About Jim Day, Blashford Lakes

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

Dine & discover…

Sometimes Blashford blog posts are a bit like buses – after a lull of a couple of weeks here’s your third in 2 days. Hope they’ve been worth the wait!

A  week ago, last Friday, saw me arriving at work later in the day and preparing for our evening “Dine & discover… Blashfords night life” event.

Dine & discover…” are a relatively new undertaking for us, but one that does seem to be gathering momentum gradually.

The first was trialled in the Spring with a stinging nettle theme – following some nettle sweep netting and ID-ing of the invertebrates caught, nettle tops were picked and the stems harvested. While the nettle soup simmered over the campfire our participants learnt how to prepare the nettle stems and made string from it. Since then we have run similar events learning about meadow invertebrates and freshwater invertebrates too.

“Dine and Discover…” is a monthly event for adults excited by nature and the outdoors at which we prepare and share a simple campfire meal before engaging in some kind of outdoor activity to discover and expand everyone’s knowledge and awareness of  wildlife. Septembers theme, as you may have already surmised from the title of the event, was nocturnal wildlife.

Last Friday our participants arrived as the last of our day time visitors and other staff left for the day.

After a quick welcome, a round of introductions and explanation of what they could expect, our first task was the collection and preparation of wood for the campfire.

Fire lit, we emptied the light trap and released the previous nights catch of moths, caddis flies and other insects, including the large yellow underwing pictured below:

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While the fire continued to build up heat everyone enjoyed a cuppa and fire-watching while one of the participants and I finished chopping the vegetables for our spicy chickpea and potato soup ready for it to go in the pot and on the fire.

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While dinner bubbled we headed off with a jar of Bob’s moth “gloop” and a paint brush with which we daubed a number of fence posts and benches around the Centre.

Comprising a not-so-secret recipe of treacle, brown sugar, beer and rum, in theory the heavily scented sweet syrup is attractive to moths and was a common method of attracting moths in Victorian times when light traps were not an option. Although not as effective as a light trap, certainly in terms of the number of species which it attracts, “sugaring”, as the method is called, does attract a number of moths which do not normally come to light, including the Autumn flying copper underwing.

Unfortunately on this night it was not terribly successful, attracting just a few spiders a woodlouse and earwig, but, given the paucity of moths around the light trap both then and released from the trap the following day, this is probably due to the cold clear night reducing the number of insects on the wing as opposed to the quality of Bob’s brew!

Fence posts sugared, dinner was served.

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It was a lot tastier than the above photo makes it  look – I certainly enjoyed it and as second and the odd third helping followed I think it is safe to assume that everyone else enjoyed it too!

As we finished our dinner darkness fell and our first bats were picked up on our bat detectors – soprano pipistrelle for certain and possibly some common pipistrelle too.

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Pudding was toasted marshmallows accompanied by the staccato calls of the bats coming through on the bat detectors and punctuated by the call of at least a couple of tawny owls from nearby.

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Joining in with a few “twooo’s” of my own owl call some of the group were treated to a fly past by one of the owls as curiosity (and territoriality!) drew it in to land in an adjacent oak tree. Not wanting to antagonise the bird, or cause it to waste time and energy on a nonexistent rival, I then kept stum and after a couple of minutes everyone had a great view of it flying back towards the alder carr over the pond, lit by the light of the light trap.

Definitely a highlight of the evening!

After putting the fire out we went for a short walk to Ivy Silt Pond & back, eyes adjusting to the dark and marveling at the number of stars in the clear night sky. Unfortunately although great for astronomy a clear sky at night means a cold night, a cold night means fewer insects – and fewer insects means fewer bats hunting them!

We did pick up the odd bat but it was bush crickets that we were picking up more than anything else  so, with the end of the evening drawing to a close, we returned to the Centre to finish our evening with the bats that were still flying around there, no doubt making the most of the few insects attracted to the light trap.

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Thank you to David for sharing his pictures of the evening.

The next “Dine & discover…”, back in the day time, 11am – 3pm on Friday October 25th, will include a guided walk looking for Autumn fungi, birds and other wildlife – for details of this and how to book onto it and all our other events this Autumn and Winter have a look at our new “What’s on?” leaflet: 190927 BL WhatsOn Oct-Feb JD

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Look out behind you

Behind You!

Many thanks to Jon Mitchell for sending in the “action shot”!

Just thought you might like to see a photo I took from Ivy South on Sunday afternoon (whilst waiting for a kingfisher to perch – no joy!). Us photographers were keeping ourselves amused by taking shots of a female brown hawker that was depositing eggs on the underwater parts of the branches of the fallen tree in front of the hide. At one point, a coot shot in to try and catch the hawker and have a nice high-protein meal.

Fortunately (for the hawker – not for the coot) the dragonflies eyes were good enough to see the coot coming behind her – and she flew away just in time.”

Otherwise things are much the same as they were last time I blogged although the number of hirundines on site has certainly dropped. There are still at least three great white egrets (reported again this morning, on Ibsely Water) and photographers are still semi-permanently encamped in Ivy South Hide waiting for a stunning kingfisher picture. The kingfisher is still very much in evidence but this week I think there have been far more kingfisher sightings than pictures!

The stinkhorns I posted last week are now limp stipes, but have been replaced by new ones which have emerged sequentially every few days and I’ve spotted the odd beefsteak fungus starting to form now too.

 

Autumn well underway

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There has been a very autumnal feel to this week with hundreds of martins gathering over Ibsley Water each morning and today I was there as they continued with their migration southward – one moment they were all zipping around just above the lake surface and in the blink of an eye, at some signal unseen by me, they launched their way skywards in a fairly close spiral and very quickly were lost to sight.

There’s plenty of other signs of the changing season too – including the fact that this morning I chose to wear a jumper AND jacket into work!

The grasslands have been looking lovely first thing each day as well, festooned with their dew-laden cobwebs as they have been, and everywhere you go (there, the woodland, and even the car parks and outside the Centre) the ground is liberally covered with badger droppings whose diet has now very clearly moved on from plum to blackberry!

It’s still very dry so the fungi have not yet fruited in earnest but there are still some to be found, including this newly erect (there’s no other word for it really!) stinkhorn photographed near Woodland Hide this morning.

I’ve smelt it coming for a few days now, but not managed to see it, presumably because it was still in its “egg” form as opposed to my just being unobservant as it was particularly fresh looking this morning. They don’t tend to last overly long, but this one will soon be replaced by another marked by a new “egg” bottom left of the photograph. Weird things these eggs, and far more easily overlooked than the mature fungus (which, lets face it, is also pretty weird!) as they often form just below the ground, so nice to see and get a photo of it today.

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You can just see a fly coming in in the top left corner of the picture. Attracted by the rotten/sweet small of the fungus it will become coated with the sticky jelly carrying spores and so assist the fungi in its dispersal as it flies away on whatever business flies get up to when not lured by stinkhorns.

Kingfishers have continued to oblige this summer, to an extent at Goosander Hide, but in recent weeks at Ivy South Hide in particular.

There are still at least two great white egrets around, debatably 3, one of which is “Walter” and yesterday afternoon they have been joined by another of our seasonal herons, with a bittern seen in flight by half-a-dozen visitors as it flew over the reed/reedmace bed, from left to right, in front of Ivy North Hide, giving all a fantastic view.

It will probably be a while before the next sighting, and even longer before anyone gets a picture as the reeds are all so tall and dense still at this time of year, but good to know that there is at least one around so keep your eyes peeled on your next visit and you never know!

 

Autumn Lady’s shorn!

Yesterday Tracy and I, inspired by various comments on various social media about the very lovely but understated Autumn flowering orchid, Autumn Lady’s tresses, detoured from the route around the hides at closing time to seek it in the usual locations on the reserve. We were not disappointed, finding several individual flower stems, a handful of clusters of 2 or 3 stems and one small patch, right by the track, of over 50 perfect flowers.

I didn’t take any photos at the time but wandered over at lunch time today, partly to show one of the Welcome volunteers,  and partly to take a photo or two, thinking it would be a nice subject for the blog, which I’m sure it is.

Unfortunately they were much harder to find in number than yesterday, something I initially put down to the different light across the middle of the day and lack of contrast between the flowers and surrounding vegetation.

Then Jan spied a stem without flowers quickly followed by several more in quick succession and so we realised that actually the plants were there, but with all of the flowering tips nibbled off, presumably by rabbits or deer. Should have taken a picture yesterday!

Fortunately not all of the orchids had been “shorn” of their flowers so I was able to take a couple of pictures, the first of which clearly shows the intertwining stems which gives the flower both its common name with its resemblance to ringlets of hair, and its scientific name, Spiranthes spiralis.

Another highlight today was that of an osprey on Ibsley Water at lunch time.

Not the first of the seasons passage by a long shot, as there have been 3 or 4 sightings which I am aware of over the last week or so, but certainly the best of the Autumn so far.

According to reports it appeared to have caught a fish in Ibsley Silt Pond near Lapwing Hide which it then consumed off to the right of Tern Hide giving visitors a rare close view of this iconic bird of prey. I caught up with it a little later when it had moved off to the north-west shore of the Lake to have a good wash and it then took off and headed south in a very half hearted, lackadaisical fashion. 

 

 

 

Wild Play!

Last week saw the last of this summers “Wild Days Out” activity days – this time with a team challenge theme for the older age group and simply outdoor, “wild” play for the younger ones the following day. The weather was kind to us on both days and fun was definitely had by all!

Our Wild Challenge began with deciding our teams and warming up with some riddles, anagrams and team flag making. It was then out for some problem solving games and activities before competing to be the first to light a small fire, boil a “Kelly Kettle” and make the leaders the best cup of tea ;o)

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After lunch the fun really began as we headed over to our den building area, not to make dens, but rather to attempt to construct ballista/catapults (from the den building poles, rope and old bicycle inner tubes) in preparation for battle!

Our teams came up with quite different designs, both effective, but neither catapult could compete with Sammy’s inventive use of his own legs and feet in conjunction with the inner tube for projectile distance!

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With inventions completed, tested and fine tuned, our teams were armed with sponges and buckets of water and the Great Battle of Blashford commenced!

And I wasn’t going to just sit around supervising letting them all have the fun!

The following day our Wild Play began in the same den building area, this time with den building, tree climbing and leafy art and clay creations.

Tree climbing by Tracy Standish190821 WildChallenge_Play_Tracy Standish (1)

After lunch some of the children asked about pond dipping – something that everyone joined in in the end (you can’t beat a good pond dip when your 6!). Those waiting a turn or ready for something else spent a lovely time playing in the sand pit or bug hunting – the “tunnel” at the back of the centre was a child magnet in this respect, festooned with spiders and large white butterfly caterpillars as it was!

 

This filled most of the rest of the day so we finished up by taking down the dens and had just enough time left for another water fight, this time dispensing with catapults and settling for simply cobbing wet sponges at each other!

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A bit soggy, the children left tired and happy and the leaders were dry by the time they locked up at the end of the day!

The next Wild Days Out are scheduled for October half term with Autumn themed activities – event bookings on “Eventbrite” will be opened next week:

BIG Autumn Adventure for 7-12 year old children on Tuesday 29th October – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-big-autumn-adventure-tickets-70779598685?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

little Autumn Adventure for 5-8 year old children on Thursday 31st October – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-little-autumn-adventure-tickets-70765239737?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

 

Tern Hide today…

…just a quick post to advise visitors coming today (Thursday 30th August) that the volunteer work party will be working on the shore of Ibsley Water in front of Tern Hide this morning.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused, but they will be “weeding” the vegetation out of the gravel which is an important annual job to maintain suitable conditions for nesting waders such as the little ringed plover – and it will also please those visitors who were trying to photograph the common sandpiper on Sunday that kept “hiding” behind the plants, spoiling their pictures!

Walter!

Having reported on Saturday evening that a great white egret was back on Ibsley Water, but that it was not our old veteran and trail blazer nicknamed “Walter” a few years, I am now delighted to report that Mark Wright got in touch on Sunday with the pictorial evidence that Walter has now made it back for his 16th year! So many thanks to Mark for the pictures below, taken overlooking Ibsley Water where the first bird was seen on the previous day:

Walter by Mark Wright

Walters back! By Mark Wright

Walters leg by Mark Wright

There’s no mistaking Walter when you can see his “bling”!

No great white was reported at all yesterday but this morning there was one bird on the little island to the right of Tern Hide. With its legs obscured by an adjacent Egyptian goose and later on a cluster of little egrets, I have not yet managed to ascertain which of the two (or more?!) great whites we have on show this morning.

For more about the history of “our” Walter follow the link to Bobs blog post from August last year: https://blashfordlakes.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/walter-returned/

 

 

Not Walter…

…but a non-ringed great white egret has arrived today, the first of the season, spending most of it on the spit midway between Lapwing and Goosander Hides on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water.

Hopefully it heralds the arrival of our long standing regular visitor “Walter” whose ringed legs will mark him quite unmistakably when/if he arrives. Keep your eyes open and let us know if you do see him!

Woodsmoked…

Woodsmoked is definitely what I am this week! After a couple of weeks off it was straight back in at the deep end with back to back campfire based activities:

Tuesday – a Wild Day Out activity day, namely the BIG campfire cookout challenge for 7-12 year olds. The challenge being to come up with, prepare and cook over the campfire a tasty, creative and well presented menu from a prescribed selection of ingredients:

Most teams managed the creative aspect – well presented and tasty, I’d like to say the jury was still out but unfortunately for the poor judges (we really should be paid danger money) who sampled the offerings (most of which, surprisingly, were NOT burnt it has to be said!), tasty and well presented the dishes were not!

Wednesday – a wet day and another Wild Day Out, this time the little campfire cookout challenge for 5-8 year olds. You get the idea! Today however our younger visitors on the whole produced creative AND tasty food for us to try  and some of the dishes were even presented well!

Next week the Wild Challenge Wild Day Out for 7-12 year olds still has places available – more information and booking here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-challenge-tickets-63113599475 (Please note that Thursdays Wild Play day for 5-8 year olds is now fully booked).

Thursday – Myths, moths and marshmallows. An evening storytelling event – around the campfire of course! Not a huge number of moths to look at but enough, everyone enjoyed hearing about how the nightingale got its song and how my Grandad failed to secure the leprechauns’ pot of gold and the toasted marshmallows went down a treat too. The latter possibly enjoyed more by the adults than the children!

Wet today so in the office catching up on emails, telephone calls… and blogs!

Following the previous posting while I was away last weekend I will just confirm that the reserve, which was closed due to the extreme weather on Saturday, has been open since Sunday, is still open now and will be until the next extreme weather event!