All in the name

Apologies for the slightly late and out of sync blog, but we wanted to still share our latest Wildlife Rangers news with you all.

February was a busy month for our teenage group, with a name change, an evening under the stars (and cloud!) and a busy work day removing willow from an area of reedbed near Lapwing Hide.

With welcome funding from the Cameron Bespolka Trust we officially launched our Young Naturalists group: the group will build upon the experiences of our Wildlife Rangers and continue to offer teenagers the opportunity to develop their interests in wildlife and nature conservation, either as a hobby or as a potential future career. The new funding however will enable us to expand upon the range of activities and sessions offered each month, including visits to other key wildlife sites and visits to us by local specialists.

We were joined at the launch by Corinne Bespolka, who set up the Cameron Bespolka Trust in memory of her son who was a keen, active birder and naturalist, representatives from the Blashford Lakes partnership and a number of young people from the group, who shared their experiences and interests.

Debbie and Corrine

HIWWT’s Chief Executive Debbie Tann with Corinne Bespolka, and the cake!


Shortly after our launch, our Young Naturalists were joined by Steve Tonkin and Tim Rawlings from Fordingbridge Astronomers,  who delighted the group with an introduction to astronomy via an indoor tour of the night sky and the chance to look at a range of useful resources and observing equipment. We then headed outside where despite a fair amount of cloud we were still able to observe the Orion constellation, Jupiter and Sirius, often referred to as the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major, amongst others. Thanks to David Felstead for taking this group photo of us observing:

Young Naturalists Stargazing by David Felstead

Young Naturalists star (and cloud) gazing, you can just about pick some out, by David Felstead

This was followed by our usual monthly session and after a quick rummage through the moth trap, we headed up to an area of reedbed near Lapwing Hide to remove some of the willow. The reserve’s on going project of reedbed expansion and willow pollarding in this area will benefit a range of invertebrates as well as birds like reed warblers and water rails.

As Ed also joined the group for the day, we managed to cut a lot more than usual, burning most of the brash on a bonfire (an activity greatly enjoyed by the group) and stacking the remainder to create a dead hedge. Here are some photos from our day:

Making a start

Making a start at pollarding the willow

Dragging brash

Dragging brash to the bonfire


Becky and Talia pollarding one of the willows

Felling trees

Ed working hard

Adding fuel to the fire 2

Ellie adding fuel to the fire (Geoff tended the fire whilst we all had our lunch, so is having a welcome break!)

Of course, we couldn’t have a fire without having a snack, so had a go at toasting some waffles. Some were nicely toasted, others ended up more like charcoal…

Toasting waffles

Carefully toasting a waffle

Finally, after lots of pollarding, dragging, burning and stacking we had a nice clearing within the reedbed and a new dead hedge:

The cleared area 2

The cleared area of reedbed with the dead hedge in the background

Group photo

Group photo!

Watching the fire

Watching the last of our cut material burn down

We still found time to go wildlife spotting whilst out, spying this female adder basking next to one of the tins:

Adder 4

Female adder basking next to a tin

And on investigating under a log, uncovered four juvenile newts:

Lots of newts

Oak Beauty

Oak beauty moth, the highlight from the light trap

So all in all we had a busy and varied month! And, just to make this blog even longer, here are some lovely photos taken by David Felstead of a few of our woodland birds. Thanks David!

Long tailed tit by David Felstead

Long-tailed tit by David Felstead

Blue tit resized by David Felstead

Blue tit by David Felstead

Blue tit 3 by David Felstead

Blue tit by David Felstead

Siskin 2 by David Felstead

Siskin by David Felstead

Siskin 3 by David Felstead

Siskin by David Felstead

Birds, birds, birds

The reserve was alive with bird song this morning, with the feeders by the Woodland hide covered with hungry siskin and lesser redpoll having an early morning feast on the Niger seed.

Siskin and lesser redpoll

Siskins and lesser redpoll on the feeder near the Woodland Hide

The Scarlet elf-cup was showing nicely, as were the Wild daffodils which certainly made for a Spring-like feeling.

Scarlett elf cap

Scarlet elf-cup on the approach to the Woodland hide


Wild daffodils near the Woodland hide


Today our Wildlife Rangers group built up the existing dead hedge on the approach to Ivy South hide. The hedge will act as a screen between the footpath and Ivy Lake, hopefully encouraging water birds to venture closer to the hide without getting as disturbed by people on the path, and enabling visitors to have better views of the birds from the hide itself.

Dead hedge before 2

A before photo of the dead hedge

Our first task was to cut some more stakes for the hedge so the brash, once piled up, was kept in place. The stakes were bashed into the ground and more brash was then added to the cut material already there. The group quickly made their way through the brash left by Ivy South hide on Friday and the pile which had been left by the Woodland hide, so we then headed off to pollard more willow.

Making new stakes

Cutting new stakes

Putting in posts

Putting in new stakes along the dead hedge

Building up the hedge

Adding brash to the dead hedge

Pollarding willow

Pollarding willow for the dead hedge

After a lot of cutting, dragging and bashing, we had finished that particular stretch of hedge and there was certainly less lake visible from the footpath.

Dead hedge after

Dead hedge after our hard work

After lunch we decided to do a survey of the woodland birds and spent an hour counting those present at the Woodland hide. We saw 20 bird species in total, along with a bank vole. Our greatest number at any one time was of chaffinch, of which there were 26, along with 17 siskin, 7 blue tit, 7 goldfinch, 7 dunnock, 5 greenfinch, 5 robin, 4 great tit, 4 lesser redpoll, 3 collared dove, 2 coal tit, 2 blackbird and 1 nuthatchgreat spotted woodpeckerbramblingstock dovejackdaw, woodpigeon, long tailed tit and sparrowhawk.

We also found time to visit Ivy North and Ivy South hides.

Bird watching from Ivy South hide

Bird watching from Ivy South hide

Here’s a snap shot of some of the birds we saw whilst out and about bird watching and counting, taken by one of our Wildlife Rangers, Talia Felstead:

Long tailed tit by Talia Felstead 3

Long tailed tit

Long tailed tit by Talia Felstead 2

Long tailed tit

Siskins by Talia Felstead




Great white egret by Talia Felstead

Great white egret

Stock dove by Talia Felstead

Stock dove

Blue tit great tit and robin by Talia Felstead

Blue tit, great tit and robin

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker

Great tit with blue tit by Talia Felstead

Great tit and blue tit

Chaffinch and stock dove by Talia Felstead 2

Chaffinch and stock dove

Blue tit and stock dove by Talia Felstead

Blue tit and stock dove


Jackdaw, eyeing up one of the apples kindly bought in by reserve volunteer Geoff

Thanks Talia for sharing your photos!