About Jim Day, Blashford Lakes

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

The one that DIDN’T get away!


Anyone that follows this blog can’t have failed to notice that it is 30 days wild time of year again with Bob going the extra mile to blog his wildlife encounters at work and at home on a daily basis. Midway through June thus weekend is the Trusts “BIG Wild Weekend” with lots of events held across the UK.

At Blashford we joined in with a river dipping event this morning where we caught mayfly, stonefly, beautiful demoiselle and golden-ringed dragonfly nymphs, freshwater shrimp, cased caddisfly and blackfly larvae, leeches and, on the fish front, bullhead and young brown trout.

However by far the best catch of the day (and indeed the best catch of all of my previous 17 years working here and countless river dipping sessions with both young and old!) was John’s brown trout which filled the tank at a whopping 11 inches in length! Well done John!


(and, just for the record, the fish was released – unharmed – back into the river after taking a few quick photo’s!)


Summer Wild Days Out

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We are now accepting bookings onto our Wild Days Out activity days this summer! 
Wild Days Out are outdoor play, exploration, adventure and wildlife discovery sessions held during the school holidays. Our varied activities are inspired by the changing seasons and have included everything from campfire cooking and den building, to pond dipping and bird watching to river snorkelling and boat building!

Please follow the hyperlinks below for more information and to book your chosen activities (and if you don’t have children / grandchildren who might be interested you may just wish to make a note of the dates so you know which days to avoid!): 

Sessions for 7-12 year olds: 

30th July – Wild Wander I (7-12s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-wander-i-tickets-63108827201  

6th Aug – Big Blashford Bioblitz (7-12s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-big-blashford-bioblitz-tickets-63111999690  

13th Aug – Big Campfire Challenge (7-12s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-big-campfire-challenge-tickets-63113220341  

21st Aug – Wild Challenge! (7-12s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-challenge-tickets-63113599475                         

Sessions for 5-8 year olds: 

31st July – Wild Wander II (5-8s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-wander-ii-tickets-63111675721  

7th Aug – Little Blashford Bioblitz (5-8s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-little-blashford-bioblitz-tickets-63112241413 

14th Aug – Little Campfire Challenge (5-8s) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-little-campfire-challenge-tickets-63113403890  

22nd Aug – Wild Play! (5-8s)  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-play-tickets-63113850225

Advanced notice of Autumn Wild Days Out: we will not be accepting bookings until after the summer holidays, but, so you can make a note in your diary, we will be running the 7-12 year old session on Tuesday 29th October and the 5-8 year old session on Thursday 31st October.

If you have any queries about any of the above please contact us at BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk. Alternatively call the Blashford Lakes Education Centre on 01425 472760, but either way please be patient with us as we are generally out on the reserve leading school or uniformed groups most of the day, every day, during the summer term and are not in the office very much!


They came and they saw! Bird Trail 2019

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

On the Bird Trail!

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.

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

The briefing!

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!

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Ivy South Hide

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Ivy South Hide

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Ivy North Hide

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Getting the bird identification right!

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).

May 2019-2

A jay in the hand is definitely worth two in the bush! Photo by Kevin Sayer

190511 Bird Trail by J Day (2)

Learning about the science and methodology of bird ringing – photo by Jim Day

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:

blash trail

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:

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

…and relax!

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!

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Kay and Linda enjoying the calm before the storm!

And finally the results were in!

In first place – Young Naturalists with a total of 44 bird species recorded who won binoculars and a bird watching boat trip courtesy of In Focus and Birds of Poole Harbour respectively:

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

…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) !

In second place – 1st Fordingbridge Scout Group with 41 birds, winning family tickets to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor And Reptile Centre and great grey shrike pin badges by Cameron Bespolka Trust:

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

And in third place – 3rd Ringwood Scout Group with 39 birds, winning an FSC garden birds ID guide courtesy of Hampshire Swifts and bird feeders by Nutbags New Forest Bird Foods

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:

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

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.



Open as usual this weekend…

Last time I blogged it was to warn that the reserve would be closed for the Bird Trail on 11th May and since then although the reserve has been open the Centre has been closed while the toilets and lobby were decorated. Tomorrow it will all be open! New interpretation will be going into the lobby at the end of the month which will mean further closures of the centre for 2-3 days, around 25th-27th June, during which time there will be port-a-loo’s available as there have been this week, but until then all should be as normal, albeit a smarter fresher normal than normal!

A blog post on the Bird Trail will follow, but just to wet your appetite here is a picture taken at the end of the day by HIWWT volunteer photographer Rex Waygood:

11 May Blashford Lakes Event

Bird Trail tomorrow – limited access for visitors

Just a quick reminder that we are hosting the HIWWT/Hampshire Ornithological Society Bird Trail 2019 event tomorrow – there is no visitor parking on the south (Education Centre) side of the reserve, limited parking at Tern Hide and Tern, Woodland, Ivy North and South Hides are all in use by the teams of children and young people from 10.15am-3pm.

Unless involved in the event best to come Sunday instead! If you do visit tomorrow Lapwing and Goosander Hides will be “safe”!

Thank you.

Blashford Lakes Annual Report 2017/18

The Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve and Centre is a Project managed by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust on behalf of Project Partners and landowners Wessex Water and Bournemouth Water. Each year the Reserves and Education Officer pull together a summary of the Trusts work at Blashford into an Annual Report which we presented last month.

If you would like to find out more about the Trusts work at Blashford, including that of our fantastic volunteers, without whom the site would be a shadow of its glorious self, along with some lovely images, information on our education work and wildlife survey findings, do open the following link: 190101ONLINE Blashford Annual Report 2017-18 JD


Car park closures & advanced warning of Bird Trail 2019 next weekend

As Bob posted the other day the Centre car park remains closed this weekend to give the newly laid surface time to dry and harden off. All being well it will be open again by Tuesday next week. With machinery, road pins and hazard tape all removed the centre approach is now looking very grand!

Next Saturday 11th May however we are hosting and co-ordinating the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust / Hampshire Ornithological Society Bird Trail event for groups of children and young people and all visitor and participant car parking will be in the Main/Tern Hide car park.

Please note there will be no visitor parking on the Centre side of the Nature Reserve, either outside the Centre or in the lower car park at the bottom of the track.

The nature reserve will remain open to visitors throughout the event but access to Tern Hide, Woodland Hide, Ivy North and Ivy South Hides will be prioritised for the groups entering the Bird Trail.

Lapwing and Goosander Hides are not included in the Bird Trail so will be everyone else’s best bet – or alternatively visit on Sunday instead!

It’s rather chilly in the wind out there today – a visit to Tern Hide or the viewing platform in particular warrants Arctic type layers of clothing and most of the gulls and wildfowl are sheltering out of the wind at the top end of the lake. Lots of swifts soaring through the skies over the car park and hide when I opened up though.

Thanks to Jeremy McClements for sending in his pictures of lapwing, Mediterranean gull and little ringed plover (all taken from Tern Hide) and Carol Thorpe for her sand martin taken at Goosander Hide which is playing host to a spectacular breeding colony again this year:

Lapwing by Jeremy McClementsLittle ringed plover by Jeremy McClementsMediterranean gull by Jeremy McClementsSand martin by Carol Thorpe


Tern Hide & Welcome Hut open for business


Yesterday saw two more major milestones in the project funded by public donations and Veolia Environmental Trust (with money from the Landfill Communities Fund): the Welcome Hut opened its doors to the public for the first time yesterday morning and Bob opened up the new look Tern Hide to the public using the new viewing platform at the end of the day yesterday too.

Bob has worked tirelessly over the last month to ensure that contractors have had both early and late access as they required to get their work completed and over the last week he has also been working late to finish off the screens and earthworks around the Tern Hide. There is still more to be done, both inside and out, so expect further temporary short-term closures. However, from now on in, including all of this weekend, if works don’t preclude our opening of Tern Hide, it will be open…

I’ll not say more on Tern Hide now as I do not want to steal Bobs thunder should he wish to add anything given the work that he has put into it!

190329 Tern Hide view (through OPENING window)

The view from Tern Hide at opening this morning!

The Welcome Hut, like the Tern Hide, still has various things awaiting completion to finish it off (indeed even as I type volunteers are putting up graphics on the inside), but it too is now open, and will be every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

An extension of the Centre, it is an information point staffed by our new team of “Welcome Volunteers” who will help visitors both new and returning get the most out of their visit to the nature reserve. No doubt exactly how the space is used will evolve over the next few weeks as they find their feet and the surroundings start to look more like a nature reserve rather than a building site, but do say “hello” to them when you next visit.

190328 Welcome Volunteers open the Hut

Please welcome our new “Welcome Volunteers” – they promise to do the same!


Still bittern…

Hard to believe, but it is past mid-March and we still have a bittern and it is still incredibly obliging and, unusually, seemingly very much habituated to the toing and froing of large camera lenses through the window openers. I’m not sure if there is anyway of actually knowing whether this particular bittern is the most photographed individual ever, but if not ever it must surely be the most photographed in the UK this winter!

Many thanks to Richard Jacobs for emailing these fantastic shots to blashfordlakes@hiwwt.org.uk this week:

Although redpoll remain in evidence, brambling have very much been noticeable by their absence this Spring and continue to be very occasional rarities. Bullfinch on the other hand are being seen relatively regularly and often, as they usually are at this time of the year, on the willow buds – many thanks to Lynda Miller for sharing this gorgeous picture with us!


Work continues next week with contractors continuing with the installation of the new Tern Hide. More significant to visitors will be the closure of the Centre car park either in its entirety, or possibly on occasion just in part, for all of next week and probably some of the following week as well. Please use the larger main reserve car park north of Ellingham Drove. The car park closure is to allow for the re-surfacing of both the car park itself and some of the teaching area at the back of the centre as well.

We appreciate that this will be frustrating to some, but is unfortunately necessary in order to carry out the works. Do keep an eye on the blog for further updates about the work which has been made possible thanks to funds from the Veolia Environmental Trust.

Wildlife Watch -working with willow

An unpromising Saturday morning which started with unexpected rain whilst opening up but soon cleared to be a fresh but quite lovely day with lots of visitors coming to make the most of it – and enjoying their views of all the usual winter suspects in the process, including bittern and brambling.

Our small, but growing, Wildlife Watch group met at the Centre for their monthly meeting in the morning too.

First job was to make some fat balls combined with a special individually hand picked ‘n’ mixed  selection of sunflower seeds, hearts and/or sultanas. Unfortunately one of our leaders is vegan, but he stoically saw the activity through, albeit from a distance, knowing full well that the vegetable equivalent of beef suet is not palatable to birds…


With the food itself made we headed outside into the winter sunshine to saw:




Poke, snip and tie:

(Actually, I didn’t take any pictures of this activity, you will just have to imagine sliding willow withies up through all the drilled holes until wedged tight, cutting them to size and securing the tops – and bottoms/sides, depending on the style of creation of the individual Wildlife Watch member!)

Before finally filling – and proudly showing off – the finished bird feeders:

Next month we meet 10.30am-12.30pm, on Saturday 9th March, for a wildlife walk in search of Spring!

E-mail Blashfordlakes@hiwwt.org.uk to find out more… or if you’re not aged 6-12 but wish you were simply watch this space to enjoy the session vicariously!