Little & (very!) large

Hope everyone is out and about enjoying some glorious Spring sunshine this Easter weekend ūüôā . 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:

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!


A Few Birds

We had a mini bird race for teams from our Blashford Lakes Project partners today, which meant that I got to have a good look around the reserve and see a few birds as well. Generally it was a quite day with rather little sign of migration despite the season.

Over Ibsley Water there were several hundred hirundines, predominantly house martin but including sand martin and swallow. The only wader was common sandpiper, but the bushes between the lakes held some small birds including chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and a single spotted flycatcher, mostly accompanying flocks of long-tailed tit.

Walter our regular great white egret was back in his regular spot outside Ivy North hide after going absent for a few days, his recent companion has not been seen for several days. An adult hobby hunting over the trees at the same spot was also nice to see and a peregrine was reported there as well.

Numbers of wildfowl have been high for the time of year and I took the opportunity to get a new count of the coot on Ibsley Water and found 794, a really high count for the first half of September.


Race Day

Blashford Lakes is a partnership, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust run the reserve but only with the help of the two land owning partners, Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water and additional support of New Forest District Council. Hopefully all the partners gain advantage from the arrangement, the landowners get their land managed and enjoyed by lot of visitors and it plays a role in the education of thousands of people, of all ages, every year. It provides an accessible and attractive place to enjoy wildlife, which as we are now told, but perhaps many of us already knew, is very good for wellbeing.

Although the partners support our work, most of the employees never get to see the site, so yeterday we sought to address this by holding a Partners Bird Race. Between 10:00 and 12:45 three teams, one for each of the other partners, set out with Trust staff and volunteers as guides to see just how many bird species they could see.

I know that about 70 species is a good total for a day at Blashford so I was expecting something in the mid to high fifties to be the winning total, in fact two teams tied in the end both with 58 species. It turned out that 68 species had been seen in all though, with one or two more “possibles”.

The species seen were:

  1. Little grebe
  2. Great crested grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Little egret
  5. Grey heron
  6. Mute swan
  7. Greylag goose
  8. Canada goose
  9. Egyptian goose
  10. Mallard
  11. Gadwall
  12. Shoveler
  13. Wigeon
  14. Teal
  15. Pochard
  16. Tufted duck
  17. Goldeneye
  18. Goosander
  19. Red kite
  20. Buzzard
  21. Sparrowhawk
  22. Pheasant
  23. Water rail
  24. Moorhen
  25. Coot
  26. Oystercatcher
  27. Lapwing
  28. Black-headed gull
  29. Common gull
  30. Herring gull
  31. Lesser black-backed gull
  32. Woodpigeon
  33. Kingfisher
  34. Green Woodpecker
  35. Great spotted woodpecker
  36. Meadow pipit
  37. Pied wagtail
  38. Grey wagtail
  39. Wren
  40. Dunnock
  41. Robin
  42. Song thrush
  43. Redwing
  44. Mistle thrush
  45. Blackbird
  46. Cetti’s warbler
  47. Goldcrest
  48. Firecrest
  49. Great tit
  50. Coal tit
  51. Blue tit
  52. Long-tailed tit
  53. Nuthatch
  54. Treecreeper
  55. Magpie
  56. Jay
  57. Jackdaw
  58. Rook
  59. Carrion Crow
  60. Starling
  61. Chaffinch
  62. Brambling
  63. Lesser redpoll
  64. Goldfinch
  65. Greenfinch
  66. Siskin
  67. Bullfinch
  68. Reed bunting

Remarkably all the teams saw Cetti’s warbler, usually very difficult to see, two teams had good views of firecrest, but nobody saw a collard dove. The winning team, after a nail-biting tie break, was from……………….(this pause put in for dramatic, if annoying effect, as per all awards nowadays)……………..New Forest District Council, who won the prize of a bird feeder stand and the golden eggs, but not the goose.

The tawny owl that had been so regular on the south edge of Ivy Lake failed to be there today and if the bittern was still there it kept a very low profile. As if to emphasise the nature of these kind of events, although I was in a meeting for most of the rest of the day I still managed to see several more species that we had all missed during our race.¬†Even when you have lots of people looking it is so easy to miss things,¬†casual records at other times included dunlin, snipe and Mediterranean gull, making 71 species in the day, just better than “Par”.

Many thanks to all who participated. I am sure that all the many visitors to the reserve appreciate the support of the partners, for without them there would be no reserve to visit.

Hopefully pictures will follow.

1000 and Still Going!

As the others have headed off for Christmas I get to blog today and this is the 1000th post on this version of the Blashford Blog! We started this WordPress blog in November 2011, since when the 999 posts have had 397,501 views. We have covered lots of wildlife, loads of events and the continuing Herculean work of the great Blashford Volunteers, education and craft activities, birthday parties and the pop up café, there has been a lot going on and there continues to be.

Over this time we have seen a good few changes of personnel, although Jim has remained constant throughout and I have only made brief forays elsewhere. The reserve has passed its 20th year and the partnership which has made the whole reserve possible continues. Regular readers will know that the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manages the reserve on land (and water) belonging to Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water and that our work is also supported by New Forest District Council. Together we are able to provide a popular nature reserve and a busy education program and hopefully we will continue to do so for many years more.

More change is on the horizon, soon I hope to be able to report the opening of the new path between the main car park and Goosander hide, this will provide a circular route round the whole reserve for the first time. This will also add a fair patch of extra dry land to the reserve and in time might develop into interesting habitat for insects as well as providing nesting area for lapwing and little ringed plover.

If you ventured out today you will know that the morning was one for staying inside. The afternoon was better though and I ventured over to Tern hide in the late afternoon where the gull roost was large and mobile, I could not see the ring-billed gull but it was probably there somewhere. I did see at least 8 yellow-legged gull and 40 pochard. Yesterday I did an “In to roost” event and we saw about 2000 or so starling come in, tonight either I missed them or they went elsewhere.

One bird that comes to roost each evening is goosander and I recently tried putting out a trailcam to see if I could catch them displaying, it turns out I could not, but I did get a few on camera.


goosander gathering at dusk

I also got one shot of a female looking under the water, something they often do to see if there are any tasty looking fish in range.


Just taking a look

Mostly though I just got pictures of rippling water or coot.


a typical trailcam coot shot

My best picture today was of one of the many fungi that are again coming up all over the place. I think it is stag’s horn or candle snuff, but it did seem to be growing on leaves rather than wood. This close up shot shows how drops of water can act like lenses.


Candle-snuff fungus with rain drops.

At dusk I counted at least 121 roosting cormorant on Ivy Lake along with one great white egret, I think it was “Walter” but I could not see any rings in the gloom.

I also have a little late news from yesterday, when there was an otter swimming in Ivy lake as we opened up the Ivy South hide, it was not close but we got to watch it for several minutes as it swam along and dived near the southern shore. We called Jim, who rushed down, arriving just after it had gone up the bank, so his ambition to one day have a good view of an otter at Blashford remains intact.

Lastly there was a break-in to a car in the main car park yesterday afternoon. It would appear that the culprit was watching as valuables were stowed into the boot of the car, so knew exactly which car to attack and where to look. It is always wise not to leave anything of value on show, but this also reminds us to remember that you might be being watched too. I would also ask that if you spot anyone looking suspicious in or around the car parks or elsewhere on the reserve do please let us know, along with as much information as you can easily and safely add. Luckily this is a very rare event at the reserve, but I am very keen that we keep it that way!

Last of all, I would like to thank all of you blog post readers, followers, especially those who comment (it is always good to know what you think) and the senders of the many superb pictures.