About joiddendenhiwwtorguk

Reserves Officer for Fishlake Meadows, also work at Blashford Lakes regularly.

Final week of 30 days wild

Another 30 days wild has come to an end, it’s been great fun and I’ve managed to see, hear and do some wonderful things in June. I feel like it’s been quite a different June to last year, some wildlife seems to have emerged quite a bit later, some of the species I’ve tweeted are definitely the same as last year though.

So, day 24 was a day in the office unfortunately! Emails and getting ready for a water safety training course kept me indoors most of the day. From my desk I can see a section of the Testwood Lakes wildflower garden, which is particularly spectacular at the moment. At lunch I popped out to get a closer look, there are so many species of flowers, it’s incredible and therefore lots of insects buzzing around. The ox-eye daisies, verbena, ladies mantle and a white flowered geranium species really stood out.

Day 25 was a busy Blashford Tuesday volunteers day, I was leading the volunteers while Bob was off. We spent the morning pulling up himalayan balsam and pink purslane. It was a difficult area for moving around and was very hard work reaching all the bits we spotted, we made some great progress in clearing the area though. As I was leaving Blashford I decided to pop in to the Tern hide, which I rarely manage to do, and was able to get a slightly dubious phone photo of a common tern on a post just outside the hide. Great to see one so close and clear, sadly the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Common tern blashford

Common tern outside Tern hide

Day 26 was a day to get out to Fishlake Meadows to see what was happening, decide on work for the work party on the 3rd July and to make sure the paths weren’t too overgrown. Whilst walking along the path that runs east to west, a very obliging female banded demoiselle landed near me and stayed still. having learned my lesson from the previous day, I had my proper camera with me so I could get a decent shot.


Female banded demoiselle

Day 27, in the evening I helped the ecology team with a bat survey at Fishlake Meadows, they start at sunset and run for 2 hours, so the survey was 9.30pm to 11.30pm. We used a bat detector which turns the bats echolocation clicks to a volume that you can hear. We heard and saw lots of bats, primarily common and soprano pipistrelle, and also a myotis species bat. I really enjoyed getting to have a walk around Fishlake Meadows at night.

Bat detector

Bat detector used for the survey

Day 28, was a day of water safety training at head office. The trainer took pity on us and we did several sections of the day outside in the garden. There were lots of lovely wildflowers through the lawn, which I was impressed and surprised by as the grass was fairly short. None the less there was self heal, scarlet pimpernel and mouse-ear hawkweed. Mouse-ear hawkweed can often get over looked and mistaken for another dandelion, but it is a different yellow, more of a lemony colour, with red stripes underneath.

Mouse-ear hawkweed top#

Delicate lemony yellow topside of mouse-ear hawkweed

Mouse-ear hawkweed bottom

red stripes on the underside of mouse-ear hawkweed

Day 29 was a very hot Saturday at home, I’m not very good at very hot weather, so stayed in doors to keep cool. To make up for not doing a tweet on the 29th, I tweeted on the 1st July instead, a photo of a painted lady at Fishlake Meadows. This one was in fairly good condition, only missing a few bits from it’s wings. There has been a significant migration of them this year, I saw my first one several weeks ago, they may have made it a long way north this year.

Painted lady

Painted lady at Fishlake Meadows

Day 30 I was at home again, and thankfully it was a much cooler day, so I dared to go outside. Straight away I spotted this bumblebee resting on some sweet william. It seemed to have woken up fairly quickly, as the next time I looked, it had gone.

Bumblebee on sweet william

Bumblebee on sweet william

I’ve really enjoyed this years 30 days wild and I’m going to make a conscious effort to keep tweeting about wildlife more often. I don’t think I will manage every day, but hopefully a few times a week, every week.


3 weeks of wildness

Last week was a bit different to my normal week with 2 evening meetings meaning 2 late starts. I still managed to squeeze in a guided walk, a work party and some strimming though. On Monday 17th after starting late, I went for a walk around Fishlake Meadows in the early evening to see if there was anything different around at a different time. The Nice evening didn’t disappoint! I saw a moorhen and a mature chick near each other along the canal, noticed that the yellow loosestrife is coming in to flower, and heard a particularly energetic sedge warbler singing right next to the path. It was the sight of a huge number of peacock butterfly caterpillars that stole the show though, with their black spikes and small white spots they look quite threatening, particularly en masse.

Peacock caterpillars 2019

Huge number of peacock butterfly caterpillars on nettle.

18th June was a volunteer day at Blashford Lakes, doing some more work on tern rafts at the side of Ibsley lake. It was a bit of a grey and drizzly day which made it really quite easy to see a lot of insects that were struggling a little for energy. Whilst moving the rafts around, we disturbed this marbled white butterfly, It then posed on an ox-eye daisy for a long time, making it very easy to get a good photo.

Marbleld white 2019

Marbled white butterfly on ox-eye daisy.

On Wednesday while leading a guided walk for a local organic gardening group, we saw lots of lovely flowers, birds and insects. Water figwort was in flower, with its wonderful round red flowers with an open lid. I thought it looked like the flowers are providing a porch for visiting pollinators or that they’re little rabbits.

Figwort 2019

Water figwort in flower.

On Thursday I had another late start and lots of admin to catch up on, so I was mainly indoors at Testwood Lakes. Fortunately there can be wildlife everywhere, if you look hard enough. Just like this white mullein flower that’s managing to grow in the cracks of the paving just outside the office door.

White mullein 2019

White mullein in flower near the Testwood Lakes office door.

Friday the 21st and I took the chance of the dry weather to strim the line for the electric fencing in Ashley Meadow, this will be going back in again soon, ahead of the cows arrival. While strimming I managed to avoid cutting a couple of southern marsh orchids, so was keeping a keen eye out for more. Further on I stopped dead in my tracks in confusion and a little bit of disbelief, right in front of me was a pyramidal orchid! I even sent Bob a photo to check I wasn’t going completely mad! An orchid generally associated with dry habitats and doesn’t appear to have been recorded at Fishlake Meadows before. I think its most likely a result of the dry summer last year that’s its had a chance to thrive.

Pyramidal orchid

Pyramidal orchid in flower in Ashley Meadow.

Pyramidal orchid 2

Close up of pyramidal orchid.

Saturday, day 22 I was at a friends wedding, in the grounds of her uncles property, Ashe Park. Its just outside of Basingstoke and has a huge amount of land around it. I was impressed with their wildlife pond that had lots of yellow flag iris around it. I was also impressed that they don’t seem to do too much “tidying”, there were many mature trees, including some dead ones left to decay, and a huge area of grassland just being left to do its thing. A good variety of grasses and flowers were growing through the area.

Ashe park grassland

Grassland at Ashe Park.

Day 23 I was at home and didn’t manage to venture very far, so posted a picture from a few days before from Fishlake Meadows. Along the side of the permissive path there was a flower I wasn’t familiar with looking fresh and beautiful. I took some photos, had a close look and then tried to identify it later. Other than knowing it was a member of the dead nettle family, thanks to it’s square stem and overall look, I couldn’t settle on an ID. I got in touch with the wonderful botanist Bob Page for help, he came back very quickly with “marsh woundwort”. It’s a flower I don’t think I’ve seen before, but will hopefully be able to remember it now.

Marsh woundwort

Marsh woundwort with beautiful patterns to the flowers.

I can’t believe that we’re nearly at the end of 30 days wild already! I’ve really enjoyed taking my time whilst out on our nature reserves and in my garden at home to really slow down and look at what’s around me. My job as a Reserves Officer is often busy and hectic, so it doesn’t always feel like I can slow down, 30 days wild is a great excuse to do just that.

Fishlake Meadows work party

Last Friday the 14th June, I held a work party at Fishlake Meadows. Lots of different odd jobs had built up, so it was a good time to get one booked in. The volunteers didn’t disappoint, 10 of them came along to give me a hand. Several of the jobs were tasks to get us prepared for the arrival of the cattle in July. Roger and Keith bravely headed off around Ashley Meadow checking the fence line and making sure it was still all in tact, cutting back any branches leaning on posts or the wire.

Fishlake Meadows: Working Party

Roger wading through tall vegetation to check the fence line.

Graham made sure water would be ready for the cows by refitting the pasture pump in Ashley Meadow. He also fitted a new one in the meadow to the western side of the permissive path. The pumps work like an old fashioned water pump, but instead of pushing a lever down, the cows push a lever back with their noses. A pipe connects to the back of the pump and is put in to a body of water nearby, this then draws the water in to a tray the cows can then drink from.

Fishlake Meadows: Working Party

Graham with the reinstalled Ashley Meadow pasture pump.

Some more volunteers did a wonderful job cutting the reeds and rushes in front of the screens to improve the views of the water. They also managed to put some frames up on the screens that hold bird identification tiles to help people know what might be around.

Bird tile frame left screen

Improved view and bird identification tiles on the left hand screen.

Bird tile frame right screen

Improved view and bird identification tiles on the right hand screen.

The rest of the volunteers cut vegetation back from the canal path. The larger brambles and saplings are too think for my strimmer to get through, so this was a big help.

There will be another work party on the 3rd July doing similar jobs. If you would like to join the Fishlake Meadows volunteers, please get in touch; jo.iddenden@hiwwt.org.uk.


Still going wild

Another week in to 30 days wild, I can’t believe we’re over half way through already! It’s been another busy week, but luckily I’ve still been able to take some time to spot all sorts of wonderful wildlife whilst out getting jobs done. On the 11th I was at Blashford Lakes for the Tuesday volunteer work party. In the morning we were doing some cutting back along the paths and tree checking. In the afternoon we were planting some devils bit scabious near the Ivy North hide. Whilst struggling to dig a hole for one, this shiny bronze beetle caught my eye. After spending some time later identifying it, I settled on Crysolina banksi.

Chrysolina banksi

Chrysolina banksi

Day 12  and I was strimming the vegetation back from the permissive path, all the rain was causing the long grass to flop down over the path. After finishing the strimming I walked back down the permissive path to see what was around. The permissive path has a great display of wildflowers which is keeping insects very happy. I recorded a video of 2 bumblebees enjoying the tufted vetch and a cetti’s warbler singing a few seconds in as an added bonus. Unfortunately I can’t add the video to the blog, but here is a still from the video.

bumblebee and tufted vetch video still.MP4

2 bumblebees enjoying the tufted vetch

Day 13, back at Blashford for the Thursday volunteer group, in drizzly conditions (a rarity for the Thursday group). we were doing a lot of therapeutic sorting in the yard, making it much neater and tidier. Right at the end of the session after having moved another load of metal, the volunteers showed me where some of the bee orchids are. They are a beautiful orchid, sure to brighten even the greyest day. Bee orchids self pollinate in the U.K. as the bee they have evolved to mimic isn’t found in the U.K. Our native bees still get lured to them thinking they’ve found a mate, but have to leave without success.

Bee orchid

Bee orchid

Day 14, a Friday and I held a work party at Fishlake Meadows. There isn’t typically a huge amount of work to do at Fishlake Meadows through the summer, other than strimming the path edges. However I ended up with several odd jobs to get through, mainly in preparation for the cattle. The volunteers did a great job, getting 2 pasture pumps set up, checking a fence line, cutting back larger vegetation from the canal path, clearing the views from the screens and putting up 4 frames with bird identification tiles in. The tiles are interchangeable so can be updated through the year.

Bird tiles on screen 2

Much clearer views over the large lake and bird ID tiles

Bird tiles on screen

Improved view through to the smaller pond and the bird tiles

Day 15 was a day off at home, carrying out some “life admin” as I like to call it. Fortunately I was able to sit with good views of my back garden and our bird feeders, which have been very busy recently. Several of the neighbours have lovely mature gardens, so there are families of blue tits, starlings and house sparrows nearby. The house sparrows are particularly numerous, and swamped the bird feeder, at one point there were 7 at the same time, not leaving any room for the collared dove.

bird feeder in my garden

House sparrows and collared dove on my bird feeders

Day 16 and another busy day at home, when returning from the shops I noticed a foxglove growing just under the kitchen window. A first for my garden, presumably from some wildflower seeds sown a few years ago. I find it very pleasing to see some different species appearing in the garden, I don’t manage as much time out there as I’d like. As we know however, this is often just the ticket for our wildlife, if I managed more “tidying” and “sorting” maybe the biodiversity and invertebrate numbers out there would drop.

Foxglove in my garden

Foxglove in my front garden

This week is a bit of a strange week for me, I have 2 evening meetings, so 2 late starts, but that does give me the chance to have a walk around Fishlake Meadows in the late afternoon/early evening. I don’t normally manage to have a walk round at that time, so I’m intrigued to see if I see anything a bit different.

30 days wild so far

We are now over a week in to the wildlife trusts 30 days wild month, where we try and do one random act of wildness every day of the month of June. I have so far managed mainly a tweet a day! A couple of busy weekends have meant I’ve had a couple of gaps though, I have tried to make up for these as much as possible.

I started on day 3 by getting out to do some work at Fishlake Meadows, the north section of the canal path was becoming quite overgrown and needed strimming. To help keep things wild and to support invertebrates I only strim one side of the path at a time. This leaves one side taller and with plants still in flower with nectar and pollen sources still available. By the time I then strim the other side the vegetation that was cut first usually has some flowers again.


North section of the canal path with one side of the vegetation strimmed

Once I had finished strimming the paths I walked down to the viewing screens, either side of the path has lots of different wildflowers and lots of insects. I spent some time taking photos and videos, and while recording an azure blue damselfly a common soldier beetle flew in to shot and landed.


Azure blue damselfly with common soldier beetle about to land on the right.

On day 4 I was at Blashford Lakes helping Bob with the Tuesday volunteer group, where we spent some time getting the newly built tern rafts ready, which should be launched soon. There are lots of tern rafts that go out on the lakes around the reserve, and the volunteers really enjoy building the rafts and getting them ready. It was a very warm day and we enjoyed having a look at the wildflowers and insects. One of my favourite flowers, scarlet pimpernel was out in flower and I saw a painted lady butterfly! My first of the year.


Volunteers and Bob getting the new tern rafts ready.

On Wednesday it was time to carry out this years habitat condition assessment through the meadows and fens of Fishlake Meadows. This simple survey is designed as a quick and easy way to get a feel for how the habitat is doing. In randomly selected 1 metre quadrats we look for a set list of plant species that are considered positive indicators for the habitat. We also record how much scrub is present and negative indicators such as nettle and thistle cover and leaf litter. Quite a few volunteers were able to help with the survey, making the spotting of flowers much easier.


Bob Page and volunteers assisting with the condition habitat assessment.

Day 6 and back at Blashford Lakes with the Thursday volunteers, we were continuing with searching for and pulling Himalayan balsam. Whilst working through a particularly nettley section of the reserve we then emerged at an area filled with flowering foxgloves. It looked beautiful and several of us took a moment to just enjoy looking at them.


Beautiful foxgloves flowering in a clearing near the silt pond.

On Friday the 7th, in the afternoon I led a guided walk for the Fareham Local Group at Fishlake Meadows. Fortunately we were very lucky and just missed the worst of the downpours. We had a lovely walk and were treated to the sound of cuckoos, reed warblers, whitethroats, stonechats, cetti’s warblers and many more. We also had lovely views of house martins, swifts and reed buntings as we walked down the permissive path. Once we made it to the screens we could see 2 great white egrets, one wading through the water, where it caught a huge fish! We could see the fish slowly moving down its long, thin neck, which looked quite uncomfortable to us. A hobby was making the most of the break in the rain, swooping over the water right in front of the screen and then landing on one of the dead trees, giving us a great view of it. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the egret or hobby, so instead posted a photo of a lovely yellow flag iris which are in flower all over the reserve.

Yellow flag iris

Yellow flag iris

I had quite a busy weekend so only managed to send a tweet for both days on Monday. Saturday morning Bob and myself led a guided walk for Romsey Local Group in to Ashley Meadow. As Bob has said in his blog recently, this area isn’t open to the public, so the group enjoyed getting to have a closer look through the meadow. There are many lovely wild flowers through the meadow, including southern marsh orchids, some particularly bright. Whilst looking through the meadows I was able to net an azure blue damselfly and a common blue butterfly for people to get a closer look.


Very bright southern marsh orchid

On Sunday I was off work but very busy, whilst heading out I noticed in the front garden that there was a poppy in flower again. I have had them flowering in the front garden a couple of years ago but they were absent last year, so I was very pleased to see one back again.

Poppy 2.jpg

Beautiful poppy in my front garden

This week looks a bit miserable weather wise, but I will still be getting out and about lots and should hopefully have more wildlife delights to share.

Monday 21st May

On Monday 20th May I took a walk around Fishlake Meadows after 2 and a half weeks off. I couldn’t believe how much had changed in such a short time. The thing that struck me the most were how many more flowers were out in bloom. There really is a wonderful array of flowers at Fishlake Meadows at the moment.

Walking along the canal I couldn’t believe how much greener the canal bank looked, and spotted this wonderful hart’s-tongue fern. Just across the canal from it, is where the culvert from the new houses flows in to the canal. I often see a pair of grey wagtails feeding along the flow of water there, but the vegetation has grown up quickly and covers the view now, I’m sure the grey wagtails appreciate the privacy though.

Harts tongue fern

Hart’s-tongue fern

Either side of the canal path there were lots of insects buzzing around the plants and flowers. Plenty of butterflies were in view, mainly whites, with some peacocks and commas. From the canal path I could see dense patches of yellow flag iris around the pools near the permissive path and I couldn’t wait to get a closer look.

Getting towards Ashley Meadow I could see that there was a huge spread of buttercups in flower, looking beautiful. I went in to Ashley Meadow to see what else was coming in to flower. I was rewarded with seeing red clover, common comfrey, cut-leaved cranesbill and 2 southern marsh orchids, although I’m sure there were more.

Buttercups in ashley meadow

Buttercups in Ashley Meadow

Red clover

Red clover

Common comfrey white

White common comfrey

Common Comfrey purple

Pink/purple common comfrey

cut-leaved cranesbill

Cut-leaved cranesbill

Southern marsh orchid Ashley Meadow1

Southern marsh orchid coming in to flower

Walking along the east/west path there were lots of warblers singing away, including a grasshopper warbler, sounding just as you’d imagine with its rapid fire clicks. At the corner near the gate in to the permissive path a hawthorn is in full flower. This one is quite pink and stands out beautifully.

Hawthorn blossom

Hawthorn in flower

Heading on down the permissive path, being shouted at by lots of cetti’s warblers I noticed even more flowers, this time 2 different vetches. Common vetch with its larger deep pink/purple flowers and tufted vetch with its smaller multitude of flowers tightly packed together.

Common vetch

Common vetch

Tufted vetch

Tufted vetch

There were then more buttercups, one with a lovely, shiny, male swollen-thighed beetle on it. Insects were clearly enjoying the warm weather as there was another beetle enjoying this chickweed flower, on closer inspection I think this may be a female swollen-thighed beetle.

Buttercup with male swollen-thighed beetler

Male swollen-thighed beetle

Chickweed spp with beetle

Beetle on chickweed flower, possibly female swollen-thighed beetle

Near to the screens in the ditch I always enjoy seeing the sublime blue of the water forget-me-not, its such a rich, beautiful blue. Photos never quite seem to do it justice.

water forget-me-not

Water forget-me-not

From the screens themselves, the yellow flag iris were truly impressive, and looks like more will be coming in to flower soon. A female mallard was very close to the screen with one duckling that had been resting in one of the vegetation tussocks.

Female mallard and duckling from screen

Female mallard and duckling

yellow flag iris from the screen

Yellow flag iris

The wildlife delights weren’t quite over for me, as I walked back along the permissive path a cuckoo began calling from very close by. Fishlake Meadows seems to be a very good site for cuckoo, with up to 5 being recorded again this year.


It was great to spend time just exploring Fishlake Meadows and really taking time to study the flowers and insects when I often end up just focusing on birds. The reserve is wonderful for a whole host of wildlife.

Yellow flag iris on pool near permissive gate

Yellow flag iris around pool near the permissive path gate.


Birdsong central!

Fishlake Meadows is absolutely spectacular at the moment, there is so much to see and hear that I barely know what to focus on when I’m there!

We have been lucky to have some very special visitors to the reserve in recent weeks. A glossy ibis has been around for a few weeks now, often in the paddocks to the east of the canal and sometimes showing well at the screens. I believe this is the first time a glossy ibis has been reported at the reserve. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start to visit Fishlake Meadows more regularly, the habitat is ideal for them with lots of shallow pools and muddy areas for feeding. This bird is quite likely to be from the breeding colony in Southern Spain as they quite regularly winter in Britain.

Glossy Ibis photo by David Thelwell

Glossy ibis photo by David Thelwell

There has also been a male garganey seen regularly on the pool in front of the screens, the males in particular are very attractive with a distinctive white eye stripe across their brown head. They are slightly larger than teal and are summer visitors to the UK, wintering in Africa. They are typically very secretive so its wonderful so many people have had good views.

Male garganey photo by David Thelwell

Male garganey photo by David Thelwell

On Wednesday I had a walk around the reserve with some of the volunteer wardens, we were treated to the song of lots of warblers, all trying to sing the loudest and protect their spot. Lots of sedge warbler, reed warbler, cetti’s warbler, garden warbler and blackcap all singing away. They are typically quite difficult to get a view of so just standing quietly and listening to all the singing is lovely.

The flowers at Fishlake Meadows are really coming through now, in particular, cuckoo flowers, they seem to be everywhere. They are the food plant of the orange tip butterfly caterpillar and there are lots of the butterflies around at the moment. Cuckoo flowers favour damp meadows and ditches, so Fishlake Meadows is ideal for them.

Cuckoo flower

Cuckoo flower, also known as lady’s smock

I also spotted a flower I’m not familiar with, which I had some help identifying as Barbarea vulgaris or common winter-cress. There is a lot of it coming in to flower either side of the permissive path. There were also lots of buttercup species in flower, many of them being visited by lots of insects.

Common winter-cress

Common winter-cress

Buttercup spp

Another sign that spring is hurtling towards summer is that there are mallard ducklings along the canal again. I counted 8 ducklings with the female all feeding and chirping away. Many cuckoos have been seen and heard, at the moment the highest record is 5, which were all seen at the same time. Other birds to keep an eye out for are hobby’s and swifts which have both been recorded again recently.

Mallard ducklings on canal


Slime mould – A new kingdom

A week or so ago, on a piece of wood, next to the east/west path at Fishlake Meadows, I spotted this wonderful slime mould. Originally considered fungi, slime moulds are now classified in to a completely different kingdom. Slime moulds are formed by the fusion of single cells and are multi-nucleate. When slime moulds form the visible globule (as shown in the photo below), they are able to move…with purpose! Many studies have been carried out with slime mould, one study discovered that they always chose the shortest path in a maze leading to a food source. If you see one, take a photo, leave it for a while, and when you return it will probably have changed shape.

Slime mould

This slime mould is in its reproductive phase, the smooth white silvery surface develops before enteridium lycoperdon splits open and exposes masses of brown spores underneath. These spores then disperse by wind and rain until they are basically all gone. Enteridium lycoperdon is also known as the false puffball and is one of the more common species of slime mould.

slime mould 1 week on

Super Volunteers!

This winter we have been able to get a huge amount of winter scrub cutting done, thanks to the tremendous efforts of our dedicated volunteers. Altogether the volunteers have clocked up 587.5 hours on winter work parties between the 24th October and the 27th February. One block of scrub has been completely cleared and a second is very nearly cleared. This has opened up views across the reserve beautifully, and looks wonderful.

View from canal where scrub cleared 2019 3

View across the reedbed now opened up and lovely large dead hedge.

You may have noticed that the stumps have been left quite high, there are several reasons for this;

  • it’s easier for staff and volunteers to cut the stumps a bit higher.
  • if the stumps do regrow vigorously, it gives us scope to cut the stumps down lower and then still be able to treat them with herbicide.
  • as the stumps die off there will be standing dead wood created.

We have created more dead hedges and increased the size of existing ones with the material extracted. This is great habitat for many birds to forage for insects, get shelter and to nest. Keep an eye out for wrens, blackcaps and dunnocks in these dead hedges.

Spring is now fully on its way, in the last few weeks I have spotted many lovely signs of spring. The catkins on the willows have been out for quite a while and look lovely. At Blashford male adders are beginning to emerge quite regularly to bask when the temperatures are high enough.

Lesser periwinkle is in flower near the old pond to the rear of the centre at Blashford. Periwinkle are lovely flowers with asymmetrical petals so they look like fan blades or a windmill.

lesser periwinkle blashford march 19

The weather is staying mild and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of turning, so we could have a very early start to nesting and breeding season, and a very successful spring for wildlife. Although, this is an indication that climate change is having a real impact, I’m not sure our wildlife will cope very well if we have another summer as dry as last year.

A race to the end of February

I’ve had a very busy few weeks trying to get through as much scrub cutting as possible before the end of February. Since the 4th February I’ve had a student from Sparsholt with me on work experience. Chloe is studying Ecology and Conservation and is in her first year, so we have spent a lot of time out doing practical conservation work and talking about why the work is needed, and the species that may benefit from the different work we’ve been doing.

Working with the Fishlake Meadows volunteers we have been trying to get blocks of scrub cleared, and the material added in to the dead hedges. This winter has been much wetter than last year and there have been several days when the water has been too deep to get to the scrub. Clearing the scrub prevents succession in to wet willow woodland, allows the reedbeds to expand and improves views from the canal path. Building the dead hedges with the cut material creates wonderful habitat for birds and invertebrates to find food and shelter in.


Beofre and after 21.11.18

Scrub cutting in deep water

Fishlake meadows building dead hedge

Dead hedge built from cut scrub

At the end of Chloe’s first week, we headed to St Catherine’s Hill to help the Winchester team with some hedge laying. This turned out to be a very wet and windy day, so was a little miserable being on top of a hill! It was a great opportunity for both of us to practice our hedge laying, and we were able to get quite a bit done. The day had to be cut short when the wind picked up in the afternoon and it began hailing. Fortunately it didn’t put Chloe off enough not to come back the following week.

We have also had quite a few days with the Blashford volunteers, allowing Chloe to see a different reserve, experience working with different volunteers and to see how work can differ between sites. With the Blashford volunteers we have been doing more tree felling of sycamores and grey alder and clearing up larger trees felled by contractors. In between all of this we were able to have a look around the hides so Chloe could get a good look at the birds and learn a few more of them. This included a very good view of the bittern as it moved from one area of reeds to another.


Snowdrops at Blashford Lakes

Along the way we’ve seen some great wildlife, lots of flowers are coming in to bloom, including some lovely patches of snowdrops at Blashford. While walking to the hides at Testwood Lakes we saw some lovely bright pink hazel flowers. There have been plenty of birds around at the Fishlake Meadows screens we’ve seen pintail, teal, shoveler and pochard. We’ve heard lots of cetti’s warbler, water rail and reed bunting, and have in fact had a few very good views of cetti’s warbler, which as many of you may know is a novelty. At Testwood Lakes around 200 lapwing were flying around or resting, giving us a good look at their beautiful green colouring and crest, it was also a delight to hear their squeaking calls.

Hazel flower 2019 close up

Hazel flowers

There seems to be a lot of colour appearing already as many spring flowers are coming through, primroses are now in flower at Blashford, as well as lesser celandine and wild daffodils. At Fishlake Meadows some violets are flowering and scarlet elf cups are adding to the colours to be seen, they are getting particularly large now.

Yesterday on Chloe’s penultimate day of work experience she was very lucky to get some even better views of the bittern at Blashford Lakes. I went along a bit later to see if I could get a glimpse and hopefully a photo too. I did manage to get a photo, but was only a record shot at best, it was lovely to see it again and I may get a chance next week to get a better photo. We finished Chloe’s placement with a final walk around Fishlake Meadows, it was a bit of a grey foggy morning but there was plenty of noise coming from the reed beds. There were lots of reed buntings singing away, which we didn’t hear on Wednesday and many cetti’s warblers and water rails joining in. We even got another very good view of a cetti’s warbler as a wren chased it away. At least 2 great white egrets were moving around, and lots of geese and gulls were making a lot of noise, I suspected a bird of prey may be troubling them, but we didn’t manage to spot one.


Not a very good photo of a bittern