Bluebells to Beaulieu

I have been very absent from the blog this last few months, so this is another quick round up of what our Young Naturalists group have been up to since April – it seems like such a long time ago now!

At the end of April we visited another Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Roydon Woods.  Spring is a great time to visit and we had timed ours perfectly with the flowering bluebells.

Bluebells

Bluebells

The group also enjoyed photographing and identifying some of the other spring flowers, including Bugle, Greater stitchwort, Wood spurge and Wood anemone:

We also saw Primroses, Lesser celandine, Arum maculatum or Lords-and-Ladies, Speedwell and Wild strawberry. There were also a number of Dor beetles on the paths:

Dor beetle

For the birds, we saw Song thrush, Buzzard, Redstart, Black cap, Great tit, Blue tit, Blackbird, Swallow and Raven and heard Great spotted woodpecker and Chiffchaff.

It was great to discover a different part of the forest with the group, and perhaps we could return again in the Autumn to experience the nature reserve at a different time of year.

During May we met twice, once for the Bird Trail and again at the end of the month to carry out some nest box monitoring with British Trust for Ornithology volunteer Brenda, who keeps a watchful eye over all of the nest boxes on the reserve.

The Bird Trail was organised by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in partnership with Hampshire Ornithological Society, with each competing team vying to be the one which saw, identified and recorded the most species of bird (and other wildlife – the number of which would be critical in the event of a tie in the number of birds seen).

Following a set route that took in Tern Hide, Ivy South Hide, Woodland Hide and Ivy North Hide, we were also kept busy with a range of other wildlife activities throughout the day including a bird ringing demonstration, pond and river dipping, looking at the moths caught in the light trap, owl pellet dissecting, a static birds of prey demonstration by Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre and a bird feeding strategy activity provided by New Forest National Park Authority Rangers.

Jim was able to blog after the event, and our Young Naturalists team did manage to improve on last time’s second place to come first, recording 44 bird species over the course of the day. Our highlights were probably the Hobby, which flew over the Education Centre whilst we and some of the other teams were having lunch, along with the Chaffinch, simply because it took us all day to see one – we had to wait until we had completed our circuit of all the bird hides and had walked back up to the feeder by the Welcome Hut.

At the end of May, Brenda offered to once again take the group round a number of the nest boxes on the reserve as she checked them and ringed the young. They were delighted to be able to peak inside the nest boxes, a couple of which had been made by older members of the group, see the birds being ringed and handle them carefully before putting them back in their nests.

The nest box monitoring and checking on the reserve by Brenda is carried out following the BTO’s Nest Recording Scheme Code of Conduct and we ensured at all times that nest disturbance was kept to a minimum and our observing did not have a negative impact on their chance of success. The group were incredibly quiet, careful, asked lots of great questions and knew how lucky they were to get the opportunity to join Brenda for a closer look inside the boxes. 

After spending time with Brenda we headed off down to the river in search of two invasive species, Himalayan balsalm and Pink purslane, which when found we pulled up. Hopefully we made a little bit of a difference!

At the end of June, which doesn’t seem quite so long ago, we returned to the Beaulieu River for another canoe safari, an activity the group did a couple of summers ago and really enjoyed. It was brilliant to see the wildlife from a different perspective.

Group

Receiving our briefing

Whilst out on the water we saw Little egrets, Oystercatchers, a Common tern, lots and lots of Canada geese, Swallows, Black headed gulls, a Buzzard, Marbled white butterflies, dragonflies and a Bee which we rescued from the water.

We tried samphire (not popular with all!), watched fish jumping and stuck our hands in the Mermaid’s hair.

The highlight though had to once again be the thousands upon thousands of Moon jellyfish which we paddled through along one stretch of the river:

We had a great day wildlife watching from our canoes, but only Alex opted to jump in off the jetty at the very end:

Alex

Our Young Naturalists group is funded by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

Blashford Bird Trail 2017

Well I told Tracy I’d blog the Bird Trail and as she told everyone in her last post that I would be I suppose I really should!

The Bird Trail is a joint event run by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with the Hampshire Ornithological Society with the express intent of engaging groups of children and young people in wildlife and, of course, in bird watching in particular.

The 2017 Bird Trail was another great success and it would not have been so without the support of many people and organisations: first off I will thank all of the Hampshire Ornithological Society and HIWWT volunteers who helped out on the day and ensured that it was the great success it was! Volunteers led on a multitude of tasks from photographing the event, to supervising the road crossings or administering the group registration and totaling up the bird lists, to leading activities including owl pellet dissection, pond dipping and river dipping to name but a few! Thank you!

We are also very grateful to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, Waders for Real, Bird Aware Solent and the Natural History Museum for attending on the day with some fantastic displays, information and interactive activities as well as British Trust for Ornithology volunteers for their bird ringing demonstration – a definite highlight for many.

We had some fantastic prizes with thanks to sponsorship from Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group, Hampshire Swifts, In Focus, Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, Nutbags, Pearsons and Birds of Poole Harbour – thank you!

Thank you to Chris Packham, President of HOS and long-term supporter of the Bird Trail since it’s very first inception many, many years ago, who once again somehow managed to find time in a very full calendar of filming and other commitments to support the event himself and gave a typically short but well made, pointed yet humorous talk on wildlife watching, why we should all do it and how we can all help it as well as awarding the prizes and spending time with the volunteers, young people and exhibitors participating in the activities. This year the focus of his talk, having only recently returned from there, was the on-going illegal slaughter of 100’s of 1000’s of songbirds in Cyprus for it’s restaurant trade…

And finally of course, thank you to the groups of children and young people themselves and particularly the group leaders and parent helpers who gave up their Sunday to bring them… although to be fair I think you had almost as much fun (as much fun?!) as the children did!

Guided, chaperoned and instructed by HOS volunteers our groups (this year including multiple teams from Ringwood and Fordingbridge Beaver Scouts, Blashford and Havant Wildlife Watch groups, Titchfield Haven Wildlife Explorers and our own Young Naturalists) set off at intervals on a set route around the nature reserve to see (or hear!) as many species of bird as they could. Before or after starting their bird watch groups also had the opportunity to participate in a raft of other activities including pond dipping, river dipping, a BTO bird ringing demonstration and owl pellet dissection as well as enjoy interactive displays laid on by our visiting project exhibitors.

The winning team – 3rd Ringwood Beavers (team 1) came top on the day with over 5o species of birds (their list has subsequently gone missing in action and I can’t remember the exact total!) and they won individual pairs of Opticron Vega binoculars (courtesy of In Focus) as well as individual tickets for each team member and an accompanying adult to join the Birds of Poole Harbour Christmas Birdwatching cruise.

Close behind, with 47 species, was our very own Young Naturalist group winning family tickets to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, and in third place, with 42 species was Titchfield Haven Wildlife Explorers who won themselves a “Nutbags” sunflower heart filled bird feeder and a FSC guide to the Top 50 Garden Birds, courtesy of the Hampshire Swift Group.

All entrants were awarded with an embroidered “Bird Trail” camp blanket badge (sponsored by Christchurch Ornithological Society) and a certificate (printed by Pearsons) signed personally by Chris Packham himself.

Bird highlights? Goldcrest in the hand at the ringing demo, and peregrine and kingfisher sightings. Other highlights? Definitely the pond dipping and the owl pellet dissection!

Now just need to start thinking about Bird Trail 2018…?

The start… and getting used to our binoculars!

Bird watching…

Pond dipping…

Owl pellet dissection…

Activities and displays with our visiting exhibitors…

Bird ringing demonstration…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adjudicating the final scores!

And the winners!

Go Team!

Last Sunday our Young Naturalists participated in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological SocietyBird Trail” here at Blashford Lakes.

The bird watching and wildlife event for teams of children and young people was hugely fun to participate in, and I’m sure another blog from Jim will follow shortly!

We had a while to wait until our allocated start time, so swiftly headed over to the bird ringing demonstration led by British Trust for Ornithology bird ringers Graham Giddens and Marcus Ward. The group have always enjoyed watching bird ringing demonstrations as it is such a good way to see the birds up close – we were lucky enough to see blue tit, great titnuthatch and goldfinch. Thomas spotted a chiff-chaff being caught but the bird made a speedy getaway so we were unable to get a closer view. A couple of the group, including Thomas below, had a go at holding then releasing the birds, a real privilege!

We then visited Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre‘s static display of birds, again enjoying such close up views.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Kestrel

Kestrel

Still having time to wait we headed over to the Education Centre to have a look at the moths caught in the light trap the night before and the Natural History Museum stand, which contained lots of interesting identification guides and survey projects.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Finally it was time for us to start the trail, so we headed over towards Ivy North Hide, spotting robin, chaffinch, woodpigeon on our way with Thomas taking charge of our list. Before reaching the hide we were treated to distant views of a Peregrine falcon which we watched for some time. At Ivy North Hide we focused on the water birds, spotting cormorant, mute swan, Canada goose, grey heron, coot, gadwall, great crested grebe, shoveler and tufted duck. We also saw jay, swallow and herring gull.

Bird spotting

Bird spotting from Ivy North hide

On our way to the woodland hide we added a few more woodland birds to our list, including blackbird, siskin, long-tailed tit, dunnock, coal tit and greenfinch. Sadly though, despite our best efforts we couldn’t spot a wren

Pausing by the silt pond in the hope of a flash of blue, we heard Cetti’s warbler and rook whilst from Ivy South hide we watched mallard, black-headed gull and little grebe. From Ivy South hide we headed over the boardwalk and followed the path back along the Dockens Water. Backtracking for Thomas’ rucksack we spied a kingfisher (thanks Thomas!) then on making it to Ibsley Water we saw little egret, grey wagtail, greylag goose, Egyptian goose, lapwing, starling, lesser black-backed gull, jackdaw and buzzard from Goosander and Tern hides.

In total we had spotted a very respectable 47 species – thank you to HIWWT volunteer Nigel Owen and HOS volunteer John Shillitoe for expertly helping us with our bird identifying and for verifying our finds. Thanks too to Corinne Bespolka who was able to join us for the day.

On heading back to the Centre and handing in our sightings sheet, we were delighted to discover our bird spotting efforts had paid off and we had come second! I know those who joined us will thoroughly enjoy their prize, a family ticket to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre – thank you Liberty’s for supporting the event!

 

Young Nats by Corinne Bespolka

Our team, minus those who had to leave early, with Chris Packham and Karima from Bird Aware Solent, by Corinne Bespolka

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

Bird Trail 2017 THIS Sunday!

Further to Bobs recent post this is just a reminder to all our regular (and the not so regular!) visitors that Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve is once again playing host to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological Society “Bird Trail” bird watching and wildlife event for teams of children and young people this Sunday 24th September.

As a result “normal” service on the reserve is on-hold for the day and all of the Hides but Lapwing Hide will be given over to the groups booked onto the event between 10.15am and 1pm. We will be crossing teams of children at both of the main crossing points along Ellingham Drove and therefore I would also request that no vehicles park in the area used informally for car parking at the gates to Goosander/Lapwing Hide to help ensure the safety of our participants.

In addition there will be no visitor parking on the southern, Centre, side of the nature reserve for most of the day until mid-afternoon when the event is over – all parking will be in the Main “Tern Hide” Nature Reserve car park only.

The nature reserve is not closed to other visitors but access to the hides will be prioritized to the Bird Trail teams and therefore I would advise visitors that if you can come on another day it might be better for all concerned!

For the kingfisher photographers among you, if you can’t tear yourselves away completely I can let you know that I don’t expect the first teams to arrive at Goosander Hide (which is the last hide on the route the teams are following) until after 11am if that is of any conciliation!

It will be a good day for all involved, staff, volunteers and the participants involved, so look out for an update on how it all went next week!

Thank you!

Goings on

This Sunday we are holding our annual Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve Open Day. For details see: 2017 Keyhaven event flyer

It is a joint venture with the Hampshire County Council, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the New Forest National Park to celebrate the wildlife of the marshes between Lymington and Keyhaven. There will be a range of local conservation groups present and a range of walks, bird ringing, a seashore search, birdwatching, activities, light refreshments and much more. If you have never been to the reserve or have but would like to find out more come along, all the details are in the link.

Talking of events I will also flag up that on the following Sunday, the 24th September we will be hosting the Bird Trail Event at Blashford. This is aimed at young birdwatchers and there will be a number of teams going around the reserve that day, so the hides will be very busy and I would suggest that regular visitors might like to give us a miss that day. The event is jointly organised between the Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological Society part of our goal of bringing on the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts. As well as using the hides the area around the Centre will be busy with other activities.

…and a fun filled bird spotting time was had by all!

Yesterday’s Bird Trail, run in conjunction with  Hampshire Ornithological Society was a huge success, with approximately 80 children and young people aged 6 to 18 and 16 adults taking part in the newly resurrected event here at Blashford Lakes.

Eight teams, including Wildlife Watch and Wildlife Explorer groups, our Young Naturalists, a Beaver ColonyWellow School and a group headed by Christchurch Harbour Ornithologial Group took up the challenge, following a set route around the reserve, visiting a number of hides and spotting as many different bird species as they could.

To make sure there was enough to keep everyone busy and we weren’t all trying to visit the same hides at the same time, we were joined by a static display of birds of prey courtesy of Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, a bird ringing demonstration by BTO ringers Brenda, Kevin and Jack from the Christchurch Harbour Ornitholigical Group and pond and river dipping, owl pellet dissection, moth trap “rummaging” and a tree fact and identification trail run by our very lovely Trust staff and volunteers.

Each team was joined by an expert HOS volunteer birder, with more stationed in the hides ready to point eager eyes in the direction of some great sightings. The final scores were incredibly close, with first place going to Bartley Water (Stanley’s Own) Beaver Colony for spotting a whopping 56 species, second to the Titchfield Haven Wildlife Explorers and third to the Havant Wildlife Watch Group, followed closely by our very own Young Naturalists and Blashford Wildlife Watch groups, with 51 and 49 species recorded respectively. A fun filled bird spotting time was had by all!

Here are a few photos I took whilst out with our Young Naturalists and our very knowledgeable HOS volunteer Mike:

poppy-in-the-woodland-hide

Poppy bird spotting from the Woodland Hide

kingfisher-spotting

Our Young Naturalists watching a Kingfisher on Ivy Silt Pond

kestrel

Kestrel, one of the many birds of prey in the static display provided by Liberty’s, a definite hit with everyone

We were joined by HOS President Chris Packham, who very kindly gave up his time to speak to the children at the end of the event, award prizes and join in with team photos:

bird-trail-team-photo

Our Young Naturalists ‘Great Grey Shrike’ Team, with volunteer Nigel, HOS volunteer Mike and Chris Packham, taken by Amanda Boss

We would just like to say a huge thank you to Dr. Patricia Brown (HOS volunteer), Dawn O’Malley (HIWWT Education Officer) and of course Jim (Education Officer at Blashford Lakes) for all the hard work they put in to organising the event and making it happen, along with all the Wildlife Trust and HOS volunteers who joined us on the day, running some of the activities, accompanying groups on the trail and staking out the bird hides to make sure we all saw as many species as we could!

Thank you to Chris Packham, HOS President, for giving up his afternoon and joining everyone involved for a finishing ceremony, prize giving and photos.

Thanks also to BTO ringers Brenda, Kevin and Jack, Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre for their static display and the following sponsors for supporting the event:

In Focus, Christchurch Harbour Ornitholigical Group, Pearsons Estate Agents and Hampshire Swifts.

We’re already looking forward to Bird Trail 2017!!