Preparations for Spring

It was a properly frosty morning, but walking round to open up the hides this morning signs of approaching spring were everywhere.

Frosty thistle

Frosty thistle

The snowdrops near the store are well out now and primroses are flowering around the car park edge, near the Woodland hide the leaves of the wild daffodils have been up for  a while, but now the flower buds can be seen. Along the path sides shiny, bright green wild arum leaves are showing everywhere and near the alder carr there are the brilliant red spots of colour provided by scarlet elf cup fungi.

As it was Tuesday we had a volunteer task today and we were also looking forward to the warmer days. Our task was clearing back the path sides on the way to the Ivy South hide to open up sheltered scallops to give something of the feeling of a woodland ride. This path runs almost exactly north-south and so has many sun-traps beloved of insects and reptiles. Out plan was to create more such spots in the hope of making more encounters with these creatures later in the year.

pathside clearance

Cleared path sides to create sunny “scallops”.

The end of the day saw rather fewer birders at the Tern hide hoping for a sight of the Thayer’s gull, they were disappointed again. There was the usual ring-billed gull, several yellow-legged gull, a first winter Caspian gull and an adult Mediterranean gull in the roost. My own sightings were rather few, “Walter” our great white egret was fishing in Ivy Lake and on Ibsley Water 2 shelduck and 3 oystercatcher were the most interesting records.

Tomorrow we are working at Fishlake Meadows again, clearing cut willow into dead hedges to create new views across the reedbeds and pools.

 

February round up

We’ve had a busy half term, with Winter Craft themed Wild Days Out, an evening under the stars (of which there really were many!) with the Fordingbridge Astronomers and our usual Young Naturalists monthly meeting.

Our Wild Days Out saw the children getting very messy in the clay pit, den building, fire lighting, creating dream catchers and baskets from willow and ice art sculptures. Lots of arty and hands on activities that involved natural materials! We even attempted to make burn out bowls in the fire, using hollowed out pieces of elder as straws. It was a slow process…

Our Young Naturalists did a great job making bird boxes, using a plan to mark up their planks of wood, cutting up the individual pieces and nailing them all together. The bird boxes along with a number made by the volunteers will replace some of the older ones on the reserve which are a little past their best, and will be a welcome addition. Thank you guys for all your hard work!

We also spent quite a while watching the kingfisher catching newts from the Education Centre pond – a very good distraction! The pond has become a favourite hunting spot for at least two birds, which are best viewed from inside the Centre as they don’t hang around for long when disturbed – hopefully they will leave a few newts for us to catch over the summer!

kingfisher

Kingfisher by the Education Centre pond

The wild daffodils by the Woodland Hide are probably now at their best and definitely worth a visit, adding a welcome splash of yellow to the woodland floor.

daffodils

Wild daffodils near the Woodland Hide

The feeders at the Woodland Hide are still being visited by three brambling and at least one lesser redpoll, whilst a number of reed bunting have been foraging around on the ground.

Goldeneye, black necked grebe and goosander are still present on Ibsley Water whilst lapwing numbers are increasing, with some beginning to display over the lake with their distinctive flip-floppy flight. The water pipit has also been viewed from Tern Hide.

We’re expecting the bittern and great white egret to leave us any day now – if indeed they are still here! The bittern was seen on Sunday whilst Jim’s most recent view of the great white was last Wednesday.

A tawny owl has also decided to roost at the southern end of Ivy Lake, best viewed from the last window in Ivy South Hide. Noticed on Sunday, it has been there most mornings and still there some evenings so it’s definitely worth a scan of the trees on the lake edge.

Finally, thank you very much to Dave Levy for sharing with us this sequence of photos of a pair of great crested grebe displaying on Ivy Lake. Spring must definitely be here!

 

The last few days in pictures…

Wild daffodils are here again...

Wild daffodils are here again…

It has actually brightened up over the course of this morning, but despite the first of the wild daffodils flowering outside the Woodland Hide and the fact that the smooth newts are arriving back at the centre pond  (I only know this because from my office window I watched a kingfisher sitting on a perch bashing 7 bells out of one an hour ago!), it really didn’t feel very spring like at all while opening up and filling the bird feeders.

Currently the main car park and all of the hides are open with the exception of Goosander Hide which remains closed until a replacement lock has been received from the manufacturer and fitted. Two of the footpaths around the reserve are blocked or partially blocked by fallen tree’s (see below). More rain means the ground is going to be even more water logged and we risk even more tree’s being uprooted. Pictured below are photo’s of the some of the recent casualties:

Another oak bites the dust - this time along the dipping area. It was the branches of this oak that had come down across the entrancve track to the centre that volunteer Jacki and I spent the best part of Saturday morning removing.

Another oak bites the dust – this time along the dipping area. It was the branches of this oak that had come down across the entrance track to the centre that volunteer Jacki and I spent the best part of Saturday morning removing.

The other end of the same tree.

The other end of the same tree.

A slightly smaller oak, but still down and blocking access along the path north of the dipping area that heads towards the Waterskiing entrance track and on around Ellingham Pound and Lake.

A slightly smaller oak, but still down and blocking access along the path north of the dipping area that heads towards the Waterskiing entrance track and on around Ellingham Pound and Lake.

The large Scots pine impeding progress along the Dockens Water path that runs parallel with Ellingham Drove

The large Scots pine impeding progress along the Dockens Water path that runs parallel with Ellingham Drove.

Unfortunately, because of the danger posed by the downed power line near the entrance on Tuesday morning, we had to cancel our “Wild Days Out” activity day for 8-12 year olds. Disappointing for them of course, but also for us as the beginning of the recession a couple of years ago saw the number of children booking on to what had been incredibly popular days plummet, but numbers over the last 6 months have been steadily creeping back up and this February half-term had seen bookings back up to their pre-crash levels. Hopefully no one has been put off and we will see everyone back again at Easter.

On the other hand yesterdays Wild Days Out for 5-7 year olds, fully booked (with a reserve list!) was able to go ahead – and it didn’t even rain! The theme for the day was birds and bird watching and it does seem that we may have taught them something by the end of the day, judging by the discussions that some of the children were having with their parents as they left! Visits to Tern Hide and the Woodland Hide, duck identification games and bird feeder making (a very sticky activity that we were very glad to be doing outside in the sunshine rather than in the centre classroom!) were supplemented and complimented beautifully by the presence of Kevin Sayer and his bird ringing team, allowing the children a privileged close encounter with a siskin and a couple of treecreepers.

A "Wild Days Out" wild encounter with Kevin - and a siskin

A “Wild Days Out” wild encounter with Kevin – and a siskin

The highlights for the children? Lunch(!), wading through the remnants of the flood in the car park and climbing on, over and around the fallen pine, just going to show that when a tree falls over in a woodland it very quickly provides habitat for new life!

There are some advantages to fallen tree's...

There are some advantages to fallen tree’s…

...hours of fun!

…hours of fun!

As for the ringers, they had a good morning too, including another mealy redpoll (pictured with a lesser for comparison below), a re-trapped lesser redpoll, first caught on the reserve 4 years ago, and a re-trapped siskin from 2 years ago. The complete list of 40 birds was:

Lesser Redpoll 8

Siskin 12

Common Redpoll 1

Song Thrush 2

Nuthatch 1

Treecreeper 2

Blue Tit 3

Great Tit 2

Chaffinch 3

Dunnock 2

Goldfinch 3

Robin 1

Lesser and mealy redpolls (photo by B. Cook)

Lesser and mealy redpolls (photo by B. Cook)