Weather Warning

You may have heard there is a Yellow weather warning issued for tomorrow, Friday 21st May, for high winds. Although it is unlikely to be as strong as many winter gales, the trees are all in leaf now and heavy with all the recent rain, so it will be wise to take care if venturing out. Woodland will be best avoided, as it is likely some branches, if not whole trunks may fall. We advise against visiting Blashford Lakes and especially the woodland walks for the whole of tomorrow, it is also possible that the car parks will not open to general visitors.

The bird hides remain closed for now, so will not offer any shelter. Our expectation is that they will reopen on 21st June, so long as the currently planned easing of restrictions occurs on that date. When walking around the reserve we have and will retain a “one way system” wherever possible, as this minimises close contact with others on narrower sections of the paths, bridges and boardwalks. Please follow the on site signage and use the step-aside passing places should you need to pass or be passed by other visitors.

The Main Car Park will be closed from Friday 21st to Monday 24th, the parking on the Education Centre side of the reserve will remain available, unless closed as a result of weather conditions. On Sunday there will be an all day triathlon event, with cyclists leaving Ellingham Lake along Ellingham Drove throughout the day.

Hopefully summer will finally arrive soon and the reserve will return, more or less, to normal.

Car park closure plans (and first potential dates!) in the event of limited staff availability…

With the rise in covid-19 cases and the increasing likelihood either myself, Jim or Bob will be required to self-isolate at some point, we just wanted to let you all know of our plans for reserve opening should we have reduced capacity or, at worst case, be limited to only one member of staff being available to cover a seven day working, or opening, week…

The nature reserve is busiest towards the end of the week, with Monday and Tuesday generally being the quieter days. As a result, should we be limited in our staffing we will endeavour to remain open from Wednesday through to Sunday and will close the car park and porta-loos should we need to on a Monday and Tuesday.

Updates for days we plan to remain closed will be on chalkboards onsite, shared via the blog, added to our Blashford Lakes reserve page on the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust website and shared via social media.

If you would like to keep an eye on social media, the Trust’s twitter account can be found here @HantsIWWildlife

Alternatively you can also follow our personal social media accounts for reserve closure updates:

Bob’s twitter account @Bobservablelife  

Jim’s twitter account @JimDay22857614

My instagram account @littlewillowwarbler

We will do our best to keep you all updated and give as much notice of potential closures as we can. On that note, our first planned closure of the car park and porta-loos is on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th October. On these days the footpaths will remain open. 

If nearer the time we find we are able to open as usual we will let you all know via the blog and an update on the website.

On a more nature related note, I noticed this Bolete on the grass by the Education Centre yesterday. Boletes are upright mushrooms with a stem and sponge like pores under the cap instead of gills. They grow in soil rather than on wood. There are about eighty Bolete species in the UK – a handful need to be avoided due to toxicity but the majority are edible. 

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Bolete sp., possibly the Birch bolete

A Dull Day Brightened

Things are a little chaotic just now on the reserve, with lots of preparation works underway prior to the various construction projects due in the next couple of months. The major elements have to be completed by 29th March and after several months of planning and discussion we are now getting down to the nitty gritty of delivering the works. So if you visit there is disruption, especially near the Centre, where there is no parking at present, just lots of gravel and yellow lines (not red ones you will notice). However the Centre and toilets are open, as are all the paths and hides, in addition the pop-up cafe will be back this Sunday and if needs be I will open up the overflow parking near Tern hide so there should be space for all comers.

Despite a poor day for weather the wildlife continue dot put on a good show. Opening up the hides we had great close views from Ivy North hide of bittern, water rail and Cetti’s warbler, three notoriously skulking species and on show at the same time! The Woodland hide is really busy with a wide range of the usual species and down near the Ivy South hide the yellow-browed warbler was seen well by a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.

It was a day that could have got you down, dull and drizzly, but seeing wildlife can give a lift to me and probably lots of others. Looking out of the office window into dreariness Jim spied a kingfisher beside the pond, a flash of brilliance against the grey.

kingfisher fom the office window

kingfisher taken through the office window (which could probably do with a clean!)

There seems no doubt now that being outside in “Nature” is really good for our mental health, perhaps even on a day like today, maybe especially on a day like today. I have worked  along time in conservation and the countryside, during which it has often been said to me that “Wildlife is all very well, but it does not pay the bills”. Maybe so, but if it can improve our health and well-being as a society this will save lots of money to pay the country’s bills. Maybe we should prescribe a kingfisher or three and save the NHS a pound or two.

Out and About Today…

Very busy day (again!) today with a group shelter building and firelighting this afternoon and a pre-event meeting with HOS and RSPB coordinators in advance of the Bird Trail 2013 event being held at Blashford next Sunday (12th May) – although the reserve will remain open for the day, car parking will be restricted to the main Ibsley/Tern Hide car park for much of the day and  regular visitors may deem it prudent to avoid visiting between 9am-2pm when there could be up to 120 children and young people exploring the reserve and learning about its birds and other wildlife! You have been warned!

I did make the most of about an hour or so before the meeting to get around as much of the reserve as I could and was delighted by a pair of bullfinches by the gate into the main car park as I opened up, the male looking really striking amongst the bramble leaves on what was at that point a fairly dull start to the day. Equally vibrant was the flowering cherry near the entrance through up to the centre – non-native perhaps, but a visual treat on an otherwise grey morning and the picture also shows the hazel coppiced by the volunteers this winter getting away quite nicely too:

130504Blashford12 by J Day_resize

I saw my first orangetip butterfly yesterday (and a few more when the sun did come out today) and couldn’t resist the brilliant white, pink tinged flowers of the Lady’s smock in the wet meadow which will no doubt provide food for some orangetip butterflies shortly:

 130504Blashford1 by J Day_resize

The resident mute swans are still in residence outside Ivy North Hide. Having turfed out the old cobb swan “Asbo” and his penn last summer hopefully they will do better. The new male is at least a lot more attentive to his mate and nest than Asbo was, who could  be guaranteed to be causing mayhem far away on the other side of the lake with no clue as to what was actually going on at the nest! The new pair is not nearly so aggressive and I think they may even be “permitting” a second pair to nest in Ivy Silt Pond, something that Asbo would never have allowed!

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In case any one was wondering, the “scenic” path to Lapwing Hide through the reedbed and willow scrub is still underwater at the top, though it has dropped away a lot, leaving a thick layer of gloopy silt that is great for looking for animal and bird tracks in. It is now definitely passable in wellies, but not sure I’d try it in walking boots yet!

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While photographing the flooded path I also couldn’t help noticing the mares tails below – mentioned, but not pictured in one of Steve’s recent blogs the emerging plants were looking quite beautiful with their dew/rain drop embellishments and therefore pictured here for your viewing pleasure:

 130504Blashford8 by J Day_resize

Heading back along the Dockens Water I stopped to admire the freshly emerged beech canopy – one of my favourite spring sights and also to pluck a couple of young leaves for a fresh spring time lemony/salad snack as a traditional taste of spring that has become a habit of mine over the years:

130504Blashford9 by J Day_resize 130504Blashford10 by J Day_resize

Before continuing back to the centre I spotted a couple of strange “clean” patches of gravel in a shallow section of the river that receives a fair amount of dappled sunlight for much of the day:

 

 130504Blashford11 by J Day_resize

I’m not certain, but am I fairly confident that they were in all probability recently the site of a spawning tangle of brook lampreys mentioned in previous blogs, but I am more than happy to accept suggestions from our readers if they think differently!

Finally, may I please remind everyone that the track up to the centre, and both car parks on the Centre  side of the nature reserve, will be closed for most of next week from 7th – 10th May due to essential track maintenance. There will be no parking available at the centre so visitors should use the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide/Ibsley Water north of Ellingham Drove and walk in from there.

A small amount of parking for disabled visitors and visiting school parties/coaches ONLY will be reserved at the bottom of the track and along the approach to the Water Treatment Works.

*NEWS JUST IN!* CENTRE TRACK BEING RESURFACED NEXT WEEK! plus other news

Following consultation with the NFDC planners, and a likely looking window of opportunity weather–wise, Jess has finally been able to go ahead and book in our contractor for the long-awaited and much needed re-grading and resurfacing of the track up to the centre.

For many this may prove a mixed blessing as unfortunately this will mean that the track up to the centre, and both car parks on the Centre  side of the nature reserve, will be closed for most of next week from 7th – 10th May and therefore there will be no parking available at the centre – please use the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide/Ibsley Water north of Ellingham Drove and walk in from there.

A small amount of parking for disabled visitors and visiting school parties/coaches will be reserved at the bottom of the track and along the approach to the Water Treatment Works, but this is limited and as Wessex Water have a lot of traffic in and out of the works currently it is essential that their access is not hindered, so please do not be tempted to park there, but rather leave it for those who really do need it.

Thank you for your understanding – and I’m sure you are all as pleased as I am that the pot-holes will finally be a thing of the past again (for a while at least!).

Further news to be aware of; the volunteers did a great job (again!) today and Tern Hide has now been painted with preservative, front and back, so there will be no need to cause disturbance there again this spring/summer – and just in time as it seems that more little-ringed plover may have arrived this morning with reports of four along the south shore of Ibsley Water this morning.

In my last entry I also mentioned that the BTO CES ringing survey would be begiining again soon and I have now had confirmation from the co-ordinator that the first session will be this Sunday, during the morning (starting early!).