At Last, a Bit of Fine Weather

As December starts the winter has turned a little more like winter, with frost at night and finally a drier spell. This has allowed us to get a few outstanding tasks done, yesterday’s was clearing the vegetation in front of the Ivy North Hide and opening up the channels through the reedbed.

before

Looking out from Ivy North Hide before we started.

after

The main channel cleared

As we worked at least 2 Cetti’s warbler were moving about in the reeds and water rail were squealing frequently, although went typically unseen.

Other recent tasks have included laying some hedge lengths, clearing bramble from grassland areas and also making a start on removing some infected ash trees. The last will be a large task in the next couple of years. You may have heard about ash die-back, it is a fungal infection that kills ash trees and is expected to result in over 95% of our ash being lost. The disease originated in the Far East and probably arrived in Europe via the horticultural trade.

Where these trees are deep in the woods this will mean more standing deadwood habitat, so not an entirely bad thing. Where we have paths , hides, roads and car parks they will have to be felled before they fall. There is no doubt this is going to have a noticeable impact as ash is a frequent tree and it will impact upon species that depend upon this tree. It is also going to be a very expensive task for land managers, at Blashford we only have a couple of hundred, but still a lot of work. The one positive note is that work at Kew Gardens has revealed that some British ash trees show some immunity, so if these survive they will be available to provide a seed source to enable restocking. It will still be a long time before we get back to ash being once again a frequent tree in our landscape.

Out on the reserve things have also taken a more wintery turn, wildfowl numbers have picked up, although only on Ivy Lake is this very noticeable. The goosander roost on Ibsley Water is growing and has over 80 birds now. Also on Ibsley Water a long-tailed duck has been present for a while now and on Monday 3 black-necked grebe were present, but were perhaps only passing through as I don’t think they were seen yesterday. Less seasonal is the common sandpiper, these usually just pass through in autumn and only green sandpiper normally winter with us. The rain has resulted in a significant rise in water levels, the water pipits have become much less obvious following the rise, perhaps because the rise has covered a lot of the exposed weed along the shore.

We are hoping the dry weather will hang on for a day or two more so we can fill the pot-holes in the entrance track, with luck we will be doing this on Thursday, so access to the Centre car park will be somewhat restricted.

A Clearer View

On Tuesday myself, Ed and two of our regular volunteers, set about opening up the view of the north-eastern part of Ibsley Water as viewed from the Lapwing hide. Over the years the bramble clumps have slowly expanded and merged and the willows grown up and shut off the view of the lake. You could make a case for clearing all of this vegetation, but this area has a good population of adder so maintaining some cover within a generally grassy area is the best option. So we settled for trimming back the bramble clumps and opening up the gaps between them and reducing the height so it is possible to see over the top of them.Ibsley NE shore before

This job illustrates a common problem that land managers have, there is rarely one objective of management, it is necessary to balance, sometimes competing interests and come up with an option. Very often this is one of managing a mosaic of habitats, unfortunately this usually means frequent management, which takes time and money. Much of the attraction of Blashford lies in the variety of habitats, finding ways of maintaining these effectively is one of the key jobs of reserve management. We are lucky to have a strong volunteer team who help out a great deal and this task at the Lapwing hide was one that we could not have easily done without their help. This is what it looked like when we had finished.Ibsley NE shore after

During the day there were reports of great views of the bittern from Ivy North hide and of brambling and lesser redpoll at the Woodland hide. About the only birds I saw were the thousands of gulls coming into the roost at dusk, nothing rare but always an impressive sight to my mind.gull roost