February round up

We’ve had a busy half term, with Winter Craft themed Wild Days Out, an evening under the stars (of which there really were many!) with the Fordingbridge Astronomers and our usual Young Naturalists monthly meeting.

Our Wild Days Out saw the children getting very messy in the clay pit, den building, fire lighting, creating dream catchers and baskets from willow and ice art sculptures. Lots of arty and hands on activities that involved natural materials! We even attempted to make burn out bowls in the fire, using hollowed out pieces of elder as straws. It was a slow process…

Our Young Naturalists did a great job making bird boxes, using a plan to mark up their planks of wood, cutting up the individual pieces and nailing them all together. The bird boxes along with a number made by the volunteers will replace some of the older ones on the reserve which are a little past their best, and will be a welcome addition. Thank you guys for all your hard work!

We also spent quite a while watching the kingfisher catching newts from the Education Centre pond – a very good distraction! The pond has become a favourite hunting spot for at least two birds, which are best viewed from inside the Centre as they don’t hang around for long when disturbed – hopefully they will leave a few newts for us to catch over the summer!

kingfisher

Kingfisher by the Education Centre pond

The wild daffodils by the Woodland Hide are probably now at their best and definitely worth a visit, adding a welcome splash of yellow to the woodland floor.

daffodils

Wild daffodils near the Woodland Hide

The feeders at the Woodland Hide are still being visited by three brambling and at least one lesser redpoll, whilst a number of reed bunting have been foraging around on the ground.

Goldeneye, black necked grebe and goosander are still present on Ibsley Water whilst lapwing numbers are increasing, with some beginning to display over the lake with their distinctive flip-floppy flight. The water pipit has also been viewed from Tern Hide.

We’re expecting the bittern and great white egret to leave us any day now – if indeed they are still here! The bittern was seen on Sunday whilst Jim’s most recent view of the great white was last Wednesday.

A tawny owl has also decided to roost at the southern end of Ivy Lake, best viewed from the last window in Ivy South Hide. Noticed on Sunday, it has been there most mornings and still there some evenings so it’s definitely worth a scan of the trees on the lake edge.

Finally, thank you very much to Dave Levy for sharing with us this sequence of photos of a pair of great crested grebe displaying on Ivy Lake. Spring must definitely be here!

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Introduction to stargazing

Young Naturalists Stargazing by David Felstead

Places are filling up on the Introduction to Stargazing evening event we are hosting with the Fordingbridge Astronomers on Thursday next week (6.30-8.30pm, 27th October). Suitable for adults who want to whet their appetite, or for families with children and young people aged 8 and over who are already fascinated by our night skies and are wondering what else is out there, there are still some places available – but book on sooner rather than later so we can be sure to have enough equipment prepared for the evening.

Places on the event are £6 per person with proceeds split between the Trust and the Astronomers.

All in the name

Apologies for the slightly late and out of sync blog, but we wanted to still share our latest Wildlife Rangers news with you all.

February was a busy month for our teenage group, with a name change, an evening under the stars (and cloud!) and a busy work day removing willow from an area of reedbed near Lapwing Hide.

With welcome funding from the Cameron Bespolka Trust we officially launched our Young Naturalists group: the group will build upon the experiences of our Wildlife Rangers and continue to offer teenagers the opportunity to develop their interests in wildlife and nature conservation, either as a hobby or as a potential future career. The new funding however will enable us to expand upon the range of activities and sessions offered each month, including visits to other key wildlife sites and visits to us by local specialists.

We were joined at the launch by Corinne Bespolka, who set up the Cameron Bespolka Trust in memory of her son who was a keen, active birder and naturalist, representatives from the Blashford Lakes partnership and a number of young people from the group, who shared their experiences and interests.

Debbie and Corrine

HIWWT’s Chief Executive Debbie Tann with Corinne Bespolka, and the cake!

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Shortly after our launch, our Young Naturalists were joined by Steve Tonkin and Tim Rawlings from Fordingbridge Astronomers,  who delighted the group with an introduction to astronomy via an indoor tour of the night sky and the chance to look at a range of useful resources and observing equipment. We then headed outside where despite a fair amount of cloud we were still able to observe the Orion constellation, Jupiter and Sirius, often referred to as the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major, amongst others. Thanks to David Felstead for taking this group photo of us observing:

Young Naturalists Stargazing by David Felstead

Young Naturalists star (and cloud) gazing, you can just about pick some out, by David Felstead

This was followed by our usual monthly session and after a quick rummage through the moth trap, we headed up to an area of reedbed near Lapwing Hide to remove some of the willow. The reserve’s on going project of reedbed expansion and willow pollarding in this area will benefit a range of invertebrates as well as birds like reed warblers and water rails.

As Ed also joined the group for the day, we managed to cut a lot more than usual, burning most of the brash on a bonfire (an activity greatly enjoyed by the group) and stacking the remainder to create a dead hedge. Here are some photos from our day:

Making a start

Making a start at pollarding the willow

Dragging brash

Dragging brash to the bonfire

Pollarding

Becky and Talia pollarding one of the willows

Felling trees

Ed working hard

Adding fuel to the fire 2

Ellie adding fuel to the fire (Geoff tended the fire whilst we all had our lunch, so is having a welcome break!)

Of course, we couldn’t have a fire without having a snack, so had a go at toasting some waffles. Some were nicely toasted, others ended up more like charcoal…

Toasting waffles

Carefully toasting a waffle

Finally, after lots of pollarding, dragging, burning and stacking we had a nice clearing within the reedbed and a new dead hedge:

The cleared area 2

The cleared area of reedbed with the dead hedge in the background

Group photo

Group photo!

Watching the fire

Watching the last of our cut material burn down

We still found time to go wildlife spotting whilst out, spying this female adder basking next to one of the tins:

Adder 4

Female adder basking next to a tin

And on investigating under a log, uncovered four juvenile newts:

Lots of newts

Oak Beauty

Oak beauty moth, the highlight from the light trap

So all in all we had a busy and varied month! And, just to make this blog even longer, here are some lovely photos taken by David Felstead of a few of our woodland birds. Thanks David!

Long tailed tit by David Felstead

Long-tailed tit by David Felstead

Blue tit resized by David Felstead

Blue tit by David Felstead

Blue tit 3 by David Felstead

Blue tit by David Felstead

Siskin 2 by David Felstead

Siskin by David Felstead

Siskin 3 by David Felstead

Siskin by David Felstead