The weather is changing. Last of the spring fungus?

Nectria punicea var ilicis on holly.
Calvatia utriformis. Puffball.
Mucilago crustacea. Slime mould.
Calocybe gambosa. St.georges mushroom.
Lycogala epidendrum. Wolf’s milk slime mould.
Agrocybe praecox.
Ceratiomyxa fructiculosa. Coral slime mould.
Psathyrella candoleana.
Polyporus tuberaster.
Panaeolus semiovatus. Egghead mottlegill.
Panaeolus papilionaceus. Petticoat mottlegill.


Challenging Events Ltd are leasing the main carpark (north side of Ellingham Drove) to run their Huntsman Triathlon event this coming Sunday (14th May). There will be some disruption to the reserve during the event and time either side to set up and pack down.

As such, the main carpark will be closed on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th May.

Tern hide will be open on Saturday however please anticipate some disruption as they will be setting up barriers, porta-loos etc. Tern hide will be closed all day on Sunday. The rest of the reserve will remain open as normal throughout, including the viewing platform.

Visitors to the nature reserve will use the parking on the Education Centre (southern) side of Ellingham Drove, but please be advised this has limited capacity so you may decide to rearrange your visit.

If you do choose to visit on the Sunday while the triathlon 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!

In exchange for the use of the carpark , the reserve will receive a fee which goes directly to the Blashford Lake Nature Reserve.

Thank you for your understanding, and if you do visit on Sunday morning be sure to look out to Ellingham Lake as the triathletes take to the water!.

Spring has sprung!

With the early flowers now out giving our grasslands and woodland floors a splash of colour, it is safe to say spring is well underway on the reserve. Hirundines (members of the swallow family) have been gathering in their hundreds over the lakes, some stocking up before making their way to breeding grounds further north, and others choosing to stay, including the sand martins prospecting the artificial nest bank in front of Goosander hide.

Sand martin Riparia riparia checking out the artificial nesting wall. © Doug Masson
Willows are generally dioecious meaning the male and female flowers are found on separate trees. The stout round male flower (catkin) on this Salix sp. are laden with pollen. Female flowers are longer and green. © Jack Medley
Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina is also known as Town Hall Clock because four of its five flowers face outwards at 90 degrees rather like a town clock. An unassuming and easily missed flower found on the woodland floor. © Jack Medley
Common Stork’s-bill Erodium cicutarium. A low lying herb carpeting the dry nutrient poor grassland on the fringes on the lichen heath. © Jack Medley

Various surveys are underway including reptile and butterfly transects, and a suite of breeding bird surveys carried out by our committed volunteers. We also have our moth trap back out and running.

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria has a preference for dappled sunlight found in woodland rides and edges such as the paths found on the northern side of the reserve. © Jack Medley
The Streamer Anticlea derivata is a distinctive moth recognised by the black marking on the leading edge of it’s forewing. Caterpillars can be found feeding on rosa sp. over summer before overwintering as pupa and hatching as adults between March and May. © Jack Medley

In addition to the usual suspects, spring 2023 has delivered some unexpected surprises to the reserve. Arctic tern, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt and White Stork have all been observed in recent weeks highlighting the importance of the site not just for our common species but also some UK rarities.

This Black Winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus was observed foraging on the southern shore of Ibsley Water for two consecutive days giving birders great views from Tern Hide. Only the second time this species has been recorded on the reserve. Photographed by © Doug Masson
Another cracking record was this White Stork Ciconia ciconia snapped yesterday by © Doug Masson. This too is only the second time the species has been spotted at Blashford. Possibly an individual from one of the reintroduction schemes further east but interestingly no ring to ID the bird.

It hasn’t just been survey work and bird watching of course, with plenty of conservation work to do and a multitude of infrastructure to repair, replace and maintain. The conservation volunteers have been busy helping with path and fence repairs, installing new kissing gates and painting the hides.

We tracked down and removed a lonesome American skunk cabbage in the wet woodland next to the Dockens Water; we have been mapping and removing this invasive plant over the last few years and hope to eradicate it from site giving sensitive native ground flora a helping hand.

American Skunk Cabbage Lysichiton americanus – a highly invasive non-native plant of waterways and wet woodland. If left unchecked, it has the potential to smother valuable native species. Its deep rhizomes make it a challenge to eradicate. © Jack Medley
New metal kissing gate to replace the rotten wood gate at the southern end of Ellingham Lake. Installed with the skilful help of the conservation volunteers. © Jack Medley
Thursday volunteer work party painting Tern Hide. © Jack Medley

And with the affectionately named ‘mud hut’ dilapidated and in a state of disrepair, we decided to replaced the structure with a living substitute – a willow dome. We hope the cuttings take root and will be an interesting feature at the far end of Ellingham Lake once established!

Willow dome planting underway. © Jack Medley

Early spring Fungi

Snowy disco. Lachnum virgineum.
Eyelash fungus. Scutelinia scutellata.
Young candle snuff. Xylaria hypoxylon.
Slime mould. Badhamia utricularis.
Same thing one week later.
Tuberous Polypore. Polyporus tuberaster.
Puccinia phragmitis. Dock leaf rust.
Underside of the leaf.
Through a X10 magnifier.
St.Georges mushroom. Calocybe gambosa. A very good year for them. 10 locations found and counting.

For anyone that thinks fungi spotting is autumn only, think again. This is just a small selection of the 50+ species I have already recorded this year. The biggest difference at this time of year is think really small. Walk slow and really study

Cauliflower slime mould (reticularia lycoperdon)

I have been fortunate to find and witness the sporulation phase of the cauliflower slime mould on the old pollarded oak adjacent to the Goosander/Lapwing kissing gate.The first photo is just a few hours after the plasmodium comes together to start creating spores. The remaining photos are at 24 hour intervals and the last shows spores being released. An amazing organism.

Boardwalk opening – 28th February!

The grand unveiling is finally just around the corner. After months of head scratching, post banging, levelling and bolting pieces of wood together.. the new Ivy South bridge and boardwalk will be ready to open to the public tomorrow afternoon! To mark the occasion, we were thinking it would be nice to do a small ribbon cutting ‘ceremony’ to thank those who have supported the project along the way. We appreciate this is last minute, however if you are able to make it, we look forward to seeing you around 14:00 near Ivy South hide.

By linking up the path between Ivy South hide and Ellingham Lake walk, the popular circular route, known as the ‘Wild Walk’, will be navigable once again!

Many thanks again to everyone who gave to the appeal and to those who helped with the construction effort.

Reserve (largely) reopen

The Dockens Water has dropped since yesterday meaning Ellingham Drove is reopen and passable once again. Please note that whilst we have been able to reopen much of the reserve again today, there are still some areas of standing water that are yet to drain and have frozen over, including tern hide carpark which remains closed (pictured below). Some other areas of the reserve may also remain closed due to ice, so if you do visit this week, please take care and follow the site signage.

Reserve closed due to flooding

Following last night’s heavy rain, the Dockens Water burst its banks causing flooding across the reserve and along Ellingham Drove. We have therefore been forced to close the reserve, including all hides and car parks.

Please be advised that the police have closed off Ellingham Drove so if you are travelling in the area, you will need to find an alternative route.

The water may take some time to recede and, with a cold snap forecast tonight, may also freeze over. We will post again to confirm when the reserve is open again, so please do check with us before making a special journey.

Stay safe!

Bird hide works complete and boardwalk update

During planned re-roofing works on Ivy South, Woodland and Ivy North hides, it was found that some of the wooden support posts had rotted through causing certain sections of the structures to subside! This caused some of the windows to jam, the gutters to sag, and in time the floor beams too would have rotted too. Whilst the contractors were still on site, we decided to address the issues straight away. After levelling the hides, the old posts were removed and replaced with concrete slabs and a layer of damp proof membrane to prevent rising damp.

Although this additional work set the completion date back by a few weeks, we hope that it will have extended the life of the hides by a good number of years! With this in mind, we took pre-emptive action to level and re-roof Lapwing hide while we were at it!

Minor repairs were all that were needed to refurb the Ivy South and Lapwing access ramps however Ivy North and Woodland ramps needed replacing entirely. We’re relieved to say that the work is now complete, and that all the hides are open, accessible and dry once again for everyone to enjoy.

Woodland hide ramp under construction
Woodland hide ramp complete
Ivy North ramp complete

With the hides up together again, we have now turned our attention to finishing another big infrastructure project on the reserve – the ever popular boardwalk. With staff changes, weather extremes and increased material costs, the odds have been stacked against us, however good progress has been made and we are anticipating to finish the work in the early part of 2023.

We are super excited to have this open soon for the thousands of people that visit Blashford each year to enjoy once again! A huge thank you again to everyone who donated towards this project appeal – it wouldn’t have been possible without you!

Progress during Summer 2022
Frame going in on the new ‘passing place’
Passing place almost complete
End in sight!

Short but sweet!

It’s been a whirlwind year at Blashford Lakes! I started in the October half term of 2021 as Assistant Education Officer, and I have now finished my role at Blashford, and am off to Indonesia for 7 months.

If it wasn’t for an amazing opportunity in West Java, I would definitely have continued on at Blashford, it’s such a beautiful place, and there are so many lovely regular visitors, volunteers, and the staff are alright too (although 3 of them left once I joined….was it something I said?!). Thank you to Jim, Tracy and Bob, I have learnt so much over the past year.

I wish Jack, Pete, Sam and Karen, and whoever the new face of Education is all the best, and really they won’t get rid of me, I will try my best to wriggle back in (maybe as an OLT) once I get home. Fingers crossed for fewer trees down than last year, and hopefully none of them will hit the power lines! I am looking forward to seeing all the hides waterproof once more, and I am sure I will be kept updated with how many infuriating mice have plundered the loft!

Thank you all for making me feel so welcome! To everybody who came on harvest mouse nest surveys, who helped on education days, and, although I don’t want anybody to feel like I am picking favourites, thank you to Midge for bringing me a variety of animal skulls and for wanting to draw the fallow buck, and to Kate who was always delightfully cheery when I asked whether she wanted to help me with the ‘pond snot’. I do hope the ponds don’t get too snotty again… it’s not as exciting a job clearing it by yourself! Thank you to Liz and Nora who wouldn’t let me leave without an afternoon of cake (and walnut cracking!) and amusing presents.