30 Days Wild – Day 12

A bit of a delay with Day 12, I managed a Tweet but not the blog. Friday was a decidedly mixed day, fine enough in the morning but with heavy rain in the afternoon, at least it refilled the water butts at the Centre after I had emptied them to top up the pond earlier in the week.

The last few days have brought at least some rain and a spurt in growth is just starting. Plants need both water and sunshine for growth, so where the ground remained wet from the winter growth is already spectacular, after one of the wettest winters followed by the sunniest spring plants like common reed will probably reach record heights.

reedbed

Reedbed

The reeds near Lapwing hide are already mostly overtopping last year’s maximum height and they should grow on a good bit more yet before they stop growth and start putting their energy into flowering.

The higher light levels are also apparent in the woodland, here light levels are typically low and many plants rely on just a short period of sunlight a day, or even no direct sunlight at all. With such high light levels this year growth even in shade has been good so long as there has been enough water. The shaded vegetation under the trees by the boardwalk often struggles, there is plenty of water but light is at a premium, but ever here growth has been vigorous. The variation caused by the different sized openings in the canopy where trees have fallen produces a wonderfully mixed vegetation  and wonderful habitat for lots of species. This is one area of the reserve where there is almost no habitat management and we let nature takes its course, a miniature rewilding.

willow swamp

Willow swamp vegetation

I am sometimes asked why we don’t rewild more of our reserves, it would be a great thing to do, but we are limited by the demands of safe public access, so it is only really in areas that the public cannot access that we can safely leave things. Although a passion for tidiness in some quarters is a significant factor in the amount of habitat such as deadwood and especially standing deadwood that is left for wildlife, the need to provide what is seen as a safe place for people I at least as significant. Certainly at Blashford there would be  a lot more standing deadwood habitat if the only consideration was the needs of wildlife. The irony is that although all trees will fall eventually most of them actually fall when they are not dead. This I found myself when I came to leave yesterday and found a willow had fallen across the entrance track. A combination of a large load of leaves, a weight of water from the rain and some gust y winds had proved too much for it. Willows do this a lot and rarely break off, they go from vertical to horizontal and just keep on growing, or at least they would if we let them. As I wanted to get home this one was cut back, rewilding is all very well but I was getting hungry!

fallen tree

fallen willow blocking the way

The Storm

Bird News: Ibsley Waterpintail 18, black-tailed godwit 3, dunlin 3. Ivy Lakebittern 1, Cetti’s warbler 1.

Luckily things were not as bad as I had feared, a few small trees down and lots of small branches, but nothing too serious. A good bit of rain fell, 25mm was recorded at the Centre and the Dockens Water was well up this morning. In fact it had risen enough to flow into Ivy Lake, which is now a positive thing as it would be good to get it filled. One reason is to get water into the reeds at the Ivy North hide which the bittern usually favour. It seemed to work as in the late morning I had a report of a bittern just below the right hand side of the hide seen to catch two fish in quick succession. All I encountered there today was a calling Cetti’s warbler.

Over on Ibsley Water 3 black-tailed godwit and 18 pintail were notable, both species seem to arrive from nowhere whenever it rains, so I expect we will see more over the next few days. The pintail flock was interesting as there were only three ducks in the group. Three dunlin were also reported with the godwits, but I never caught up with them. Another noticeable change is the sudden departure of the mute swans, there were not many more than ten today, a few days ago there were closer to one hundred.

The feeders are getting busier by the day and I put out an extra one today and have upped the ground feeding, with luck the first brambling will not be too far off now.

By the sound of things we may be in for Storm II at the end of the week, I just hope my ceiling can take it!

Dawn squall

Ok, so this is not Blashford, actually a squall that just missed me at Keyhaven last week.