Making Preparations

Although it feels very much like winter there are preparations for the coming spring afoot. At Blashford Lakes I spent Tuesday working with our volunteer team clearing the Long Spit island and the open ground of the old Hanson plant making the ground ready for nesting lapwing, little ringed plover, common tern and black-headed gull. Lapwing can settle down to nest as early as the start of March and will be pairing up at nest sites well before then if the weather is suitable.


The Long Spit before clearance


Long Spit after clearance

It was very cold and we had feared we would also get wet as there were some fierce showers, luckily they mostly missed us and by the time we had finished the sun was out.

By way of proof of approaching spring I spotted a pair of blue tit checking out a nest box outside my kitchen window, luckily the Blashford boxes have all been cleaned out, a reminder for me to do mine at home.

blue tit investigating

Blue tit checking out the nest box outside my kitchen window at the weekend.

Today we were working with our new volunteer team at Fishlake Meadows, again we were making preparations for later in the year. This time it was scrub cutting in preparation for grazing parts of this new reserve. Although much of the reserve is open water and reedbed there are areas of wet grassland that is gradually getting ranker and invaded by willow and bramble. To arrest this we plan a light grazing regime to maintain the mix of grass, fen and small patches of low scrub. Today we removed some young willow and cleared small alder to leave a few larger trees that will provide valuable shade for cattle in the summer sun.


Making the first cuts – the Fishlake volunteers starting out.

We were lucky with the weather, it was cold, but we managed to stay out of the wind and in the sun making it feel rather pleasant, hopefully we will be as lucky next time.


With the scrub removed these trees will provide valuable shade for the cattle later in the year.

As we walked out to the worksite I saw a distant great white egret and on the way back we watched 2 red kite sparring with a pair of crow.

In the afternoon I returned to Blashford Lakes and got a quick picture of a water pipit outside Tern hide, nit the best I have seen but the best picture I have managed,

water pipit

water pipit

I am very lucky to be able to see quite a lot of wildlife as I go about my working day, however there are times when I should definitely have been looking the other way. As we headed out to work on the Long Spit on Tuesday we apparently disturbed an otter from the lakeside and it then swam by the Tern hide, somehow none of us saw it!

At Blashford we are also at the start of preparations of a different kind, we are planning a number of improvements around the reserve. To fund this we are hoping to apply for a grant and part of this process involves sounding out our visitors for their experience of the reserve. If you have visited recently it would be very useful to have your views, a questionnaire is attached here: Blashford Lakes Questionnaire if you are able to complete it and email it to us it would greatly help us with our grant application.



A Sandwich to End the Day

Bird News: Ibsley Waterwhimbrel 10, dunlin 1, black-tailed godwit 2, white wagtail 1, common tern 10, common sandpiper 2, Sandwich tern 1. Ivy Lake – Cetti’s warbler 1, pochard 1, water rail 1.

The day started brilliant and blue, there was nothing for it but to stand in a sunny spot and take in the bright and song filled morning, at least for a minute or two, every day should start this way.

trees and blue sky

My day actually started at the tern hide, at first there seemed nothing of note, then I realised there were some waders on the islands, in fact 10 whimbrel, mostly roosting, our first passage group of the spring and my first of the year apart from a single wintering bird on the coast back in January.

Much of the morning was spent  checking some of the nest boxes. A good few were occupied, mostly by blue tits, which were still laying and great tits most of which are now incubating clutches. Some were occupied by wood mice and one by grey squirrel and several showed signs that something had been inside but what was unclear.

We did come across several insects int he course of our wanderings including a mating pair of leaf beetles, I think this is the species which makes lace out of dock leaves a little later in the season.

beetles on nettle

One particular sycamore tree had columns of ants marching up and down it, I could not obviously see why there were so many on this one trunk, unless there was a sap run somewhere higher up.

ants on sycamore trunk

Looking closely to try to work out why there were so many ants and just what they were up to I spotted several ants checking out a beetle, at first I thought the ants were attacking it, but this was not so. The beetle did not seem to be enjoying the attention but each ant that approached wandered off after a few seconds once their curiosity was satisfied.

ant and beetle

The clear blue start to the day sis not last, cloud slowly built during the morning and developed into heavy showers by lunchtime and pretty general rain by the mid afternoon. The rain drove most visitors away, but this can be a mistake at this time of year. Very heavy rain forces down any birds flying over and in extreme conditions birds can almost drop out of the sky. The effect was not strong today but the intense showers did seem to produce a couple of black-tailed godwit, a dunlin and a 2 or 3 common terns. At the end of the day I just made it to the Tern hide ahead of another squall and was rewarded with the sight of a Sandwich tern flying down Ibsley Water as the rain cleared again. Sandwich terns do not often venture inland and this was my first sighting at Blashford, no doubt blown in with the squall. I also noticed a female white wagtail in the small flock of pied wagtails on the shore of the lake, only the second I have seen this year, although there is still time for more. The white wagtails, like the black-tailed godwits will be on their way to Iceland.


Larking About and Boxed Up

Bird News: Ibsley Water goosander 23+, black-necked grebe 1, redshank 3, chiffchaff 2. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1, brambling 1. Woodlandwoodlark 1.

A foggy start meant I could see nothing of Ibsley Water first thing and rather little of Ivy Lake either. A black-necked grebe was reported from Iblsey Water later in the day and as I locked up I saw 3 redshank and a modest collection of goosander sitting on the spit to the east of the Tern hide.

It was Thursday so the weather quickly cleared so the volunteers could work in pleasantly warm, conditions. Today we were constructing a compost heap especially for grass snakes to breed in, or at least that is the hope.

volunteers building the snake heap

We also sorted out most of the remaining damaged nest boxes and put many of the back up as well as GPS locating them so I might just be able to find them again! The bird highlight of the day was most unexpected and happened just after I took the picture, my phone rang and then above the sound of hammering and the talking in my ear I caught the liquid notes of a singing woodlark drifting about somewhere high above us. It is one of the most evocative of songs and would have been wonderful if I could have got all the other noises to stop. I have seen the occasional woodlark on the reserve before, but never in March and never singing.

Other birds today included the or a male brambling, I am still not sure there is more than one, in the trees near the Ivy South hide and 2 chiffchaff between the Goosander and Lapwing hides.

Fog permitting, I will be doing a waterfowl count tomorrow so I should at least have a good look around and so something more to report.