At our last Young Naturalists session in July, we spent a night on the reserve, exploring Blashford and the surrounding area late in to the evening and early in the morning. It seems like a really long time ago now, but hopefully this blog is better late than never…
After arriving on the Saturday morning we got straight on with setting up our camp, using old army ponchos to make dens to sleep under and whittling pegs out of willow.
Our shelters for the night
Whittling tent pegs
Sawing poles to size
Trying on the ponchos!
Making final adjustments
Brown argus in our camp area
We then headed to the back of the Education Centre to sit by the pond and butterfly spot as part of the Big Butterfly Count. The Purple loosestrife proved to be very popular with the butterflies and we saw a large white, numerous small whites, a green-veined white and brimstones, along with a gatekeeper and painted lady by the bramble. We also watched the water for newts coming up to the surface and spotted a number of young frogs.
After lunch we headed up into the Forest, exploring the local Rockford and Ibsley Commons for a different view of the lakes. The bell heather was in flower and attracting lots of honey and bumble bees.
Consulting the map
Looking towards Rockford Lake
Honey bee on bell heather
Heading towards Ibsley Common
Bumble bee on bell heather
We paused for a while at the bridge over the Dockens Water, exploring this stretch of the river and taking a closer look at some of the plants before heading up on to the Common for another view of the reserve, this time Ibsley Water.
Photographing from the bridge
Looking towards Ibsley Water and Mockbeggar
On arriving back at Moyles Court we paused by the ford for a paddle, although Jorge got wetter than most!
Walking back along the Dockens we spotted this fabulous Chicken of the Woods fungi growing on an old log:
Chicken of the Woods
Arriving back at the Education Centre, it was time to empty the light trap from the night before so we could re-set it for the Saturday evening and we also set some mammal traps to see if we could catch any of our smaller resident mammals.
Preparing the mammal traps
Positioning the mammal traps
It was then time to think about food and the group did a great job of chopping the ingredients before tucking in to healthy wraps toasted over the fire followed by slightly less healthy popcorn and banana stuffed with chocolate and mini marshmallows…
Lysander heating up the popcorn
Toasting wraps over the fire
Filling our wraps
Lysander had also very kindly bought some of his left over Cadet rations to share with the group, cooking them through using his stove. Whilst not all sampled his food, we were pleasantly surprised by how nice it tasted!
Tomato and basil soup, tomato pasta salad and tuna mayonnaise
Tomato pasta salad
After eating we headed off on a night walk in search of bats, picking up pipistrelles on the bat detectors in the woodland and near Ivy South hide.
Spiders web in Ivy South Hide
After convincing the group to get up bright and early on Sunday morning, we roused them at 5.30am and headed off up to Lapwing Hide for some early morning wildlife spotting.
Reed bed on the way to Lapwing Hide
Birdwatching from Lapwing Hide
Early morning walk
It was lovely and peaceful to be out on the reserve so early, and whilst we didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary we had a good wander and worked up an appetite for breakfast which we cooked over the campfire.
Breakfast, looking slightly sleepy
It was then time to check the mammal traps we had put out the previous evening, but sadly although a couple had been sprung we were unsuccessful. The two light traps however gave us 31 different species off moth to identify, along with a Dark bush cricket and an Oak bush cricket:
Looking through the light trap
Ben with a mother of pearl on his nose
After tidying away our camp and bringing everything back to the Centre it was time for the group to head off, a little sleepy but having spent a very enjoyable time overnight on the reserve.
Emperor dragonfly at the Education Centre Pond
Our Young Naturalists group is kindly supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.