Little & (very!) large

Hope everyone is out and about enjoying some glorious Spring sunshine this Easter weekend 🙂 . The warmer more settled weather is resulting in some “firsts for the year”, including my first Orange-tip butterfly and first Garden Warbler (singing to me as I opened up the main car park gate). Yesterday it was the turn of the return of Reed Warblers, singing from the reeds outside Ivy North Hide & also Ivy Silt Pond on my morning “rounds”.

As previously reported, Sand Martins are back & volunteer Phil West photographed the first few tentatively investigating the artificial sand face at Goosander Hide earlier in the week:

Sand Martins by Phil West

Hopefully they will have a good year again as there is nothing quite like the spectacle of viewing the swirls of 100’s of martins from, and on teh approach to, the hide during the summer.

He also clocked this White-tailed Eagle passing over!

White-tailed Eagle by Phil West

Although the wonderful Wild Daffodils are now well & truly over the the very first of the Bluebells are just starting to show, the Primroses are still looking fabulous and being very much beloved by Bumblebees and one of my favourite spring flowers, Moschatel (Five-faced Bishop or Townhall Clock!), is also having a really good year this year:

Chloe & I have been busy this week with Wild Days Out school holiday activity days – we missed the best of the weather unfortunately, but it could have been a lot worse! A good time was had by all in the pond & river (including we staff & volunteers!) and a separate blog post specifically about that will follow.

No Wild Day Out next week but we are inviting families to “Go Wild!” and join us for pond dipping on Wednesday – the initial morning session is now fully booked so we have now started taking bookings for a second session in the afternoon – for more information and to book your places please see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/321316184357

Families are welcome, but so too are individual adults without children who wish to find out more about some of our fascinating wetland wildlife.

Discovering pondlife on Tuesdays Wild Day Out – more pictures & information to follow in a subsequent blog!

Sadly too much of my time these days is spent in the office dealing with increasingly complicated administrative and managerial tasks when I’m not out and about teaching and one of these necessary jobs is the production of the Annual Report to our partners (South West Water & Wessex Water). Although very time consuming it is also always a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges & achievements of the previous year so not as arduous an undertaking as it might seem. Still, I am sure that having signed off on his last Blashford Lakes Project Annual Report it is one part of the job that our recently retired Bob will not miss!

Having put the work in we are keen to share it more widely than with just the Project partners so do download it and have a read for a “behind the scenes” glimpse into work at Blashford Lakes!

So long (almost!) and thanks for all the wildlife…

I haven’t managed to blog much over the past year, but this blog sadly will be my last.

I do really enjoy writing them and sharing either what we’ve been up to with regular groups or on other events, alongside all the wonderful wildlife Blashford has to offer (a really good excuse to go for a walk around the reserve) but sadly since reducing my hours with the Trust there generally haven’t been enough hours in the day to fit everything in. I also like to share lots of photos, which take an age to upload at Blashford over our rubbish internet connection…

I am though now off to pastures (almost) new. Some of you will be aware I took up the part time role of Education Officer for the Watercress and Winterbournes Landscape Partnership Scheme with Wessex Rivers Trust last March. The scheme is hosted by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, so although I am employed by Wessex Rivers Trust I am still working closely with colleagues within the Trust.

I have now been offered more hours with Wessex RT to oversee the educational elements of a number of other projects, so whilst I will really miss Blashford – Jim, Bob and Chloe, our lovely volunteers, the regular (and less regular!) visitors and of course all the amazing wildlife (I have learnt SO much over the last almost eight years) – I am excited to be heading over there full time.

So, I thought I’d finish off now with some wildlife and nature sightings – my last day at Blashford is next Monday, but I doubt I’ll have time to blog anything else between now and then, I still have admin tasks to finish off and more importantly, one more Wildlife Tots…

Thank you all very much for reading my blogs, especially the super long ones!

___________________

There are signs of spring all over the reserve. The snowdrops are still putting on a good display by the Education Centre, the wild daffodils by the Woodland Hide are flowering, the primroses are out and some of the scarlet elf cups are huge:

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Wild daffodils

Wild daffodils

Primroses

Primroses

Scarlet elf cups

Scarlet elf cups

If you look really closely at the hazel, you might be lucky enough to spot one of the tiny female flowers. Hazel has both male and female flowers on each tree, but the flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. The tiny pink flowers are female, whilst the male flowers are clustered together to form catkins.

Hazel flower

Pink female flower on Hazel, with the male catkins in the background

Lesser redpoll are still visiting the feeders by the Woodland Hide along with siskin and reed bunting. I haven’t managed to get a photograph, but I’ve seen sparrowhawk at or near to the Woodland Hide the last few times I’ve walked past.

Reed bunting

Reed bunting

Reed bunting 2

Reed bunting

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

We’ve had recent sightings of otter both on Ibsley Water (by Bob, I think from memory he said last weekend) and today on Ivy Silt Pond by a lucky visitor. Kingfisher have also been showing really well on Ivy Silt Pond and in front of both Ivy Lake hides – last night when I locked up one was sat on the great reedmace (more commonly known as bulrush) in front of Ivy North Hide:

kingfisher by Ivy North Hide

Kingfisher by Ivy North Hide

A mute swan has also been busy constructing a nest in the reedbed to the right hand side of Ivy North Hide:

swan on nest

Swan constructing its nest

The bittern was seen again today so is still present, it was about 3m to the right of the swan’s nest.

It’s also time to look out for great crested grebes pairing up and displaying with their elaborate courtship dance: pairs will swim towards each other, sometimes with an offering of weed, before rising up out of the water and shaking their heads.

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe from Ivy South Hide

A number of cormorants continue to roost in the trees around the edge of Ivy Lake.

Cormorants roosting

Cormorants roosting

Goldeneye, goosander and the ring-billed gull are also still frequent visitors to Ibsley Water. If you’re planning a visit soon and we haven’t shared any recent wildlife sightings, it’s always worth having a look on the Go Birding Hampshire website where you can search for sightings by site. I tend to look there to keep up with what’s been sighted recently, where I’m not at the reserve much, but having said that we haven’t had a huge amount reported for Blashford over the last few days.

I will finish off with some great photos sent in by David Cuddon from a visit earlier in the month, on the 7th February – apologies David for not sharing them sooner.  

Wigeon by David Cuddon

Wigeon by David Cuddon

Siskin by David Cuddon

Siskin by David Cuddon

Long-tailed tit by David Cuddon

Long-tailed tit by David Cuddon

Kingfisher by David Cuddon

Kingfisher by David Cuddon

Goldcrest by David Cuddon

Goldcrest by David Cuddon

Bittern by David Cuddon

Bittern by David Cuddon