Signs of Spring…

Yesterday was grey, murky and pretty miserable – this morning the sun is out and everywhere is looking beautiful, and yes, despite an apparent lack of winter so far this year, Spring does seem to be drawing near, if not upon us already.

Although we have yet to encounter any on the nature reserve earlier in the week I found some frogspawn in a shallow pool near home in the New Forest and the last couple of evenings I have encountered “toad patrols” out helping  migrating toads cross roads safely outside Poulner and Sway – these volunteers do an amazing job under difficult, and, at times, dangerous conditions in the dark, saving many thousands of toads from an untimely and unnatural demise under the wheels of our cars. Readers of this blog are likely to be considerate, respectful and appreciative of their efforts, but of course many motorist’s are not and quickly succumb to “road rage” if required to slow down on their commute home so do watch out, take care and vouch for the toad volunteers where ever and whenever you can!

On the reserve itself the great spotted woodpeckers are drumming on their favourite drumming posts, including the usual dead “stag head” branches of the large oak between the river and the centre car park, tits are being seen investigating nest boxes and although the snowdrops have been flowering for some weeks, and scarlet elf cups fruiting for some weeks, this week they have been doing so in force and, down by the Woodland Hide, the first of our wild daffodils is now flowering too:

A more unusual, or at least early, first sighting of the year was that of a large female grass snake outside Ivy North Hide this morning and reported to me by visitors Mark & Alison as I wrote this blog post! Mark very kindly emailed me his picture:

First grass snake of 2020 by Mark Dartnall

First grass snake of 2020 by Mark Dartnall

Elsewhere it is really business as usual with not much changing – still no bittern, still a kingfisher at Ivy South Hide, still loads of wildfowl on Ivy Lake and still a starling murmurartion in the valley, although this does now seem to have moved from Mockbeggar to a roost site west of the A338 just north of Ellingham Village and best viewed (hopefully against a stunning sunset!) from the viewing platform at the back of the main car park.

With the lighter evenings the starlings are now starting to gather shortly after 4.30pm and going to roost by about 5pm. It’s not often the car park is closed bang on 4.30pm, but it does happen on occasion and although we are as flexible as possible sometimes the staff or volunteers locking up do need to leave when they need to leave. As the evenings continue to draw out do consider parking the car outside the car park gates, safely off the roadside, so you can watch  the starlings perform without interruption should the site need securing in a more timely fashion!

“A fallen tree is like a free playground”

131030 Wild Days Out 20resized by J Day

The title of this blog refers to my quote of the week from Rosie, who made this observation even before we came across the fallen tree pictured above and spent a significant part of the morning on or around it! That quote is closely followed by “Who needs wi-fi when you’ve got nature?”, by Sam. Both children were participants in the autumn themed “Wild Days Out” activity days this week which were thoroughly enjoyed by all, despite the wet weather on Friday.

I, personally, fully endorse both quotes and both go some way to explaining why I think my job and my work are so important and why I so strongly believe that the more experiences like this that I and like-minded people in the Wildlife Trusts and other organisations can provide children, the better our world will be.

Stepping off my soap-box, mixed weather again today – sunshine, showers and wind, though thankfully nothing anywhere near the scale of Sunday night/Monday morning.

We had a family birdwatching event this morning which played host to a select, but very enthusiastic audience! Birds generally speaking were, and are, a bit thin on the ground – a combination of the relatively mild weather having minimised the influx of migrant birds to both woodland and wetland, an abundance of fruits and seeds in the tree’s and hedgerows decreasing the woodland birds need for the bird feeders and then the wet weather dispersing a lot of grazing wildfowl like wigeon, into the valley and thus away from the lakes. Still nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers performed at the woodland hide where it was also interesting to note that coal tit have now obviously moved back from having summered in the coniferous plantations. Highlight of the morning however was towards the end of the morning/early afternoon at Ivy South Hide where two bittern were confirmed in the reeds to the left (north) of the hide, one flying in from elsewhere whilst another could be seen stalking along the very edge of the reed/water boundary. As far as I am aware there have still been no bittern seen from Ivy North Hide (or the “bittern hide” as it is known to many!), but it doesn’t mean they are not there! Also reported again today, over on Ibsley Water and best seen from Lapwing Hide, was a sighting of the black necked grebe.