Young Naturalists – Seven for the Price of One

Hopefully better (very) late than never, here’s an update of what our Young Naturalists have been up to over the last seven (!) months. It’s going to be long one!

August

In August the group decided they wanted to have a go at snorkelling in the Dockens Water. We’ve done this before with children on our Wild Days Out holiday activities, but never with the Young Naturalists. After roping in a friend (Ida) as our qualified diver (!) to satisfy our risk assessment needs and meeting Jo prior to the session to check the river was free of any hazardous debris, we were all set to do as much or as little paddling, swimming and snorkelling as we wished.

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Ready to snorkel

There was a lot of sticking bottoms up into the air, but a number of faces definitely did get quite wet as we stared closely at the gravel on the river bed:

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Getting our faces wet

We explored the river from the bridge by the road crossing to Lapwing and Goosander Hides down to our usual river dipping spot. We did some litter picking along the way:

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Litter picking on the way

Generally speaking the river is only ankle deep, but there are some deeper pools to explore and those who wished to managed to do a bit of swimming and snorkelling – we even managed to see some fish!

Ida

Ida snorkelling in the Dockens Water

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Alex having a swim

Alex was happy to oblige for an underwater photo – he definitely enjoyed himself!

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Alex getting ready to take the plunge

Alex

Alex

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Photographing Alex underwater

Alex underwater

Alex underwater

We also found time to remove some Himalayan Balsam from the edge of the river, definitely easier to do whilst stood in the channel and already wet.

removing Himalayan Balsam 2

Removing Himalayan Balsam

removing Himalayan Balsam

Removing Himalayan Balsam

Introduced as a garden plant in 1839, Himalayan Balsam is an invasive plant found along river banks and in ditches that prevents native species from growing through its abilities to grow and spread quickly.

After drying off and having our lunch we headed back down to the river, this time to have a go at river dipping. I had borrowed a couple of underwater viewers, which led to a new watch and wait tactic on the edge of a deeper pool. They saw fish using the viewer but I’m not sure it improved their catching abilities!

September

September saw us heading up to the area by Goosander Hide to remove some of the silver birch trees which were encroaching on the open scrub habitat. Putting what we were cutting to good use, we used it to make besom brooms and added the excess to the dead hedge to the left of the hide.

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Removing birch trees near Goosander Hide

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Besom broom making

Some of the group took their broomsticks home whilst others made them for us to sell for a donation from the Welcome Hut in the run up to Halloween:

Broomsticks

Broomsticks for sale

We also went looking for wasp spiders but sadly we were too late in the year and had no luck. We did though find a number of their stripy egg sacs:

Wasp spider egg sac

Wasp spider egg sac

October

October’s session didn’t quite go to plan, with strong winds the night before putting paid to my plans for a fungi walk followed by a campfire. We adjusted the session slightly and spent the morning tidying up what storm damage we could and closing off paths as necessary.

We paused to look at the river which was in flood, and Harry made a boat to sail on the water below.

pausing to look at the Dockens Water

Pausing to look at the Dockens Water

pausing to look at the Dockens Water 2

Distracted by the river

After lunch we did head over to the campfire to cook toffee apples. Before lighting the fire, we carefully emptied a sprung mammal trap from the Centre loft, which revealed a wood mouse who was very happy to pose for photos.

With the campfire lit, we prepped some toasting sticks and cooked our toffee apples:

We also had a rummage under some of the logs and found this juvenile newt, who we popped back carefully after having a good look:

juvenile newt

Juvenile newt

November

For November’s session the group helped pollard some of the willows growing on the northern side of the reserve, up towards Lapwing Hide, so we had plenty of cuttings to turn into willow wreaths. Once made, the wreaths were sold for a donation from the Welcome Hut in the run up to Christmas, with families and individuals encouraged to enjoy a short walk on the reserve gathering materials (or using cuttings from elsewhere) to decorate them with.

The new growth from the pollards this coming year will provide us with more willow rods next autumn and winter.

After carrying all of our cut material back to the Centre, some of the group had a go at creating and decorating a willow wreath to take home whilst others headed to the bird hides for some bird watching.

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Making wreaths

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Willow wreaths

December

In December we headed out of the reserve and up to Rockford and Ibsley Commons.

Our bird list for the walk totalled 41 species which wasn’t bad, given it was a rather dull, grey day and whilst up on Ibsley Common we did eventually manage to spot a very distant herd of deer – for a while we didn’t think we were going to see any.

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Our bird list for the walk was as follows: Siskin, Great tit, Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Long-tailed tit, Blue tit, Jackdaw, Coot, Mute swan, Robin, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Tufted duck, Great crested grebe, Herring gull, Carrion crow, Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall, Great white egret, Lesser black-backed gull, Cormorant, Jay, Redwing, Mallard, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Song thrush, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Coal tit, Stonechat, Meadow pipit, Starling, Canada goose, Grey heron, Pied wagtail, Magpie, Mistle thrush and Green woodpecker.

We enjoyed a different view of the reserve, looking down from Rockford Common towards Blashford Lake and down from Ibsley Common towards Mockbeggar Lakes and Ibsley Water.

Redwing

Redwing

We finished the session toasting marshmallows over the campfire.

Toasting marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows

January

January saw us treated to a bird ringing demonstration by BTO trained bird ringers Brenda and Kevin and trainee ringer Kate. The group learnt how to age and sex the birds, measure their weight and wing length and they practiced how to handle the birds using Brenda’s knitted example.

After the birds were ringed and processed the group were able to carefully release them under Brenda’s watchful eye:

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Elliott getting ready to release the Firecrest

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Alex releasing a robin

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Will releasing a chaffinch

A total of 43 birds were caught: 3 Chaffinch; 3 Dunnock; 8 Lesser redpoll; 5 Greenfinch; 12 Blue tit; 4 Great tit; 2 Long-tailed tit; 1 Goldcrest; 1 Siskin; 2 Robin; 1 Firecrest; 1 Goldfinch.

We also had time to visit the bird hides, but sadly the Bittern evaded us!

Bird watching from Ivy South Hide

Bird watching from Ivy South Hide

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Bird watching from Ivy South Hide

February

Finally, we met yesterday for some pewter smelting. Whilst some of the group laid the fire and had a go at fire lighting, others made a smaller fire in the base of a Kelly kettle so we could boil some water to make a play dough that would be used to create moulds for the pewter to be poured into.

With the water boiled, Isabella and Alice mixed up some dough. We divided the dough into balls and everyone had a go at pressing something they had either bought with them or found on the reserve into it.

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Moulds ready for pewter

Our items included alder cones (difficult to cast!), sea shells and snail shells, Chloe bought in a shark’s tooth and some pieces of ammonite, Will bought in an antler and Harry bought in a small wooden hedgehog.

We sat around the campfire for lunch, giving it time to take and burn down a little:

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Group sat around the campfire

After lunch we set about taking it in turns to melt some pewter shot before carefully pouring it into the moulds.

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With a bit of practice we slowly got better at pouring the pewter into the moulds and their results were fantastic:

Yesterday’s session was sadly my last with the group, so it was brilliant to see so many faces, both old and new, and spend a bit of time around the campfire. Nigel and Geoff very kindly bought in some cake for us all to share and the group had contributed to a photo book of our sessions, which included comments from some past members.

It was great to hear how our sessions have shaped some of our members, who have gone on to gain more knowledge and skills in conservation through work experience, on to further education courses at Sparsholt and Kingston Maurward Colleges or on to university to study subjects including Biology, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science (with a view to working with children and educating them about wildlife and conservation) and Zoology.

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Finishing off around the campfire

I shall definitely miss working with them all, the group has easily been the highlight of my time at Blashford and we’ve come along way since our first session with three young people as Wildlife Rangers back in April 2015.

Funding and support from the Cameron Bespolka Trust for five years enabled us to grow the group and try new things, venturing further afield for residentials, visiting other nature reserves and inviting experts to share their skills and knowledge with the group.

I know they will be in safe hands with Jim and Chloe going forwards and will continue to enjoy all the opportunities offered to them.

A winter wander

I’m a little out of sync with Jim and Chloe’s last few blogs, but on Boxing Day I was back at Blashford and after catching up with my emails in the morning (only getting slightly distracted by the view from the office window of the Chiffchaff below, I’m still waiting for the Kingfisher…) I decide to head out for a wander.

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Chiffchaff by the Education Centre pond

The day had begun quite grey but after a brief stop in Tern Hide to see if anything was close enough to the shore to photograph the sun did start to break through the clouds.

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Pochard from Tern Hide

I cut across the closed path from Tern Hide to Goosander Hide (will 2022 be the year we can finally open the path to visitors?! We can but hope!) and paused to look through the screen at the ephemeral ponds.

view from screen on old concrete site

Ephemeral ponds with Ibsley Water in the distance

A large flock of Redwing were feeding around the edges of the ponds and in amongst the grass along with a Mistle thrush and Pied wagtail.

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Mistle thrush

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Mistle thrush

I watched the Mistle thrush for some time as it hopped about between the pools of water, at one point it extracted a rather large earthworm from the ground and proceeded to gulp it down.

The Redwings were more easily spooked by my presence at the screen and kept their distance, but on continuing along the path they would fly up to the larger trees at the sound of my footsteps and eventually I got lucky with one perching in a smaller silver birch.

redwing

Redwing

I also watched a small flock of Goldfinch and Siskin feeding on the seeds in amongst the alder cones – there is still plenty of food for them in amongst the tree tops:

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Goldfinch pausing in a silver birch to finish feeding

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Siskin feeding on alder seeds

From Goosander Hide I watched a pair of Goosander in the bay, along with Coot, Grey heron and Tufted duck.

view from Goosander Hide

View from Goosander Hide

On my way up to Lapwing Hide I followed a flock of Long-tailed tits and scanned a flock of Chaffinch feeding on the ground for a Brambling, but sadly I was not in luck. We have though had a pair of females and one male seen from the Woodland Hide over the last couple of days, so there’s still time!

Near Lapwing Hide I had another good view of a Chiffchaff as it flitted about in the tree tops:

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Chiffchaff near Lapwing Hide

The water immediately in front of Lapwing Hide was quite quiet, apart from the gulls which took it in turns to sit and call loudly from the posts in the water:

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Lesser black-backed gull – I think!

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Black-headed gull in its winter plummage, without its dark chocolate-coloured head

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Ibsley Water from Lapwing Hide

From Lapwing Hide I headed back to the road crossing and followed the path along the Dockens Water.

woodland along Dockens Water

Woodland along the Dockens Water

Volunteer Geoff had mentioned a fungi near the bridge that crosses over the Dockens, he had spotted it on the walk back at the end of our Young Naturalists session before Christmas (a blog will follow at some point!) so I stopped to have a look:

wood cauliflower

Wood cauliflower, Sparassis crispa

Unsure of what it was, I asked one of our welcome volunteers, Bryn, today and after heading off in search of it he reported back to say it was Wood cauliflower, although it sadly no longer looks quite as nice as it does in the above photo. 

Back at the Education Centre I looked for the first signs of snowdrops in amongst the leaf litter, and sure enough they are starting to come up:

snowdrops pushing through

Snowdrops starting to push through the soil and leaf litter by the Education Centre

Given the afternoon had turned out quite nice, I decided to have a quick look at the feeder on the edge of the path by the Woodland Hide, watching Chaffinch, Blue tit, Marsh tit, Goldfinch, Dunnock and Siskin either on the feeder, on the ground or in amongst the surrounding trees. I also saw a bank vole scurrying around on the ground.

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Dunnock by the Woodland Hide

siskin

Siskin by the Woodland Hide

Turkey tail fungus can be seen growing on the logs to the edge of the path whilst Candlesnuff fungus can be found on old tree stumps. Soon it will be the turn of the Scarlet elf cup which likes to grow on decaying sticks and branches in amongst the leaf litter, but I haven’t spotted any yet…

A look over the dead hedge to Ivy Silt Pond added Kingfisher to my list of birds for the day, and on that note I decided it was time I headed back to the office to get a couple more jobs done before it was time to start locking the reserve.

By the end of the day the temperature had dropped and a mist had descended over the lichen heath. As I peered through the screen by Ivy North Hide a flock of Redwing flew in to roost in the neighbouring trees.

view from Ivy North Hide

Evening view from Ivy North Hide

lichen heath in mist

Misty lichen heath

Today has been another very grey affair, so here’s a photograph of the Spindle which is brightening up the edge of the Centre car park:

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Bright pink fruit of the Spindle, Euonymus europaeus

This evening I’m hoping my locking up will be accompanied by the chattering and twittering of starlings from the reed beds near Ivy North and South Hides and the Silt Pond – Happy New Year!

Seasonal Shift

Although the hides remain closed good views can be had of Ibsley Water from the viewpoint at the back of the main car park. Although views of most things on this large lake are distant at least from there you can see most of the lake. I have found one or two people wandering off the paths recently to try to get to the lakeshore, this is unacceptable which is highlighted by the fact that it has been the birds taking flight that has brought it to my attention. I also found someone standing on a badger sett the other day, also unacceptable. In each case the people concerned have failed to see much and caused any birds nearby to fly off.

From the viewpoint this morning I saw a merlin, a peregrine, over 50 wigeon, a few pintail (yesterday there were 8), 18 goosander, about 40 shoveler and over a 1000 house martin, not bad for a quick scan. The martins have been held up by the inclement weather and have been feeding over the lake for a few days, there have also been a few swallow and one or two sand martin. Later when I was checking the hide the peregrine was perched on a post near Tern Hide and I got the shot below. With that beak and those claws it is easy to see why this is such a feared predator.

I have yet to stay until dusk to check the gull roost, but numbers are building now, a quick look before leaving yesterday yielded 3 yellow-legged gull in the hundreds of lesser black-backed gull and a single first winter common gull in the black-headed gull part of the flock.

Elsewhere on the reserve there are good numbers of chiffchaff, so far no yellow-browed warbler, but I will keep looking. Two marsh tit have been visiting the feeders, the first for a few years. It looks like being a good winter for finches, with a steady movement of siskin and recently also redpoll overhead on several days. The first redwing will be along any day now and maybe a brambling or tow passing through.

For all of the sings of approaching winter it is still quite warm by day and speckled wood remain flying in good numbers with a few whites and red admiral too. Most of the solitary bees have ended their season now but I did see this one today, I think an orange-footed furrow bee.

possibly orange-footed furrow bee

Likewise there are still some hoverflies on the wing, today’s brightest was this Sericomyia silentis.

Sericomyia silentis

I will end with a quick warning that tomorrow morning we will be working beside the path and boardwalk near Ivy South Hide, this will mean that the path may be closed for short periods.

The Best of Blashford

The second Pop-up Cafe of the winter today and, thankfully, the weather was a great deal better than the damp day we had at the start of the month. The reserve was busy and there was a good deal to see from most points, for most of the day.

Opening up Tern hide I saw a water pipit, although my first notable birds were at the main gate, where there was a fieldfare with a couple of redwing and a pair of bullfinch. 

I then spent a couple of hours attending to various tasks about the office before getting out to Lapwing and Goosander hides. We have done quite a bit of work on and beside the paths in this area with the object of both maintaining good access and making the walk more interesting for visitors and wildlife. To this end we have been scraping back the path edges and thinning the small trees to make clearings, increase the light and open up some views over the reeds. This work should also benefit insects and the reptiles that use this area, so we have been making sunny sheltered clearings and have dug one new sandy bank for solitary bees.

Up at Lapwing hide I was surprised to see several hundred large gulls, it was only late morning, so way to early for a roost gathering. I noticed the other day that there were  a lot of large gulls on the lake very early in the day. I suspect there are two possible explanations, either they are feeding very nearby and dropping in and out between bouts of feeding, or they have found somewhere with so much food that they are getting their fill in just a couple of hours. Looking through the gulls I saw the Caspian gull found yesterday, it is a “textbook” first winter bird, which always helps with these potentially difficult to identify birds.

At Goosander hide on the way back there were 2 green sandpiper and a dunlin, the latter flushed from the Long Spit in the company of a snipe by a peregrine. I took the long way back as I wanted to investigate some tyre tracks I had noticed on the Lichen Heath last Monday. Hidden away on the far side of the water treatment works I found out where they had been heading and why, a heap of fly-tipped material. I suspect dumped in the rain last Saturday, since it must have been in the day and when there were not many people around. We are certainly welcoming donations at the moment, but not this kind! It goes without saying that if you are on the reserve and ever see anything suspicious like this please make a note of what you safely can and let us know.

We always welcome donations of course, but at present we are trying to raise money to make a number of improvements to the reserve. The largest of these is the replacement of the Tern hide, the existing hide is suffering a bit and we recently won a grant to replace it, if we can raise the rest of the funds, to find out how you can help us see The Blashford Appeal

On my way back from a bird food buying trip I dropped in at Tern hide and saw 3 great white egret in the distance flying north up the Avon valley, I assume our regulars, but who knows? After another spell in the office I got out again in the late afternoon where there was a marsh harrier visible in the distance. Out on the lake the numbers of gulls had increased a lot and were more than I have seen this winter so far by some margin. I found the ring-billed gull deep in the flock, but unfortunately had to take off my glasses and when I looked back I could not find it again.

The Pop-up Cafe had done well, they will be back with more excellent cake on the first Sunday of December, so if you missed them today you could come then, or on the 16th of December, or both and New Year’s Day as well. You can also get a range of Wildlife Trust gifts and Christmas cards.

Locking up I saw 2 great white egret as usual at Ivy North hide, there were also at least 160 cormorant roosting in the trees and at least 161 tufted duck on the water.

It had felt like a good day almost all round, fly-tipping excepted. The reserve was busy with a range of people watching wildlife, from keen rarity hunters to families enjoying the nuthatch and the fine male sparrowhawk perched at the Woodland hide and there was cake too. Blashford Lakes is fortunate to have elements that appeal to a wide audience, we have popular events for ages from toddlers onward and different parts of the reserve that offer highlights for all types of wildlife seekers. Hopefully the reserve can continue to enthuse a wide and growing audience, our wildlife needs all the supporters it can get!

Sunday Birds

I was running a bird watching course at Blashford today so I was pleased to wake to a dry and fairly bright day with little or no wind, more or less ideal conditions. There were ten people booked on, although only eight actually came along in the end. We did a tour of the hides starting with the furthest away. This gave us the walk along the Dockens Water to look and listen out for woodland birds. We did not see anything unusual, although along the way we had good views of goldcrest, treecreeper, nuthatch, redwing and long-tailed tit. In fact we found several bands of long-tailed tits, each one the core of a small mixed flock of woodland birds.

Up at the Lapwing hide one bird we did not see was lapwing, but we did find a small group of goldeneye, there were at least eight around today, a marked increase, no doubt due to the colder weather, there was also a flock of 20 pochard, probably newly arrived.

After a brief stop in the Goosander hide, where we did see goosander, it was back over the road to the Ivy Lake hides. Arriving at Ivy South we learnt that we had just missed the bittern, but we did see lots of ducks, including gadwall and wigeon.

wigeon pair

a pair of wigeon

At the Woodland hide we had the usual great views of lots of the common woodland birds as well as a fine male brambling with the many chaffinch feeding on the ground.

We tried the Ivy North hide for the bittern, but failed and finished off in the Tern hide (where of course there are now no terns) seeing lots of greylag geese, little grebe and ducks. Hopefully everyone had enjoyed themselves and taken a way a few tips for getting more enjoyment out of their bird watching in future. I have watched birds all my life and never tire of them, you never know what you will see. There is always lots more to learn, they also have the advantage of being almost everywhere at all times of the year and relatively easy to see.

Later in the afternoon I went over to the Tern hide again to check out the birds arriving to roost as I have a “Coming to roost” event tomorrow evening. There were lots and lots of gulls, but sadly no starlings, still perhaps a cold snap will bring them back.

gull roost

Gull roost (just a VERY small part!)

There was no obvious sign of the ring-billed gull this evening, but it might just have got lost in the mass of birds, there were at least 20 common gull though, I have been struggling to find more than five so far this winter.

Locking up on Ivy Lake I counted at least 67 cormorant in the roost, earlier I had also seen a single little egret with them, but by dusk it had gone.

little egret with cormorants

Little egret in the cormorant roost

It was very pleasant to be able to get right round the reserve, something I had not done in ages and on a remarkably pleasant day, albeit one that did start to get a bit chilly as the sun set.

nearly dark

Nearly dark

Some Birds, Winter is Coming

Although we are still mostly waiting for the winter birds to arrive and as a result the reserve seems quiet at present, yesterday saw two significant reports. On Ibsley Water, close to the Tern hide a Slavonian grebe was giving good views, this small grebe is much rarer inland than black-necked grebe and was a welcome addition, being the first since the reserve was established. The second record of note was the reappearance of the drake ferrunginous duck on Ivy Lake, after having first been seen a couple of weeks ago on the lakes to the north of Ibsley village. It is most probably the same bird that has been returning for the last few winters. The move tot he north by the winds made the day much colder and was perhaps also the reason for there being several redwing around in the tree tops near the Centre. Perhaps things are picking up……………..

Still wet and getting wetter!

*TERN HIDE, TERN HIDE CAR PARK AND GOOSANDER HIDE ARE ALL CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE*

There had been a lot of rain over night so I was amazed to find that Tern Hide car park was actually wadeable (in wellies) when I arrived this morning. It didn’t cross my mind to open up the car park at all as, as you can tell from the photo below, it was still pretty wet, but I did dither a bit over whether or not to open up the hide. In the end I erred on the side of caution and didn’t open it and as I write this at about 3pm this afternoon, it was the right choice to make!

A (relatively) dry car park first thing today!

A (relatively) dry car park first thing today!

Although I didn’t see bittern this morning, bittern were seen throughout the day by those few visitors to brave the weather and the great white egret was very obliging too – him I did see when I opened up:

Great white doing its best to lurk like a bittern in the reeds but failing miserably at the whole camouflage thing!

Great white doing its best to lurk like a bittern in the reeds but failing miserably at the whole camouflage thing!

However the main news of the day really does have to be the rain and its affects on the Dockens Water. I headed out armed with loppers and bow-saw to tackle the willows and brambles leaning ever heavier over many of the footpaths and watched the river getting higher and higher throughout the day:

Ellingham Drove not long after the Dockens Water started flowing along it again this afternoon - hopefully the dead hedge only just re-instated on Thursday stands up to it this time!

Ellingham Drove not long after the Dockens Water started flowing along it again this afternoon – hopefully the dead hedge only just re-instated on Thursday stands up to it this time!

The old public footpath footbridge over the Dockens Water - actually this was underwater less than an hour after taking the picture.

The old public footpath footbridge over the Dockens Water – actually this was underwater less than an hour after taking the picture.

Footpath shortly after the Dockens Water flooded over it again - it will be even higher now! Please do take care along the river at the moment - even on the footpaths there can be deceptively deep sections, the footpath edge is not always very clear and the river can be flowing at a fair lick in places too.

Footpath shortly after the Dockens Water flooded over it again – it will be even higher now! Please do take care along the river at the moment – even on the footpaths there can be deceptively deep sections, the footpath edge is not always very clear and the river can be flowing at a fair lick in places too.

We are not faring very well with hides over Ibsley Water way at the moment – not only is Tern Hide currently closed due to flooding, Goosander Hide is also closed, and has been since Monday, due to a broken lock which unfortunately has sheared off (we are not suspecting foul play!). A locksmith is attending to it but it is a somewhat specialist lock that will require ordering in so it will be closed for at least a little while yet.

Lapwing Hide, for the moment at least, is open, but I was rather disappointed to  find that someone had somewhat foolishly/selfishly left one of the windows open:

It should go without saying, but please do close hide windows before you leave!

It should go without saying, but please do close hide windows before you leave!

The gloomy and wet weather did not make for the best bird watching, but it was nice to see a small flock of redwing feeding in the grass to the south of the hide and there certainly were plenty of wildfowl to peer at through rain spattered binoculars – including pintail, goldeneye, wigeon, gadwall, goosander, gadwall and tufted duck:

Ibsley Water

Ibsley Water (the “dots” at the mouth of the bay are birds!)

Ibsley Water is remarkably high at the moment – the little spit that normally sits out in front of Lapwing Hide is now completely submerged, and the perches won’t be long before they are also under:

No wigeon grazing here now!

No wigeon grazing here now!

Outside Lapwing Hide the upper path through the reedbeds is now completely underwater. Never one to take a chance if I don’t have to, fortunately I had volunteer Jacki with me this morning and could send her out to test the depth. She didn’t go too far!

Don't try this!

Don’t try this!

Heading back to "dry land"

Heading back to “dry land”

The rain did finally stop at about 3.15pm – by which time we had had a reasonably significant rainfall of about 22mm since yesterday:

Todays rainfall

Todays rainfall

By no means a record, it is still a fair amount on top of what has already come and what is still forecast to come – and more than enough to get the river well up. By the end of the day rain fall alone had significantly “topped” up the flooding in Tern Hide car park and with the vast majority of Ellingham Drove underwater and a lag time of 2-3 hours between rain falling on the Forest and reaching the reserve via the Dockens Water it won’t be long until this trickle of river water on the approach to the footpath/kissing gates to Tern Hide becomes more of a steady torrent and I am quite happy that I made the right call in keeping Tern Hide closed today! And looking at the weather forecast, don’t expect it to be open again for a few days either!

Not far to the car park now...

Not far from the river to the car park now…

Sun Bitterns

Bird News: Ibsley Waterbarnacle goose 5, Caspian gull 1, pintail 14, peregrine 1. Ivy Lake –  bittern 3, water rail 2, Cetti’s warbler 1. Woodlandbrambling 1, lesser redpoll 20+.

I was going to post last night but fell asleep! So two days in one this time.

A party of 5 barnacle geese on Ibsley Water for the last two days are probably feral birds, but with cold coming in from the east we have had just the right conditions for the arrival of real ones. That said I have not heard of any others so perhaps caution should be excersised this time. Yesterday afternoon I finally  caught up with the adult Caspian gull on Ibsley Water. A notable feature of the cold spell has been the return of lots of gulls to the roost and the big rise in common gull numbers, perhaps we will get our own Iceland gull soon.

It was really cold overnight and driving up to the Centre this was made very clear when I looked at the Dockens Water which was frozen right across in places.

Ice on the Dockens Water

At the Ivy North hide I could make out 2 bittern standing high in the reeds on the lake edge about ten metres apart, they were in the first spot on the reed edge to catch the sun and the need to warm up had obviously taken precedence over their usual pugnatiouness, at least for a while.

The Woodland hide continues to attract more and more birds and I heard a brambling again this morning, there have been very few so far this winter and don’t expect many, even next month. The lesser redpoll and siskin numbers at the feeders are going up everyday as is the spend on nyger seed. The ringers were in again yesterday and caught sixty-five birds, including a couple of siskin and a lesser redpoll ringed at Blashford in previous years and a lesser redpoll ringed elsewhere. The weather yesterday was good for ringing, as it was for the volunteers. We were working in the small willow coppice patches near the Centre, where luckily we were nicely out of the easterly breeze and in the sun. Instead of dead hedging the cuttings were laid them on the ground around the cut stumps to try and deter the deer which completely stopped any regrowth last year, we will see how it works.

volunteers working in willow coppice

It was back to the Dockens Water this afternoon as we had a little job to do fixing some handrails. When we got to the site we found our first casualty of the cold snap, a redwing that seems to have landed on the ice, partly fallen though and then frozen to death.

frozen redwing

I am next in on Sunday, with the weather forecast as it is I wonder what will be in store, maybe some snow and almost certainly some new birds. Even if the snow does not reach us, the cold to the east will be pushing birds westwards, let’s hope it is not so cold that the lakes freeze. I will sign off for now with another Dockens Water shot, this time from towards the end of the day.

Icy Dockens Water