of the invasive American signal-crayfish 🦞 during Invasive Species Week.

Found throughout the UK, their population has been thriving since they were brought to England as a fashionable shellfish in the 1970’s. These 15cm-long beasts are bad news for our native and endangered (listed as Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) White-clawed crayfish.

American-signal crayfish – clearly showing the white patch, or “signal”, on the base of the claw

American-signal crayfish are larger, more aggressive, breed faster than the native species, carry a fungal disease called ‘crayfish plague’, which is particular harmful to our native species, as well as depleting fisheries directly through predation of fish eggs and indirectly through their severely damaging and undermine river banks with their burrowing and hence destroying freshwater habitat.

So, it is clear that they’re bad news and, although not widespread at Blashford Lakes, they are very much present in water bodies across the Avon Valley and are known to be present at low densities within the nature reserve itself.

The best defence against the signal crayfish invader is biosecurity – ensuring that individual crayfish are not transported between waterbodies and that the spores from the crayfish plague are killed prior to entering another waterbody using the “CHECK – CLEAN – DRY” method for all equipment, footwear or clothing, which have been in the water, for example wellies/waders, boats, canoes, and nets.

So say “Hi” to James if you see him tomorrow and do ask him for more information about American signal-crayfish and other invasive non-native wildlife while he is here.

WARNING! Main car park and Tern Hide CLOSURE this weekend!

Fri 28th April – Mon 2nd May

Challenging Events Ltd are leasing the main car park for use during their Huntsman triathlon event on Sunday, including time either side of the weekend for their event set up. As a result their will be no car parking available to visitors in the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide from Friday to Monday. There will be no access to Tern Hide at all on Sunday and access may also be limited, or impossible, for all or some of Friday, Saturday and Monday.

Pedestrian access to the Ibsley Water viewing platform will be possible throughout this period and nor is any of the rest of the reserve affected. Visitors to the nature reserve will use the parking on the Education Centre side of the nature reserve – but as this has limited capacity you may prefer to visit on a different occasion.

If you do choose to visit us over the bank holiday weekend and particularly on the Sunday while the triathlon itself is taking place, please be particularly vigilant for race marshals and athletes around the entrance to the nature reserve off Ellingham Drove. There should not be any spectators/supporters in this area but just because they are not supposed to be there does not mean that there won’t be any!

Little & (very!) large

Hope everyone is out and about enjoying some glorious Spring sunshine this Easter weekend 🙂 . The warmer more settled weather is resulting in some “firsts for the year”, including my first Orange-tip butterfly and first Garden Warbler (singing to me as I opened up the main car park gate). Yesterday it was the turn of the return of Reed Warblers, singing from the reeds outside Ivy North Hide & also Ivy Silt Pond on my morning “rounds”.

As previously reported, Sand Martins are back & volunteer Phil West photographed the first few tentatively investigating the artificial sand face at Goosander Hide earlier in the week:

Sand Martins by Phil West

Hopefully they will have a good year again as there is nothing quite like the spectacle of viewing the swirls of 100’s of martins from, and on teh approach to, the hide during the summer.

He also clocked this White-tailed Eagle passing over!

White-tailed Eagle by Phil West

Although the wonderful Wild Daffodils are now well & truly over the the very first of the Bluebells are just starting to show, the Primroses are still looking fabulous and being very much beloved by Bumblebees and one of my favourite spring flowers, Moschatel (Five-faced Bishop or Townhall Clock!), is also having a really good year this year:

Chloe & I have been busy this week with Wild Days Out school holiday activity days – we missed the best of the weather unfortunately, but it could have been a lot worse! A good time was had by all in the pond & river (including we staff & volunteers!) and a separate blog post specifically about that will follow.

No Wild Day Out next week but we are inviting families to “Go Wild!” and join us for pond dipping on Wednesday – the initial morning session is now fully booked so we have now started taking bookings for a second session in the afternoon – for more information and to book your places please see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/321316184357

Families are welcome, but so too are individual adults without children who wish to find out more about some of our fascinating wetland wildlife.

Discovering pondlife on Tuesdays Wild Day Out – more pictures & information to follow in a subsequent blog!

Sadly too much of my time these days is spent in the office dealing with increasingly complicated administrative and managerial tasks when I’m not out and about teaching and one of these necessary jobs is the production of the Annual Report to our partners (South West Water & Wessex Water). Although very time consuming it is also always a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges & achievements of the previous year so not as arduous an undertaking as it might seem. Still, I am sure that having signed off on his last Blashford Lakes Project Annual Report it is one part of the job that our recently retired Bob will not miss!

Having put the work in we are keen to share it more widely than with just the Project partners so do download it and have a read for a “behind the scenes” glimpse into work at Blashford Lakes!

Some informative reading for everyone on an “indoor kind of a day”…

As I write this I am hoping that all of our readers are faring okay – and that we are not faced by power outages, or too much damage, at Blashford Lakes tomorrow morning…

Please remember that there will be a delay to the nature reserve opening until the site has been checked and we know it is safe to open. Although not expected to be as windy tomorrow as it has been today, it is still going to be very windy and the problems that this wind could cause may be compounded by the much wetter weather which is forecast – so the closure may yet be extended.

Rather than heading outdoors too prematurely you may choose to remain inside and make the most of the opportunity to read the Wessex Ringing Group Bi-ennial Report 2020-2021 which I received this afternoon and whose authors Kevin Sayer and Brenda Cook have permitted me to share with you here:

With reports included from surveying and bird ringing not only at Blashford Lakes and the adjacent Mockbeggar Lake, but also from other sites across Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire there is something for everyone here!

Sunshine, a Kingfisher and lots of Coots: a morning at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve

I found this account of a recent visit to Blashford Lakes while scrolling through Twitter and thoroughly enjoyed reading of Amanda’s experience while there, including her reflections on what a previous visitor to the site nearly 100 years ago would make of the changes were they to visit today. Plenty of other beautifully written and personal observations of the New Forest to be found in her other posts too:

New Tales from an Old Forest

In which I see a Kingfisher and chat with a Robin

Out of this field the path enters another, and then another, where for a while it wanders hand in hand with a hazel-shadowed, golden stream where trout are to be found. The stream has an open bay where dogs like to swim and where children with glass jars, bare legs and infinite patience, catch minnows. Once I saw a kingfisher dart across this bay and speed a dim, blue flicker up the dusky hazel avenue beyond, and once—oh! memorable day—I surprised a great grey heron at his fishing.

Joan Begbie, Walking in the New Forest, published 1934

Blashford Lakes: a place of history and past change

Just beyond the western edge of the New Forest National Park’s present-day boundary lies the place that has, perhaps, seen the most change since Joan Begbiewrote about her forest walks in her…

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12 Days Wild: Day 6 – exploring the familiar in the dark

We may have passed the winter solstice and the night times may now be starting to shorten again but as is often the case at this time of year, that dopes not mean there is enough day-light for me to get out and lock up before its dark!

As much as I like to actually see some wildlife when I’m locking the hides, doing so after dark does have other advantages, not least of which is how we become more aware of our other senses when deprived of our sight – sounds, smells, the feel of the wind on bare skin or changes in temperature as we pass water, climb up or down small elevations.

This evening it was my sense of hearing that dominated as the reedbeds fringing Ivy Lake near both Ivy North & South Hides AND the reedbed at the top of the adjacent Ivy Silt Pond were full of roosting starlings. I missed any murmuration that may or may not have occurred this evening (I suspect that it didn’t given the damp and breezy weather) but there was no mistaking the cacophony of chattering, chirps, tweets and twitterings emanating from the reeds!

And finally a reminder that Nigel & Christine are opening a “Pop-Up Take-Away” from the backdoors of the Education Centre classroom this Saturday for all our New Years Day visitors. The weather is looking warm and dry, albeit not sunny, so do come anticipating hot drinks and some lovely home-baked goodies!

SAUSAGE ROLLS & CAKE!!!

Please choose the most applicable introductory sentence from the following to suit your individual circumstances and then read on for exciting news from Blashford Lakes!

  • What could be better than a gentle relaxing walk around Blashford Lakes with the family this New Years Day?

OR

  • What could be better than a peaceful walk around Blashford Lakes without the family this New Years Day?

OR

  • What could be better than meeting up with friends &/or family outdoors in the fresh air and beautiful surroundings of Blashford Lakes this New Years Day?

OR

  • What could be better than kicking off your 2022 bird list at Blashford Lakes this New Years Day?

Doing any of the above with the added bonus of home-baked sweet and savoury delights and the welcoming smiles of Christine & Nigel of Walking Picnics who have been convinced to open a one off Pop-Up Cafe with a difference at Blashford Lakes this New Years Day!

Due to covid risk management the Centre will remain closed and the seating will be restricted to the benches around the front & back of the centre, serving will be via a “hatch” from the Classroom backdoor at the end of the building and those smiles will be hidden behind a face-covering but the hot drinks, soups, cakes, sausage rolls and other home-baked delights will all be at least as delicious and welcome as they ever were in the olden times before the pandemic 🙂

Given the circumstances we and they reserve the right to cancel the “Pop-Up Takeaway” at short notice if the weather is particularly poor on the day, or due to covid related issues but all being well they will be here to serve you from 10am-3pm on 1st January and it is an absolute pleasure to be welcoming them back!

Blashford Lakes opening times this holiday season:

Covid or weather related closures not withstanding, Blashford Lakes hides and car parks will be open as normal from 9am-4.30pm every day except Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Eve everything will be locked up very promptly so don’t loiter in Lapwing Hide or walk on down to the Alice Lisle towards the end of the day!

Up until Christmas Eve visitors will continue to be able to participate in our self-guided willow wreath making activity – https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events/2021-11-28-decorate-willow-wreath – and some very fine wreaths indeed I have seen leave the reserve already this year!

7th December 2021: A run of bad luck…

A warning of possible reserve closures tomorrow.

The stalwart Tuesday volunteers arrived at Blashford ready to work this morning despite the heavy rain and strong winds. I think probably much against his better judgement Bob took them out on site to continue work on the removal of the old dilapidated boardwalk, clearing way for the construction of the new replacement one. They soldiered on as the rain grew heavier and the wind grew stronger only giving in (to what some sat in a nice warm & dry office – well dry anyway – would say was just plain old fashioned common sense!) when the wheel came off Bobs trailer…

With the volunteers headed home to dry off and warm up, and Bob trying to dry off his second coat of the day, we settled down to lunch only to be plunged into darkness when the power went off. Hot on the heels of Arwen Storm Barra had hit Blashford and toppled a large sycamore tree near the entrance to the nature reserve taking out an entire length of power cable…

Fortunately (there was some good luck today!) the horrible weather meant that the few visitors we had earlier in the day had all gone home so it was a simple matter to close up the site. Not so simple was letting everyone know who needed to know that the power was down, but we got there in the end and Scottish & Southern Electric were on site relatively quickly.

By the time I left shortly after 4pm we were properly in the “eye of the storm” with evening sunshine and just a gentle breeze and there were any number of power lines men, tree surgeons, cars, vans, trucks and cherry pickers on site with a promise that power would be restored by morning…

However the weather forecast has the worst of Storm Barra not actually coming through until the early hours of tomorrow morning so just a heads up to everyone that if that is the case although we may have electricity back up & running in the office & centre, if more tree’s come down it may become necessary to temporarily close footpaths &/or hides until they can be cleared so if you are planning on visiting tomorrow (8th December) maybe hold off arriving until later in the day?

Tomorrows another day…!

Boardwalk replacement work begins!

It is with many thanks to everyone who gave to our appeal for donations to replace the deteriorated boardwalk connecting Ivy South Hide with the Ellingham Lake walk, an integral part of the ever-popular short circular route called the “Wild Walk”, that we are pleased to report that the work to replace it has begun!

Unfortunately this does necessitate the closure of this part of the route while the existing boardwalk is removed and the new one is constructed and we apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause for the duration of the work. Please check the website and blog for updates on progress and, in the meantime, please observe and abide by the warning signs and path closures. It will be worth the wait! Thank you.

In other news if you are saddened to know that the boardwalk is closed it may be of some small conciliation to know that Bob has now cut the first “bittern channel” through the reed bed to the east of Ivy North Hide. As long as other jobs including the boardwalk construction task, time & weather allow, the intention is to cut the usual additional channels and possibly lengthen this one as well:

The first channel has been cut through the reedbed to facilitate views of elusive wildlife including water rail and bittern

Although there were a few sporadic sightings of bittern towards the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn we believe these to be “local” UK breeding birds who are moving on south from breeding territories and just stopping off here temporarily on route. If we are to see any obliging over-wintering bittern historically we don’t tend to see them until a week or so before Christmas, so fingers-crossed for this year.

The relatively mild and sunny autumn has really bought out the autumn colours across the country in recent weeks, and Blashford has been no exception:

On the wildlife front the light trap has been consistently catching albeit in low numbers, including the rather lovely December moth:

December moth

There is a small, but reliable, starling murmurartion in the Valley again this winter, with wonderful views of it now possible from the Ibsley Water viewing platform which Bob and the volunteers have now really opened up the views from by carefully removing some of the silver birch and willows which had been obscuring the views. At least 5 goldeneye and 30+ goosander duck have now joined the other wildfowl on the lake. Firecrests have very much been in evidence across the reserve in recent weeks and Bob also reported seeing two cattle egret coming in to roost with the little egrets among the tree’s on the eastern shore of Ivy Lake.

Meanwhile Tracy and Chloe have made good use of some of the willow arisings from the viewing platform work to make a fantastic start weaving the wreath hoops for the self-guided wreath decorating activity walk which opens this weekend – for more information see the website here: https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events/2021-11-28-decorate-willow-wreath

Wreath frames ready – just add natural greenery!

Willow is one commodity we are not short of at Blashjford Lakes and it does not look as if we are likely to run out of the withy’s required to form the hoops anytime soon!

Should keep Tracy and Chloe out of mischief over the next few weeks…might even have to help out myself Mine will be the wonky ones if you happen to pick one of those out 😉 !