30 Days Wild – Day 13

As I was wondering if I should put on a fleece under my jacket in an effort to keep both dry and warm, it was good to think back to those balmy days of short-sleeves in February and know that it would be warm again, sometime. Needless to say, despite it being mid-June, it was not a day for insects, or much else.

The stalwarts of Blashford’s Brilliant Volunteers worked through it all though and we made a good job of finally clearing the yard of scrap metal and old tyres. Sadly we are “donated” rather a lot of rubbish, not generally by our visitors, but in the form of fly-tipping. I suppose it is something we should feel “Wild” about, but after years of working in the countryside it, sadly, has becomes an expected part of the job.

Although I have said our reserve visitors are generally very good alt not leaving litter, there have been a few incidents recently of mess being left at the Goosander Hide, probably int he evenings. There is some indication of a degree of general anti-social behaviour as well. If anyone is on the reserve at any time and sees such things going on it is very useful to have such details as it is easy to get. These issues are difficult to tackle so any information is useful, an email to the Blashford Lakes email or if ongoing int he daytime a call to the office or one of our mobiles is very helpful, the contact details are posted in the hides.

One sign of summer at Blashford was in evidence though, although it was necessary to peer through the drizzle to see it, the ponies are back grazing the shore of Ibsley Water.

pony in the mist

Pony in the mist

The weather has been a problem in lots of ways, one of them is that it is preventing us from colour-ringing our usual sample of young black-headed gull. It seems likely that most will have fledged before we get the weather to go and ring them.

black-headed gull juv

juvenile black-headed gull

Let’s hope for some more summery conditions next week.

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On the Fly

During the morning today, whilst the reserve was open to visitors, someone “lost” a load of garden waste on the access to the main car park. If anyone on the reserve either saw this happen or saw a vehicle nearby with a load of garden rubbish and might be able to help me return this lost property to its rightful owner please let me know.

Dumping and Cutting, a Tale from the Roadside

There seems to be a lot going on at present. At Blashford we are resurfacing a lot of the paths, the entrance track and a few other improvements will follow.

We have also been putting out the tern rafts, so far the gulls have been taking most of the space but hopefully the terns will get their act together soon.

Out on Ibsley Water the lapwing have not been doing well, with most nests failing at the eggs stage, I suspect fox or badger, as the birds nesting on the islands seem unaffected.

I was at Fishlake briefly today and saw my first hairy dragonfly of the year, it was beautifully perched, but I did not have a camera with me!

Meanwhile back at Blashford we received an overnight donation of two large tractor tyres, several car tyres and the remains of a trailer. Not the kind of donation we want as it will cost a fair bit to dispose of. Fly tipping in the countryside is an increasing problem as the cost legitimate disposal increases.

Another increasing roadside problem is the decline in the the diversity of flora found on verges. I remember a series called “Wayside and Woodland” books, I always took the implication of the title was that much of the wildlife featured was to be found on waysides, that is path and road verges. The reason is the accumulation of nutrients, in fact this is probably one of the greatest threats to wildlife diversity in almost all habitats. It is no accident that habitats that are very poor in freely available nutrients are rich in species, they have to fight it out for resources and tiny differences in adaptations mean that one species will win over if even a very small change in the environment happens. Thus a thin chalk soil can produce an incredibly rich sward with huge species diversity. Where nutrients are easy to come by a few very vigorous specie swill overwhelm the competition and species diversity is low and growth vigorous.

Road verges suffer the twin threats of car exhausts, which are rich in nitrogen a key nutrient for vigorous plant growth. This growth then gets cut, often many times a year and the cutting left as a “mulch” further aiding the building up of nutrients. Cutting once  later in the year and removing the cuttings would reduce the nutrients, reduce the vigour of the growth and promote plant diversity. In fact Plantlife have just produced an excellent guide to managing road verges The Good Verge Guide

The Highways Agency also produced quiet good guidelines for highways managers, but these do not seem to have been widely taken up by the people that set the contracts for the work. A case in point is a very fine round about close to my home, this morning I admired the good show of ox-eye daisy and could make out the soon to be flowering stems of corky-fruited water dropwort as I waited at the traffic lights. On my way home tonight I see it has been mown and the cuttings left as a deep green mulch, it is large round about and easy to see across so there is little need for cutting for safety reasons. Slowly but surely this fine area of herb-rich, semi-natural grassland is being destroyed by the state, an act of causal degradation of our biodiversity in the midst of an extinction crisis.

I will end with a couple more moths form yesterday, the catch was small but included perhaps the smartest pebble prominent I have ever seen.

pebble prominent

pebble prominent

There were also three very fresh poplar hawk.

poplar hawk 2

poplar hawk

Skipping

A glorious day to be out working on the reserve today, unfortunately we were not engaged in the most rewarding of tasks.  One of the less desirable sides of working in the countryside is seeing how some see it not a “Green and Pleasant Land”, but a handy place to get rid of rubbish. This can range from the seemingly endless scatter of coffee cups and beer cans that occur every few metres along the sides of roads across the Forest to the more concerted lorry loads of builders waste. Todays task was to clear just such a load dumped on the reserve by someone evidently does updates to kitchens and bathrooms. Avoiding tip fees no doubt makes the quote cheaper, or maybe just increases profits.

P1090063

A load of rubbish!

Of course someone has to pay in the end, in this case it took three of us all morning to collect it up and get it to the skip, so we lost 1.5 person days of work on the reserve, plus the cost £300 or so to get it taken away. We have also been “donated” two caravans recently, both dumped in broad daylight and proving very difficult to get taken away.

It is rightly costly to dispose of waste, it takes time and effort to recover the recyclable and properly dispose of the rest and the producer of the waste should pay. Unfortunately when something becomes costly or difficult more ands more people will seek an easier route. Enforcement of anti-dumping laws is difficult and in practice dumpers are rarely caught which encourages the activity.

To me the most worrying thing about our inability to get a grip on this problem is this, most people would never leave rubbish somewhere they cared about, so if the Forest is strewn with litter and wildlife sites are seen as prime fly-tipping sites this tells us something. This is more than indifference, it comes from a culture of casual destruction, the environment is not something we inhabit, it is not where we live. Except, of course, it is.

I am not sure how this issue can be tackled, but that it can seems evident. Some 25 years ago I lived in rural Ireland for a while, very wild, very beautiful and full of rubbish. Much of the countryside seemed to be regarded as worthless space only good for getting rid of unwanted items. Fast forward to today and now you cannot but be struck by the lack of litter and how terrible our countryside looks in comparison. I am not sure how the attitudes were turned around but they certainly seem to have been.

In more a wildlife related vein, the pink-footed goose and Caspian gull were seen on Ibsley Water again today and there were 2 drake pintail there when I opened the Tern hide this morning. The sunshine also brought out a few insects, there was a red admiral near the Centre and Jim reported a common darter dragonfly still hanging on despite the frosts.

 

Break-up?

After spending most of the day together yesterday the two great white egret were only seen separately today and only “Walter” went to roost in his usual place. The second bird was seen but departed northwards up the valley.

The first drake goldeneye of the season was seen today, along with a female, although we know there were two females yesterday. Other birds today included a ruff, seen flying over heading south, a green sandpiper and a Mediterranean gull.

My day was mostly taken up with a break-in, as someone kicked in the door of the Ivy South hide sometime between 5:00pm last night and 9:00am today. Cutting out the damaged section of door frame and fitting the new timber without doing too much damage to the hide took me most of the morning. Generally Blashford does not have the level of problems that many other sites do, but we will still spend several days each year dealing with break-ins, vandalism and fly-tipping, using up time and money that we could use for more useful things.

We are promised our first really chilly night, predicted to go down to -3C so I might have to invest in more bird food and we might see some more wildfowl arriving in the next few days.

Donations

As most of you will know Blashford Lakes nature reserve is managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust one of the many charitable Wildlife trusts around the country that between them manage tens of thousands of hectares of our very best wildlife habitat. As charities we seek donations from supporters, visitors and others to enable us to keep going. Perhaps contrary to the belief of some, membership income only supports a very small part of the work the Trusts do. So it is at Blashford that we ask for cash donations from our visitors, in addition some people also give us useful things like a sack of bird food or their time as volunteers.

At other times we get “Donations” that are less welcome, one such was a large drinks chiller that was “donated” out of the back of a van this morning. donation

This is one donation that may well cost us a bit to dispose of. However they don’t call me “Sherlock” for nothing (or actually at all), but I have some leads as to how it got there and even where it might have come from. You can watch this space for further exciting instalments!

Dealing with this kind of thing is just one of many ways that we end up having to spend money on the reserve that brings no benefit to either wildlife or visitors, very frustrating and unfortunately not at all uncommon.

The reserve is run as a partnership with the two water company landowners (Wessex Water and Bournemouth Water) and New Forest District Council and they provide the site and pay some of the running costs. However the Wildlife Trust also covers a share of the costs and raises all of the money for facilities such as bird hides, paths etc. and their maintenance.

Our average donation per visitor is about 30p, which annually amounts to just about sufficient to cover the costs of emptying the cess pit, filling the bird feeders and providing a tern raft. It is perhaps not surprising that at a lot of reserves you will be asked to pay £3 or £4 to get in, actually not bad value for half or even a full day out. A few years ago we asked people what they thought a visit to Blashford was worth and the average came out at £3.75, or about the price of a pint of beer or a fancy coffee (or perhaps a not very fancy coffee!). So if you can make a donation when you visit it will be VERY welcome, although we have all the white goods we need, so no more of those please.

Today’s birds were, like the visitors, rather damp, but they included the bittern at Ivy North hide and the black-necked grebe out on Ibsley Water.

Off to go sleuthing………