Summing up…

The past two weeks hasn’t all been about the current improvements at Blashford, we have been in search of reptiles and amphibians on two Wild Days Out, run a busy family pond dip session (distinctly lacking in newts, we must have scared them all off the week before!) and woven some very pretty Easter baskets using materials found on the reserve.

And the reserve is looking lovely! It is getting greener by the day, although some trees are suffering more than others from the ever increasing number of munching Alder leaf beetles. This Crab apple in particular is being stripped bare:

There are plenty of wildflowers out, including Germander speedwell, Ground ivy, Cuckoo flower, Moschatel, Primrose, Cowslip and Common Dog-violet. Lesser celandine is carpeting the woodland floor near the reserve entrance and the Bluebells will soon be following suit, with some already flowering.

The warm sunny weather has bought the butterflies out in force, with Brimstone, Orange-tip, Speckled wood, Small white, Comma and Peacock all on the wing.

Large numbers of Sand martin have been investigating the holes in the Sand martin wall in preparation for nesting and Swallows are also back, although currently in much smaller numbers. Three Black tern spent most of today over Ibsley Water and as I left all three had alighted the Osprey perch out in the lake. Little ringed plover have been on the shoreline and Lapwing continue to display overhead.

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Sand martins

David Stanley-Ward sent in two very fine photos recently, one of two fighting Coot taken from the new Tern Hide and the other of two Great-crested grebes displaying in front of Goosander Hide.

Coots

Fighting Coots by David Stanley-Ward

Great-crested Grebe

Great-crested Grebes by David Stanley-Ward

If you have visited recently and would like to share your wildlife sighting with us, please do email them to BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk along with whether you are happy for us to use them on the blog and on other promotional material and how you would like to be credited. We don’t always manage to post images straight away, but do always enjoy seeing them, so thank you David for sharing these.

The woodland is full of bird song, with Chiff-chaff and Cetti’s warbler in particular standing out with their more striking calls. Blackcaps are seen frequently although they do not stay in one spot for long and Willow warblers are also present whilst Brambling and Reed bunting continue to feed in front of the Woodland Hide. Sedge warbler and Reed warbler can also be heard in the reedbeds by Ivy North Hide and Ivy Silt Pond.

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Brambling

And finally back to the events! On our Wild Days Out Amphibian and Reptile Rambles we managed one young grass snake, the same snake in the same spot on both days. This really isn’t the best photo, but if you look in the centre you might be able to make out the tip of it’s tail as it disappeared into the undergrowth.

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Spot the tiny grass snake’s tail!

On both days the weather was fairly cool so we failed to spot an adder, but both groups enjoyed a longer walk over to Goosander Hide and the older children managed to make it as far as Lapwing Hide.

Back at the pond we had more success, catching a number of newts, and we also found some under the logs in the woodland. Both days were enjoyed by all, even if the reptiles were a bit thin on the ground!

And last but not least, on Wednesday morning a very satisfying two hours were spent weaving in willow wood, with a number of children creating some very striking Easter baskets using materials collected on the reserve and a wooden disc base prepped by volunteer Geoff. We used rush, sedge and larch as well as the willow, with a couple of the older children even having a go with fresh bramble. One of the girls stripped the bark off some of the willow leaving the inner white of the rod on show. They all looked amazing!

The last couple of weeks have been very varied, but with the weather warming up it has been lovely to be out and about on the reserve. Spring is definitely here!

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Hedgerow foraging

Today was another glorious day, made all the more enjoyable by the opportunity to lead a hedgerow basket making course on the reserve, utilising many of the materials found here. I was joined by an eager group of participants, all of whom had very little or no experience of basket making, so framework was a great introduction to the craft.

We began with a short wander gathering our materials:

Gathering materials 2

Gathering materials on a short walk

Hedgerow materials

Hedgerow materials, including birch, rush and sedge, ivy, willow, broom, holly and larch

Hedgerow materials add both colour and texture to baskets, although some of the brighter colours will fade as the cuttings dry out. Flexible climbers such as honeysuckle and ivy are great, as are different willows and dogwoods. Whilst we have no dogwood growing on the reserve, there were still plenty of other materials available and I had managed to take some dogwood cuttings from elsewhere so vibrant reds and greens could also be incorporated into the weaving. If a material can be bent around your wrist it can probably be included somewhere!

We then used some of the thicker willow rods to create two hoops, which form the basket’s frame: one hoop is the rim of the basket whilst the other is the handle and base. These were bound together using a ‘god’s eye weave’, or circular lashing which wraps around each rib in turn in an anti-clockwise direction. After securing the two hoops, thicker lengths of willow were used to create ribs which were placed under the rim of the basket so they rested on the god’s eye weave:

Frame

Two hoops bound together using a ‘god’s eye weave’

Frame and ribs

The framework of the basket: hoops and ribs

It was then time to build up the body of the basket using and experimenting with the different materials we had collected on our wander:

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Weaving

Weaving the body of the basket

Finally, our foray into hedgerow basket making was complete, with some lovely colourful results!

Hedgerow basket

Hedgerow baskets

Completed hedgerow baskets

Hopefully the weather will be as lovely for our local craft event next Sunday, 20th March. We will be joined by a local basket maker, Malcolm Fay, who will be demonstrating the craft of round willow basket making, along with volunteer Geoff Knott who will be wood turning. Other demonstrations will include coppice crafts and hurdle making.

In addition to the above demonstrations there will be other locally produced items available to both see and buy, including jewellery, leatherwork, paintings and photography as well as craft activities for children. Please though remember to bring cash as not all stallholders may be able to take a card payment. Tea, coffee and cake will also be available, courtesy of Walking Picnics.

We hope you can join us then!

On the bird front, the bittern was seen today from Ivy North hide.