About Jim Day, Blashford Lakes

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

And it’s goodbye from me…

Twenty years almost to the day (& certainly to the week) since I joined the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Education team at Blashford Lakes I am returning my keys, uniform, phone & laptop and leaving for new challenges with the New Forest National Park Authority Ranger team.

Twenty years is a loooooong time in one job, particularly these days, but to be fair both the site and my job have grown and changed quite significantly in that time. Indeed when I first started I was an “Education and Community Warden”, the only employee on site, the nature reserve was a fraction of the size that it is now, had just one hide, with one path down to it (roughly in the location of Ivy South Hide today) and the site was closed to the public unless part of a booked, organised & pre-arranged group visit (not that that stopped birders clambering over the odd gate & fence for a glimpse of the lake – you know who you are!). In 2002 quarrying had only very recently been completed in what is now Ellingham Lake and it had not formally been signed off by Hampshire County Council Minerals and Waste Planning, both Rockford Lake and Ibsley Water were both still very much active quarries and Hanson were operating both a concrete block plant and cement pre-mix facility on the southern shore of Ibsley Water too.

Since then the site has gone onto employ more staff across a site which has doubled in size, welcomed in the public and established itself as an excellent educational resource for schools and uniformed youth groups across Hampshire, Dorset & Wiltshire.

As an educator it has been an amazing place to work and the Trust has been a fantastic organisation to work for – the same mix of habitats, all within a relatively small area, and the rich biodiversity which make Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve such a popular destination for wildlife lovers and bird watchers, means that it is, in my opinion, one of the best (the best of?) places to introduce children (and adults) to wildlife and the outdoors, engender awe and wonder and an appreciation of it, as well as the desire to proactively learn about and care for it. At the same time the Trust has provided the space and support for me to develop an education program and activities, both formal and informal, as I see fit.

I know that my love of nature doesn’t come from school, books or screens but rather that it stems from the time I spent growing up outdoors as a child and youth in North Lincolnshire. Not pro-actively seeking wildlife but simply exposed and immersed in the natural world whilst playing in it. This experience & knowledge has informed, and continues to inform, all of my outdoor education work and it has been my absolute joy & pleasure to be gifted with the opportunity to play & encourage play in nature at Blashford Lakes over the last twenty years.

A big thank you to everyone who has joined me exploring and playing in and around the pond, river, meadow, woodland or hides. It really has been my pleasure &, as much as I am looking forward to new challenges in my new role, I already know how much I am going to miss Blashford, the staff, the volunteers and visitors!

Join me for my final wander around Blashford (as a member of staff at least!) via my Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/JimDay22857614/status/1573257381223481345

I’ll be back 😉

Sad as it is to be leaving, it’s good to know that the site is in good hands.

Thank you to everyone who contributed so generously to the escape fund, for re-naming the education meadow “Jim’s Meadow” & to Geoff for my wonderful wooden “glasses”:

If nothing else it will be quieter next week…

AWOOOOOOOOOGAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!

…if you know you know 🙂

Blashford Lakes will be open as normal on 19th September

We are extremely saddened by the death of Her Majesty The Queen and send our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family.

Queen Elizabeth II dedicated her life to public service and was celebrated for her passion for the outdoors, the countryside and rural life, lending her support to the work of The Wildlife Trusts and many environmental charities over the years. 

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves, including Blashford Lakes, hides and car parks, will remain open on the day of the State Funeral for people to visit for quiet reflection if they wish.

Quick post on bird and dragonfly photography

Firstly on bird photography: we are absolutely delighted and thrilled to have local wildlife photographer and lecturer John Combes back for the first time since the pandemic hit delivering his popular and brilliant photography courses.

Sadly the “Basics” day course, which should have run today, didn’t, and this is particularly sad as it is almost certainly simply because of the fact that with our current (temporary!) reduced staffing levels I have been too busy to advertise it as well as I should have done. So I am working at home late tonight to make sure that more people are aware of the follow up “Birds” photography course which is being held next Saturday, 2nd July. With some places sold already this course is definitely running – but we are keen to fill it if we can!

Please visit the website to find out more – and book!

https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events/2022-07-02-wildlife-photography-birds

Now onto dragonfly photography – I have a special request…

Nigel Kendall, a Blashford Lakes supporter, one of our Welcome Volunteers and a keen photographer himself, is working up a “Blashford Dragonflies” book which will be sold from the Welcome Hut with all proceeds to Blashford Lakes. The book will feature a small amount of information alongside images of all of the Odonata species currently known to frequent the nature reserve as well as a small number of other species not yet recorded which are likely to be at some point in the future (based on a list compiled by Bob Chapman).

Nigel has good quality images which he is happy to publish of the vast majority of dragonfly and damselfly species on the list, but is missing the following:

Willow Emerald Damsel
Scarce Blue-tailed Damsel
Green-eyed Hawker
Vagrant Emperor
Lesser Emperor
Yellow-winged Darter
Red-veined Darter

So, if you have images of any of the above you are willing to share for this publication, or can forward this blog post onto anyone who you think might be able to help, we would be very grateful. Could you please email us at BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk with your consent for me to forward your email on to Nigel, and I will do so so that he may correspond with you directly.

In return you will obviously be credited as you wish within the book and you will receive your very own copy of the book free of charge when it is published – and, as if it could get any better, you will also get to experience the wonderful, warm, glow of knowing that your image contribution is indirectly contributing to the ongoing support and management of the Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve & Education Centre!

We hope to hear from you!

Draft front cover of Blashford Lakes Dragonflies by Nigel Kendall

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…

View original post 2,069 more words

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!