April Catch-up

April is flying by and we’ve been busy! We’re sorry for the rather long gap between this and the last blog, but hopefully this one explains a little of what we’ve been up to and what’s currently out and about on the reserve.

The sunshine brought plenty of visitors to our local craft event, who enjoyed the excellent refreshments provided by Nigel and Christine’s pop-up café (which will return in November) along with basket making, hurdle making and wood turning demonstrations and the chance to have a go at making bird feeders from willow.

Willow bird feeders

Willow bird feeders made at our craft event

This was swiftly followed by Wildlife Tots, who got into the spirit of Spring by making excellent nests for our cuddly birds.

Jessie with nest

Jessie with her nest for a Teal

We then entertained a holiday club visiting from London with den building and fire lighting activities, followed by a night walk. We’ve welcomed new six-month volunteer placement Harry, who is with us now until September and thrown him in at the deep end with a group of beavers who were here to enjoy a river dip. Luckily that didn’t put him off and Emily and the other volunteers have been busy showing him the ropes.

This week we’ve had two wet Wild Days Out, pond and river dipping in search of newts, fish and other monsters, rescuing ducks, floating boats, building dams and enjoying a balloon free water fight. Our most monstrous find was this awesome Great Diving Beetle Larva, which tried to devour anything in its sight:

Great diving beetle lava 2

Great Diving Beetle larva ready to pounce

Our volunteers have been super busy, with the warmer weather bringing with it the start of our butterfly transects and reptile surveys. The butterfly transects have had an excellent start, with Peacock, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Comma and Small White all recorded and Holly Blue, Green Veined White and Small Tortoiseshell also seen around. They have already recorded more than they did in the whole of April last year, so fingers crossed numbers will continue to be good!

Grass snakes and adders have started to venture into areas accessible to visitors so if the cloud disappears and the temperature warms up again keep your eyes peeled! Two grass snakes were seen recently from Ivy South hide, but out of the window at the far end rather than their usual basking spot on the log outside the front; whilst the grass verges too and from Lapwing hide are usually good places to try for a basking adder.

In bird news, Lapwing, Common sandpiper, Redshank and Little ringed plover have all been showing nicely in front of Tern Hide, along with the Black headed gulls which are getting more and more vocal! An osprey reportedly flew over the reserve on Wednesday and a Common tern was also seen on Wednesday from Tern Hide.

Thank you to Richard Smith for emailing across a photo of two very busy Little ringed plover:

Little Ringed Plovers by Richard Smith

Little ringed plover by Richard Smith

A Great spotted woodpecker has been busy excavating a hole in a tree trunk near Ivy Lake and best viewed from the far right hand window in Ivy North hide. Brambling were also still being spotted from the Woodland Hide this week, looking very smart as they develop their summer plumage and our first fledglings have been seen too – Robin and Dunnock – so keep an eye out for parent birds feeding their young.

Thanks to Lyn Miller and Steve Michelle for also sending in some great photos from recent visits to the reserve:

Kingfisher by Lyn Miller

Hungry kingfisher devouring a newt by Lyn Miller

Redpoll by Steve Michelle

Lesser redpoll by Steve Michelle

Black Headed Gull by Steve Michelle

Black headed gull by Steve Michelle

Finally thank you to everyone who’s popped in to tell us what they’ve seen, Jim and I have unfortunately been slightly office bound when not out and about leading events and group visits, so it’s great to know what’s going on out on the reserve!

We will try not to leave such a long gap between this and next blog, Bob’s back from leave soon so fingers crossed!


Hedgerow foraging

Today was another glorious day, made all the more enjoyable by the opportunity to lead a hedgerow basket making course on the reserve, utilising many of the materials found here. I was joined by an eager group of participants, all of whom had very little or no experience of basket making, so framework was a great introduction to the craft.

We began with a short wander gathering our materials:

Gathering materials 2

Gathering materials on a short walk

Hedgerow materials

Hedgerow materials, including birch, rush and sedge, ivy, willow, broom, holly and larch

Hedgerow materials add both colour and texture to baskets, although some of the brighter colours will fade as the cuttings dry out. Flexible climbers such as honeysuckle and ivy are great, as are different willows and dogwoods. Whilst we have no dogwood growing on the reserve, there were still plenty of other materials available and I had managed to take some dogwood cuttings from elsewhere so vibrant reds and greens could also be incorporated into the weaving. If a material can be bent around your wrist it can probably be included somewhere!

We then used some of the thicker willow rods to create two hoops, which form the basket’s frame: one hoop is the rim of the basket whilst the other is the handle and base. These were bound together using a ‘god’s eye weave’, or circular lashing which wraps around each rib in turn in an anti-clockwise direction. After securing the two hoops, thicker lengths of willow were used to create ribs which were placed under the rim of the basket so they rested on the god’s eye weave:


Two hoops bound together using a ‘god’s eye weave’

Frame and ribs

The framework of the basket: hoops and ribs

It was then time to build up the body of the basket using and experimenting with the different materials we had collected on our wander:

Weaving 2


Weaving the body of the basket

Finally, our foray into hedgerow basket making was complete, with some lovely colourful results!

Hedgerow basket

Hedgerow baskets

Completed hedgerow baskets

Hopefully the weather will be as lovely for our local craft event next Sunday, 20th March. We will be joined by a local basket maker, Malcolm Fay, who will be demonstrating the craft of round willow basket making, along with volunteer Geoff Knott who will be wood turning. Other demonstrations will include coppice crafts and hurdle making.

In addition to the above demonstrations there will be other locally produced items available to both see and buy, including jewellery, leatherwork, paintings and photography as well as craft activities for children. Please though remember to bring cash as not all stallholders may be able to take a card payment. Tea, coffee and cake will also be available, courtesy of Walking Picnics.

We hope you can join us then!

On the bird front, the bittern was seen today from Ivy North hide.