A Better View

With the clocks going back and autumnal wind and rain not to mention an increasing likelihood of further restrictions on going out returning, things have been a little gloomy of late. However as many people have found in recent times being able to get out into nature, even in the rain does undoubtedly help lift the mood. In normal times most people mainly make use of the bird hides to view wildlife at Blashford Lakes, with these closed there is a need to seek other opportunities. Luckily the paths between the hides go through some interesting habitat and offer lots of chances to see all sorts of wildlife, something often forgotten as people rush from hide to hide in normal times. Unfortunately when it comes to viewing the lakes themselves and the wildfowl on them the hides are important, without them there are just a few screens and the high viewpoint at the rear of the Main Car Park near Tern Hide.

It had seemed possible that we might be getting to a point where we would be able to open the hides, with some restrictions, but sadly this now seems much less likely and we may have to face up to having no hide access this winter. This means looking for alternative viewing opportunities and the first one identified is just beside Ivy North Hide. Thanks to the gravel surface already being there and the screen facing the right way opening up a viewpoint was relatively easy. So on Friday afternoon I cut the vegetation between the screen and the lake and made an opening in the screen. This means that Ivy Lake is now viewable from three directions, looking north-west from the southern end of the Rockford path, looking west from further north up that path and now looking south from beside Ivy North Hide.

Ivy North screen
Now with an opening and views out over the Ivy Lake

We have also recently given a haircut to a lot of the bushes and small trees that were starting to get in the way of the view of Ibsley Water from the viewpoint, the panoramic view from there is quite impressive, all we need now are some starlings to put on a show.

Time for a Trim

Tuesday is one of our volunteer task days at Blashford and today’s task was to cut the vegetation in front of Ivy North hide and open up some sight lines through the reedbed. The hides are great for seeing birds but only if we can keep the views open, but more than this we are also trying to ensure that people get the best possible views of the wildlife that might be on offer. One of the occasional treats at Ivy North is the chance to see a bittern and this is one of the main objectives of the reed cutting near this hide.

Ivy North reeds before

Reeds at Ivy North hide before cutting sight lines.

The reeds have been spreading and this year’s growth was especially vigorous, meaning than cutting the line was hard work. The one positive was that it was fairly dry, although this made cutting easier to do it means that there is not likely to be a bittern there any time soon.

Ivy North reeds after

Ivy North reeds after cutting sight line

This year I also cut a line through to the water right in front of the hide.

Ivy North reeds centre area after

a line cut through to the water

The objective of a hide should be to give the observer a view that they would not get otherwise. At Blashford we have tried, as much as possible, to get each hide to deliver something different and hopefully at least one or two will have something really worth seeing from them at all times of the year. Today there were two peregrine near Tern hide, with one adult perched on one of the posts near the hide, the water pipit was seen from both Tern and Goosander hide and a great white egret from Ivy North, despite our  working outside the hide. The only other birds there whilst we were working were two or more water rail heard calling and a singing Cetti’s warbler.

We are soon looking to replace the Tern hide, it is in a very exposed location and is showing signs of age ahead of most of the others. Replacement offers the chance to tweak things a bit too and the new hide is to be slightly larges, slightly higher off the ground and moved ever so slightly, all changes that should give improved views. Expect to read more about this and other updates top the reserve in the coming weeks.