Almost back to normal

Well it might be windy out there this morning but it’s preferable to waking up to another weekend being battered by storms!

All of the hides are now open and the flood water in the Main car park by Tern Hide has fallen away enough that that can be opened this weekend. Please be aware however that it is likely to be closed again for a time this Sunday while the silt and debris left behind by the river is removed. Visitors will be able to park “between the gates” on the car park approach at this time and the hide itself will of course be open as normal.

The boardwalk beyond Ivy South Hide however remains closed for the time being, in part due to fallen trees, although the worst of these has now been dealt with, but mostly because the boards themselves, which are now old and have been patched in places on and off over the last couple of years, have not benefited from being inundated by the flooding leaving a number unsafe to walk on. The boardwalk will be removed and replaced, but this is a big job which can not take place until the willow/alder carr dries out so do not expect it to be reopened anytime soon!

Wellingtons required!

The water level in the main car park (north of Ellingham Drove) has dropped enough to make it possible for us to open Tern Hide, however wellington boots are definitely needed to wade through the water if you would like to visit. Hopefully the level will continue to fall, but depending on how much rain we get over the next couple of days we may decide to leave the hide closed, so please do pay attention to the temporary signage on site. If you do venture across, please take extra care as the river carried a fair amount of silt and leaf litter when it flowed through the car park.

Waterfowl on Ibsley Water have been tending to stay further out on the lake and around the edges, with not much venturing in front or close to the hide, just in case that helps a decision on whether or not to visit. The Avon valley is so wet the birds are spoilt for choice at present and the lake itself feels fairly quiet.

I was looking at the debris around the edge of the car park today when locking the hide, and it does look as though the water level made it past the large sleepers and as far as the new sign, further I think than it has been in previous floods. The main car park will remain closed for another couple of days, we will blog again when it re-opens.

With the exception of the boardwalk past Ivy South Hide which remains closed, all other hides and footpaths are open as usual and most of the reserve is easily navigated with sensible shoes or boots. Most of the waterfowl are still on Ivy Lake although the kingfisher seems to visiting Ivy South less frequently than it was. Perhaps it will begin to visit again more regularly when the water levels drop. It was also nice to see a Snipe in the soft rush outside Lapwing Hide when I was checking the paths yesterday.

Unfortunately our two education activity areas seem to have received most of the water (after the main car park of course) so we will be running our Wild Days Out sessions closer to the Centre tomorrow and Thursday. The centre car park will therefore be busy between 9.45am and 10.15am and again from 2.45pm until 3.15pm with parents dropping children off and picking them up. Our sessions are craft themed, so we are not currently planning on visiting the bird hides!

Compared to other parts of the country we have got off fairly lightly, but here’s a photo of Jo and I surveying our rather soggy campfire and den building area, taken today by conservation volunteer Eric Cheer:

campfire area

The footpath in is deeper and our clay pit is currently a pond and filled to the brim, given the ground underneath is clay, it will take a while to drain away!

Reserve update

What a difference a day makes! Water levels have dropped considerably, however the main nature reserve car park remained closed today and will continue to stay closed until the water levels have dropped further. Tern Hide also remained closed today, however hopefully we will be able to open it tomorrow to those visitors wearing welly boots and happy to wade along the edge of the car park…

Other hides are open as usual, with the only other notable closure being that of the boardwalk just past Ivy South Hide. The boardwalk will remain closed until further notice, so please do pay attention to the temporary signs and hazard tape which are in place.

At least today the sky was on occasion blue!

car park

Wet, wet, wet…

Although the winds have subsided, keeping the reserve closed today as well as yesterday was definitely the right thing to do as when I arrived this morning Ellingham Drove was flowing like a river and the water levels definitely rose in the few hours I was on site.

I didn’t venture too far, only checking the paths between the Woodland and Ivy Lake hides for any trees that had come down in yesterday’s strong winds, but wellington boots were definitely needed for stretches of footpath around the Woodland Hide and down towards Ivy South. I decided to save the rest of the checking until tomorrow in case the river on Ellingham Drove became too deep and I struggled to leave – there was at least one car further down the Drove towards Moyles Court that had become stuck in deeper water and a number of drivers decided to think twice, turn around and head back towards the A338.

The only trees of note, which admittedly I could have missed as I haven’t unlocked or locked up for a few days, were well away from the path but unfortunately in the middle of the woodland log circle area we use for bug hunting. They seemed to have just toppled over, lifting up the saturated ground as they went:


I know the boardwalk past Ivy South Hide does occasionally flood when Ivy Lake and the silt pond are both at capacity, but I have never seen water flowing over it before:

The Dockens Water is also fuller than I’ve ever seen it, resulting in it spilling out over Ellingham Drove and into the main reserve car park.

The water was flowing just shy of the river dipping bridge. It will be interesting to see what our dipping area looks like once the waters have dropped again, our ‘beach’ had been looking quite good after the last flood!

Given it was still raining when I left and there really isn’t anywhere for such a huge volume of water to go, it is going to take a day or so for the flood waters to subside from the main car park, even if Ellingham Drove clears relatively quickly:

The photos above don’t really do it justice, the water was flowing into the car park with some force in places, and although I could wade along the road in, I was up to the tops of my wellies not far past the waymarker post in the foreground of the photo of the car park and Tern Hide.

It would be very advisable not to visit in too much of a hurry tomorrow! It is highly likely the main car park will remain closed for a day or two, depending on how quickly the levels drop, and even if Tern Hide becomes accessible by skirting the edge of the car park along slightly higher ground, welly boots will definitely be needed.

The south side of the reserve will hopefully open as usual tomorrow, although again welly boots might be useful for some parts!

Sadly we have had to cancel tomorrows Willow Bird Feeder event, in addition to today’s Weave a Willow Snail event which had been postponed from last Sunday, but hopefully it will stop raining soon and we can get back to normal!

Reserve CLOSED Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th February

The nature reserve will remain closed this weekend, Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th February, again due to the forecast of strong winds and heavy rain. This closure applies to all hides and footpaths.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused, but don’t think a visit here will be a pleasant one!

We anticipate being back open Monday morning as usual, but will post again if this is not the case. Hopefully the weather will improve soon!

Boxes for birds and bugs

At the end of January we made bug homes and bird boxes with our Young Naturalists. They took their bug homes away with them but the bird boxes have since been put up on the reserve by volunteer Brenda who monitors them throughout the nesting season. The past couple of years we have enjoyed spending a session with Brenda and helping out with the nest box monitoring, and we are looking forward to doing the same again this spring.

They particularly enjoyed using Geoff’s bench drill to drill the holes in the bug homes and his pyrography kit to decorate both them and the bird boxes.

Their finished bug homes and bird boxes looked great and I’m sure the birds and bugs will appreciate them.

As we were building the boxes we were distracted by the kingfisher which has been frequenting the pond behind the Education Centre. Best viewed from inside, they enjoyed taking photos through the windows and viewing it through binoculars.

Photographing the kingfisher

Watching the kingfisher

New member Issy managed to take some great photos:

Kingfisher 9 Issy Fry

Kingfisher by Issy Fry

Kingfisher Izzy Fry

Kingfisher by Issy Fry

Our woodwork filled session would not have been possible without the huge efforts of volunteer Geoff, who pre-cut all the bug home and bird box kits and provided all the tools and fixings including the bench drill and pyrography kit. The group do really enjoy building things and it’s great to see how much those who are now on their second or third box building session have grown in confidence. Thank you Geoff!

We also found time during the session once again take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch, visiting the Woodland Hide for the fourth year in a row. Our records were definitely not as numerous as previous years and we recorded 14 species and 32 birds altogether: 8 chaffinch; 3 blue tit; 3 long-tailed tit; 3 blackbird; 2 dunnock; 2 great tit; 2 coal tit; 2 goldfinch; 2 robin; 1 nuthatch; 1 jay; 1 magpie; 1 reed bunting and 1 song thrush.

Jay Issy Fry

Jay by Issy Fry

By comparison, last year we recorded 91 birds and 18 different species. Our missing species this year were siskin, brambling, woodpigeon, jackdaw and great spotted woodpecker (last year we did not record song thrush). The most abundant species last year was also chaffinch, however we recorded 38 at one time compared to this years 8.

This was also the first year our number of different species had decreased, with 15 different species recorded in 2017, 16 in 2018 and then 18 in 2019.

Comparing the results to the past three years is interesting – this winter has definitely been milder resulting in fewer birds coming down to the feeders and fewer finches in general. The absence of brambling this winter, the odd sighting of a lesser redpoll and fewer siskin on the feeders has certainly been noticeable. As a result we have not been ground feeding like previous years as there haven’t been the bird numbers and the feeders have so far provided enough food.

There is still time for a cold snap, but perhaps we will have to wait until next winter for our usual winter visitors.

Our Young Naturalists group is kindly supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.


Feathered Friends

Last Monday we went bird watching with our Wildlife Tots, enjoying some bird themed craft activities before heading outside to see what we could spot.

We began by making bird puppets out of recycled materials and binoculars to help us with our bird watching.

They loved the binoculars!

We then headed outside in search of some cuddly toy birds and had a go at naming them and deciding whether each bird would prefer to live in the woodland or on water.

We then headed to the Woodland Hide to see which woodland birds we could spot and visited Ivy Silt Pond in search of some ducks. In the afternoon with a smaller group we also managed to visit Ivy South Hide.

Jon even did a bit of bird watching from the badger:


Bird watching from the badger by Rex Waygood

We finished off the session by making bird feeders, mixing suet, raisins, sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts together before squishing the mix in to a pine cone.

Hopefully the birds will enjoy them!

Next month we will be looking for signs of Spring and enjoying some fun sensory games and activities on a short wander around the reserve. Details including how to book via Eventbrite can be found on our website.

A huge thank you to volunteer Rex for joining us on both sessions and taking some lovely photos!

Reserve closure update

Following the upgrading of tomorrow’s weather warning, we have decided to completely close the reserve. All car parks and hides, including Tern Hide, will remain closed for the day.

As the weather warning is continuing into Monday, we will post again to confirm we are open so please do check with us before making a special journey.

It is probably best not to travel tomorrow, if you do have to please stay safe!

Advanced warning: reserve closure…

With the current weather forecast for the weekend predicting strong winds from Saturday evening into the early hours of Monday morning, we are anticipating keeping the reserve closed this Sunday,  9th February.

Tern Hide and the main nature reserve car park will open as usual allowing visitors to view Ibsley Water from this point only, all other hides and reserve footpaths will remain closed.

Should things change we will post again Sunday morning to say we are open.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused, but the forecast suggests a day somewhere indoors away from the wind and rain would be advisable!