Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Chr-HESC-mas Day

Firstly, a Very Merry Christmas to you all. I sincerely hope Santa brought you something wildlife-related, even if it was simply a new tie with a Robin on it or a plastic duck for the bath.

Just before lunchtime, a break in the weather heralded a visit to the reserve to see what was about, other than a billion litres of water. Well, to be honest, it was mainly water. So here's a photographic record of the extent of the flooding (for the very good reason that if we ever have a Summer in 2013, we can look back at this and be grateful).

This is the view from the far end of the reserve, adjacent to the large Oak tree. The nearest stretch of water is the single track road, after the greenery there's the river and then it's Haversham Lake and the sailing club. Although you would be forgiven for thinking it's just one big puddle.

As usual, when the Great Ouse bursts its banks hereabouts, the reserve is the first port of call. Having topped up the security ditch, the flood water was pouring into the main lake across the "path that never was".

In the Far Paddock, the ephemeral ponds were looking rather less than ephemeral!

Alongside the paddock, parts of the hedged track were under water, but it didn't prevent us from admiring this fungi-laden branch.

Meanwhile, the view from the Far Hide back towards the centre was fairly monotonous, with only a few bits of bund vegetation visible. Admittedly, nowhere for the Lapwings and other plovers to feed, but at least it might knock back some of the weed growth. In other good news, the temporary bridge hadn't floated away, but was still inaccessible.

Water levels had stopped rising just in time, before they flooded the track between St Peter's Lake and the main lake.

The Woodland Hide may have to be re-christened the Mere Hide!

Whilst putting out a small amount of seed for the birds, I couldn't help noticing the bridge IN troubled waters.

By the time I returned to the hide, I'd already missed a Sparrowhawk, my wife kindly informed me!

But things soon calmed down and all the usual feathered suspects were still present.

Back out on the main track, this area in front of the carved bench was bone dry earlier this year and we wondered how it could possibly ever recover. Ta dah! Who would have thought it?

Happily, flood levels on the boardwalk were passable, though it didn't prevent Mrs W from proving once again that she can walk on water.

It was much the same story from the Near Hide, barely a bit of bund to be seen.

In the Near Paddock, the lake was inching ever nearer the most recent seat to be modified for horizontal bottoms.

Finally, all that water has to go somewhere. Here it is exiting the main lake via the perimeter track and flowing into Blackhorse Lake.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and a warmer, drier, wildlife-laden 2013.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

FoHESC Christmas advert

This isn’t just any wildlife calendar… this is a FoHESC wildlife calendar, with sumptuous images taken by a local resident.

A local resident who takes great care to select only the finest subjects for his photographs.

Photographs showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world on our doorstep, hand-picked by the photographer.

This isn’t just any photographer… this is a photographer whose work is also featured on the BBC Springwatch website.

(Image 4 of 4. Nice one, Tony!)

On a more serious note, if you want to give one of these calendars to the nature lover in your life, tomorrow (Sunday 16th December 2012) is likely to be the last chance before Christmas to pick up one of these gems.

On sale at HESC, between 10am and 4pm, for the recession-busting price of just £5.

If you're very lucky, you may be able to purchase one of the really valuable ones that Tony hasn't signed.

Monday, 10 December 2012

HESC December Wetland Bird Survey

Andy Harding recorded the following birds on the HESC lakes on Sunday (09/12/12) as part of his December WEBs survey.
G.C Grebe - 3
Little Grebe - 1
Little Egret - 2
Grey heron - 3
Cormorant - 7
Mute Swan - 18
Wigeon - 117
Gadwall - 38
Shoveler - 4
Teal - 8
Mallard 7
Pochard - 51
Tufted - 73
Water Rail - 1
Coot - 91
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible next Sunday (16th) for our last open event for this year.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sunday Working Party 02/12/12

Sundays plan was to remove as much of the rubble pile as possible, by using it to further develop the hibernaculum that we built in the summer. Then, to use the remaining material, to build another winter shelter for invertebrates and other small creatures, behind the fence, on the other side of the path, close to the rubble.

The day was cold and bright, in fact the night had been so cold, that we needed to take a mattock to the top crust of the rubble, in order to break it up ready for transporting. While this was going on, some corrugated iron which had been rescued from the bund (yes once upon a time you could actually get on the thing) was placed on the original hibernaculum in order to provide a waterproof membrane. This was then covered with more rubble and soil which will finally be topped off with grass and perhaps a few logs.
The revised original hibernaculum starts to take shape
As we started to work our way into the heart of the rubble we encountered a couple of small smooth newts, which were rescued and re-billeted in the new winter home. Then as more material was taken for starting the second hibernaculum, we uncovered a small community of voles. With care the nest site was recovered and it was agreed, that for the time being, we would form a pathway through the rubble but leave the rest of it in place, so that, whatever had decided to set up home for the winter, could remain in peace.
Access restored, but habitat left intact for this winter

Despite the disruption to the plan, sufficient material was moved to create a very usable second hibernation site. Which based on what we have seen a pile of dumped rubble can house, should provide a home for any creatures not yet laid up for this winter and certainly a place of safety for coming winters.
Hibernaculum 2 takes shape
As well as the work on the hibernacula, our ace bench building team (the now infamous Betty and Barney), converted the pretty useless bum rest in the near paddock behind the centre, into a fully operational bench.
Looks like the new bench is a good place for a yarn or two!
As always a good time was enjoyed by all and some really useful projects completed.

Thank you to everyone who turned out and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Please remember the last open Sunday for this year is on December 16th, we hope to see you there (see Events and Projects tag for more details).

PS Thanks to Malcolm Stewart for providing the photos.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

November Open Sunday Review

Our third Open Sunday was blessed with possibly the best day of the Month so far, weather wise, with clear blue skies, bright golden sunshine and just the right amount of frosty bite to make for an exhilarating day.
Three Mute Swans looking glorious in the Autumn sunshine

The word now seems to be spreading about the FoHESC Open Sundays and the combination of good publicity, great weather and our special guest for the day – Andy Harding (Bucks County Bird Recorder) – resulted in our largest turn-out so far with well over fifty visitors to the centre.

The morning commenced with Andy leading a posse of newly sworn-in deputies around the main lake to conduct his monthly water bird and wader survey. Prior to the count Andy explained the purpose and importance of the survey which forms part of The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS).

WeBS is the scheme which monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. The principal aims are to identify population sizes, determine trends in numbers and distribution and to identify important sites for waterbirds. More details can be found at http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs
During the survey, Andy kept our visitors involved in helping identify and count the many different species of water birds spotted - the whole experience was both informative and a lot of fun.

The principle species found and recorded on the reserve main lake were as follows –
Coot - .42 .
Pochard - 17
Wigeon - 353
Tufted Duck - 119
Canada Geese - 1
Great Crested Grebe - 11
Mute Swan - 52
Gadwall - 37
Grey Lag - 410
Cormorants - 16
this list is by no means exhaustive and other smaller numbers of species were also recorded.

In addition to the above we were also fortunate enough to spot 3 Kingfisher (the most Andy has ever recorded in a single visit to HESC), 7 Little Grebe and 5 Snipe, plus a few Shoveller, Teal and Mallard.
352,353 This pair of Wigeon make sure they are included in the count

Although the above represents a snap shot taken at that particular time and day, the results clearly demonstrate what an important site HESC is for these birds, as they move into and around the country.

Following the count, our visitors explored other areas of the reserve for themselves, visited other hides to do a bit of birding of their own (including watching our resident Marsh Tits at the Woodland feeding station) or relaxed in the centre with a cuppa and browsed our book store and displays.
Apart from the water birds there were plenty of other species to see including
Redwings in many of the trees and bushes

In the afternoon Andy graciously submitted to a well attended, open interview with Tony Bedford in a Q&A session, which covered his initial steps into birding, advice for newcomers into the hobby, the importance and reason for collecting data on bird numbers and movements, his thoughts on the proposed new wind farm at Haversham and included stories of his overseas trips and entertaining anecdotes.
Andy fielding another of Tony's Questions
and holding the audience's attention
Although it is impossible to cover everything discussed here; in summary, Andy advised that probably the best single thing that newcomers to bird watching could do, was to join a local club or organisation where they could get help and advice from fellow birders and partake in organised outings and trips etc.

Andy shared some of our concerns regarding the effect that the proposed Haversham wind farm may have on HESC and other local wildlife habitats such as Little Linford Woods and firmly declared his support and backing for HESC as one of the most interesting and important bird and wildlife reserves in the area.

Despite the amount of time he had already donated to us, Andy then kindly offered to accompany those who wished, out to the hides for a final birding session. An offer which many of our visitors gladly accepted.

Once again our Open Sunday proved a thoroughly enjoyable day for all concerned and as always we would like to thank the visitors who decided to join as new permit holders and or join the Friends Group, make purchases, give donations and contribute to making the whole day such a success. We would also like to specially thank Andy Harding who was key to making this our best open event yet.

Our next Open Sunday will be on December 16th, please also feel free to join us at our next maintenance Sunday on December 2nd (10am start).

Best wishes and I look forward to meeting with you all again soon.
Tony Bedford


Other Links you may find useful

Monday, 12 November 2012

Reminder re Open Sunday

Great News For Birders at Our Next Open Sunday
18th November 2012
FoHESC are delighted to announce, that as part of our next open Sunday activities, Andy Harding (Buckinghamshire County Bird Recorder) will be conducting his monthly bird count at HESC and has invited our visitors to join him, in helping compile his records, which will go forward to help make up the national statistics. The count will start at 10.30am - please meet at the centre.
Redpoll - seen from the Woodland Hide last week
(photograph © Tony Bedford)
Then at 2pm in the centre Andy will be taking part in a Question and Answer session and will be offering tips and advice for those taking their first steps into birding, whilst helping those with a little more experience improve their identification skills

The Centre will be open from 10am untill 4pm, so that visitors can make use of the facilities (including light refreshments on sale, toilets, viewing balcony etc).

Within the centre we will have FoHESC members to answer questions, give advice on the wildlife to be found on the site, various displays, a large secondhand book stall and various gift items including our New Calendar will be on sale.

Everyone is welcome at our Open Sundays and Permit Holders are invited to bring family members, friends or guests. We will also be accepting applications from anyone who would like to become a permit holder and/or join the Friends Group.
Please note Children are welcome, but must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Berries and Bugs

                                                       Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaea?)

There is something irresistible about bright Autumn mornings, and I've been lucky enough to be able to spend the last few at The Reserve. I find them better than porridge for fuelling up for busy afternoons....

This morning I remembered to take the camera.
I'd noticed the little pink berries of the Spindle Tree on the Butterfly Bank and wanted to capture them digitally before they became a bird's breakfast. I'm fascinated by the way the orange seeds are exposed!

Pictures taken, I turned round to retrieve my bag from where I'd left it open. As I did, I noticed a wood mouse sitting up on it's haunches and eyeing the contents which had spilled onto the grass.
Wood mice have very beady eyes, and it was an extremely endearing pose!
I didn't shout: 'Oi, geroff...' in case I could get a shot of it, and anyway, I'm fond of  rodents and would quite happily have shared my food in return for that photo opportunity.

But it wasn't to be - by the time I'd raised my camera, this largish insect had landed on the lens...
It was much larger than a frog-hopper and much more narrow than a shield bug, and very unconcerned when I moved it onto my finger.

I haven't identified it yet - if you, dear reader, can, then do please leave a comment for me underneath here!
In the meantime I'll send the picture to BMERC with time and place of discovery.....

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Our Second Open Sunday or
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Furball XL5

It was lovely to welcome both new and familiar faces to our second open Sunday and a big thank you to those that enrolled as new members or supported us with you kind purchases of refreshments, books, gifts and of course FoHESC calendars.

The weather was much kinder than on our first open Sunday and the majority of visitors enjoyed a decent amount of sunshine and blue skies, which contrasted beautifully with the dazzling white of eighty plus mute swans amassed on the main lake.

Substantial numbers of redwings are currently present on the reserve and were inhabiting the trees and bushes along many of the pathways – I fear that our bumper crop of berries will soon be diminishing if these guys hang around for long. Spot of the day, was probably a Goldcrest, close to the woodland hide, which brought a note of joy to a certain Lyrical Lady.

For the observers looking out from the centre viewing gallery and windows a Sparrowhawk was kind enough to perform an aerial duet with a feisty crow and first a fox and then a muntjac promenaded along the rear pathways in full view of the appreciative audience.

The morning session was quiet, but from lunch time onwards visitors started to arrive in earnest. Thanks to his superior deductive powers, our venerable secretary also timed his appearance to coincide with this busier period. Within moments of his arrival Hon Sec had spotted what at first looked like UFOs (Unidentified Faecal Objects) just outside one of the large observation windows. After combined peering through binoculars, the assembled throng concluded they could well be pellets coughed up by an owl or raptor.

The urge to investigate further was irresistible for our super-sleuth and armed with only a small plastic bag, the plucky committee man declared “I’m just going outside – I may be sometime”.
“Best go round from the left” I helpfully advised, “it’s much drier that way”.
As the crowd gathered to watch our hero make his assault on the north face of the centre someone asked, “Do you think it will be much easier and safer if he approaches from the left?”
“No”, I replied, “but there are a lot more stinging nettles that side, so we should have more fun”.
Soon our diminutive detective appeared moving through the nettles and tall grasses in what appeared to be “Supermarionation” – for those of more tender years (or who had better things to do with their lives) this was the technique used by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson in their famous puppet based shows such as Stingray,Thunderbirds etc. Anyway, there he was, gingerly moving towards his target in a series of high knee and elbow motions as if controlled by invisible strings. Guiding hand or not, our very own Chris Packham tribute act, was soon gathering up samples of the mystery substance for analysis back at the mothership.
The North Face
Safely returned, Sherlock deposited the small dark grey pellets into a tray of warm water and started stirring with a plastic spoon. As the highly unappetising pot noodle started to dissolve we discovered that the pellets consisted of about 95% fur with the odd tiny tooth, claw or indistinguishable piece of bone.

“It’s not an owl pellet”, was the first conclusion, I offered the possibility that it was from a Kestrel (having seen one perched above the spot where the pellets were found on several occasions), but my fellow researchers were not convinced. “Why are there so few bones?” was one of the main questions.

“Perhaps Kestrels and raptors are more efficient at digesting their prey and dissolve more of the bones before they produce the pellets” I offered. Having no takers on this theory, I wandered off to talk to some newcomers.

“Hey Tony, guess what” I heard, “these are Kestrel pellets and they contain mostly hair and not much bone, because Kestrels have stronger digestive juices than owls, which dissolves most of the bone before the pellet is produced”. Our state of the art CSI man (Chewed and Spat out Items), had a couple of things at his disposal that poor old Mr Holmes was sadly lacking – his iPhone and an internet connection to Google. Did I get any credit for my previously inspired guess work? - of course not.

Sorry no wildlife pictures this week - but it’s a bit difficult to fit in with our open day duties – but why not come down next month and see them for yourself. It’s a very friendly environment, we try to have fun and there’s nearly always something interesting to see on the wildlife front.

Best wishes


The Next Open Sunday is November 18th and the next Sunday morning working party is November 4th.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Penelope’s Pit Stop

Almost overnight it seems that the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has come upon us, bringing with it a change of colours, a change of faces and a rekindling of old friendships.

The main lake which was the wildfowl equivalent of the Atacama Desert a month ago, now often boasts over a hundred Wigeon, whistling like a range of perky little copper coloured kettles, each coming to the boil at a different time. As each day goes by new arrivals of other familiar HESC species turn up. So far this month, odd numbers of Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveller and Tufted Ducks have been seen mingling in with the Wigeon and the resident Mallards.
Male Wigeon (Anas Penelope) and Friend

Large numbers of Mute Swan have also been present in the last couple of weeks including a group of about 70 gathered at one stage between the Bund and the Far Hide. Although we failed to record a single successful Great Crested Grebes nest this year, young GCGs have arrived from somewhere, they can be distinguished by their telltale humbug striped heads and can often be seen fishing in front of both the main lake hides.
Young Great Crested Grebe

The Woodland Hide, which is probably my favourite, has also started to recover from the virtually bird free state of the summer months, as last Spring’s diners return to their favourite restaurant.
Marsh Tit - a Woodland Hide Favourite
Along with the ever present Blue and Great Tits our pair of Marsh Tits can be seen making regular sorties to the feeders and tables. Robin and Chaffinch take their opportunities to grab some grub from the tables, before the Tits and pesky Grey Squirrels have snaffled it all and chattering Long-tailed Tits flutter in and out of the area in the company of the their blue cousins. A few Siskin have been spotted near the hide and those watchers that have been sitting quietly back from the viewing windows, have enjoyed close views of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Jays in the last week.
Great Spotted Woodpecker outside Woodland Hide

As the lush growth starts to die back, the Bank Voles can again be seen snatching a few seeds spilt from the tables near the woodpile. But, BV take care, I spotted a Weasel not far from your home a week or so ago and confident young Foxes have been strolling around the meadows.
Young Fox in the Near Meadow

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”*  - and of the HESC naturalist too maybe.

PS Don't forget this Sunday (Oct 21st) is an Open Sunday, so please come along, new faces are welcome.

*From the opening lines of Autumn by John Keats.

Photographs by and © Tony Bedford

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Saws, seats and sun

Sunday, 7th October 2012 dawned misty and damp, but it wasn't grey enough to take the edge off my enthusiasm as today was the first day of the Winter work party programme.

After a Summer (apparently) patiently waiting for all manner of wildlife to complete their breeding cycles, it felt a little like being let off the leash. As all good natural historians know, the 6 months of October to March are when we can carry out habitat maintenance on the reserve, with minimal disturbance to the residents. And we certainly have a long list of tasks ahead of us.

As advertised on the 'Events and Projects' tab above, today we were tackling numerous trees adjacent to the main path through the site. These were a mixture of standing dead wood or fallen boughs that required some attention.
Bench Test - Neil alias "Tommy Walsh" carries out field trials on his latest creation

A pleasing turnout of volunteers in double figures also meant we had sufficient numbers to  tackle a secondary task, converting the old slopey bum rests into proper flat seats. This project is the brainchild of Neil, our very own "Tommy Walsh". As of this afternoon, there are now three seats converted: at the first track junction along the main path; opposite the gate for the middle paddock; and, new for 2012, along the causeway by St Peter's Lake. We hope that less able visitors will now have the opportunity to rest as they make their way between the hides. To continue the Ground Force theme, by association, Neil's wife, Pauline, must be our very own "Charlie Dimmock". 

Seat of Learning - Steph Kimsey, Countryside Officer (Education)
gives official approval to one of the new FoHESC benches.

As well as removing obstructive trees, we were able to clear parts of the causeway, opening up new views and letting more light onto the path.

Bank Vole Logs On (Thought you needed a Mouse for that?)

The felled wood generated by this work was added to the log pile in front of the Woodland Hide, for the delight and delectation of numerous Bank Voles.

Many hands make paths and ponds lighter as Friends remove overgrowing Willows

And then the sun came out, though by that time, we were already warmed up!

Many thanks to those generous souls who freely gave of their time this morning, to help make the reserve a pleasanter and safer place. 

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but perhaps not mightier than the bow saw.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Our First Open Sunday

Despite the atrocious weather our inaugural open Sunday was well attended including about 30 people visiting for the first time.
Those that arrived early managed to get round before the heavens opened, but the later arrivals were glad to avail themselves of the Centres viewing facilities, check out the various displays, have a cuppa or browse through, what is starting to grow into, a substantial second hand book stall.
FoHESC members were on hand to offer help and advice, as best they could, although I am not sure that I was able to convince one young man that dragonflies don’t have big eyes so they can see in the dark (and I can’t fault his logic).
As Chairman, I had fully played my part in preparing for the day, by going on holiday the week before and leaving all the organising to the other Committee members. Clearly a masterstroke of genius because everything had been arranged superbly - for which I offer my sincere thanks. Perhaps they will pay me to go on holiday before each open Sunday?
Thank you also to the new visitors that joined as permit holders on the day, we look forward to seeing you again soon.
Unfortunately we did not have any hot cakes for sale on such a miserable autumnal day, but, the NEW 2013 FoHESC CALENDAR did it’s best to sell in the same fashion.
We are delighted with our new calendar and feel sure that you will be too. Selling for just £5.00 (all profit of which goes back into helping us maintain the reserve) the A3 calendar features photographs taken on the reserve of typical wildlife that can be seen throughout the year. It has a two months per page format, plus previous and next month dates, making it a very handy planner, as well as an attractive feature to hang in your kitchen, office or anywhere else you fancy.

The calendar will be available for sale on all the open Sundays (including working party Sundays) and from the Centre (when staffed) during the week. If you have any problems getting a copy drop us an e mail and one of the Committee will do their best to help you.
The next Working Party Sunday is the 7th October and the next Open Sunday is the 21st October. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Best wishes
Tony Bedford
Chairman FoHESC

Monday, 13 August 2012

And then there were three

Y'know, it was a coincidence that Mike Rutherford from Genesis was featured in the closing ceremony of London 2012, the 30th Olympiad. But more on that later...

Earlier in the day, a FoHESC work party had performed their version of a Greek-tragedy-cum-marathon (it's a tenuous Olympic link, and nowhere near a personal best). The morning's work was to move a load of rubble from where it had been deposited to a place of safety, in preparation for the building of a hibernaculum, as another habitat for animals to use.

Now, 'hibernaculum' may be derived from the Latin for 'winter residence', but the oppressive heat of the day, combined with the ferocious tenacity of the local mosquitoes, turned the project into something of a Sisyphean task. And no, I'm not taking it all too hard.

As foreshadowed in the title of this post, the trusty band of volunteers was thin in number, somewhere between 2 and 4, but only if the Japanese didn't protest the score. Many too many? No.

Tony, Alan and myself, armed with the obligatory squeaky-wheeled barrow, set about excavating the larger pieces of rubble from the pile and transferring them to... "Hang on," says Tone, "Why don't we just start building the hibernaculum now? Saves moving this stuff twice." And so a piece of bank (forever to be known as Tony Banks) was hastily selected, high enough above the water table to prevent winter flooding, and in a suitably sunny spot for the delectation of the reptilian and amphibian residents-to-be.

Several layers of bricks were laid out as a base, over an area of 1.5 x 2.5m. Then, the front and sides were built up as a low retaining wall. By this time, the javelin-jawed insects of the reserve were making their presence felt, as we succumbed to bites that were definitely in too deep. But we persevered with barrow load upon barrow load until a rest break was very much in order. I volunteered to make a brew, and though I had used the cold tap earlier, I was quite prepared to turn it on again. Following tea/coffee and biscuits (Abernethy shortbread - I know what I like), we returned to the fray. We now needed a selection of different diameters of pipe, to provide the means of entry to the hibernaculum and places within which to hide. There was a bit of a misunderstanding as we each appeared from the tool store with a different gauge of pipe and type of saw, but eventually we managed to correctly cut up sufficient for our needs. Every scrap was used, as we didn't want to be throwing it all away.

Back on site, the piping was carefully arranged, wedged in place and then covered with more layers of rubble and sand, which we hoped would keep it dark.

This was as far as we could go on the day, as the final step will be to roof the structure with sheets of corrugated iron (to keep out the rain and also provide a basking spot for any herps) and surround the structure with a few logs for added habitat interest. What with global warming, we may even see a scorpion using the hibernaculum, but as non-native invasive species go, that would be an illegal alien.

The original pile of rubble (courtesy of Barney and Betty), didn't look that much smaller than when we started. Methinks that Hibernaculum 2 may be on a much grander scale!

Some bloke stood on Tony Banks
Lizard or newt-sized portals
Rubble pile (or proto-hibernaculum, as we like to call it)
Our thanks must go to all the dragonflies and damselflies on the wing, for helping to combat the swarms of mosquitoes, and to Our Lass for providing a hearty picnic lunch for three tired but happy workers.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Scaly Wings and Eine Kleine Fledermaus Nachtmusik

We are delighted to report that last night the Friends Group hosted a combined Bat walk and Moth trapping evening which was attended by 34 people, of whom the many I spoke to, said they had enjoyed a thoroughly interesting and fun event.

The evening kicked off with a visual presentation by local moth expert Gordon Redford, who explained the life cycle of the moth and regaled us with his own experiences of raising moths in his back garden, before telling us about a few of his favourites, from the 2500 plus species that can be found in the UK.

Next armed with Bat detector boxes Alan Nelson led us out into the brightly moonlit night and we patrolled some of the paths near the lake and through the woods to try and see (and hear on the detectors) whatever bats were active on the reserve that evening. At first we blanked, but as our bat detectors became tuned to the correct frequencies and our eyes attuned to the darkness we encountered low flying Pipistrelles and even spotted (after picking up its distinctive sound on the detectors) a Noctule (Nyctalus noctula) - which is one of Britains largest bats. We also spent a little time in the near hide watching, as Alan illuminated the surface of the lake with a powerful torch beam, in the hope of spotting Daubenton's Bat, (Myotis daubentonii), which specialises in feeding over water.
Bat Detectors at the ready - bravely they went into the night
Unfortunately, we spotted only one bat over the lake and so headed back to the centre, however, on the way we saw and picked up the echolocation ultrasound signals, of several more Pipistrelles, as they flicked over the paths and trees and occasionally our heads.
Please, please, please dear bats stay and munch up as many of our mozzies as you can.
Gordon (far right) and Friends checking new arrivals at one of the Moth Traps

On returning to the centre we found that Gordon had set up five moth traps for us to check out and whilst being hopeless at identifying (and remembering the names of) the dozens of species that were in and around the traps myself, I can tell you, that amongst them were Common Marbled Carpet, Common wainscot, July Highflyer and the amazingly named Uncertain. Perhaps one of the more unusual visitors to a trap was a Great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis).
Great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis)

We will try and get a complete listing of all the species recorded on the evening from Gordon and publish it on this site shortly.
Small Magpie Moth photographed in the Near Hide

The evening concluded around 11.30pm at which point some of the younger visitors could be heard negotiating a lie-in for the following morning with mum and dad.
We would like to thank Gordon and Alan for their excellent inputs into the evening and hope to advise you shortly of future events, including our planned “Open Sundays”. In the meantime we hope you will continue to visit the reserve and enjoy it's wildlife and look forward to meeting with you all again soon.

Best wishes

Monday, 23 July 2012

On the Boardwalk

As I passed the boardwalk today (near the bench) I noticed a young bird spreadeagled on the boards. To be more accurate, I think it was spreadchiffchaff, as that is what I deduced it was from its rather scruffy plumage, and I think a fairly newly fledged example at that.

At first I thought it was just sunning itself as I have often seen birds lying on the ground or a flat surface with their wings spread out on hot sunny days. Then I noticed it looked particularly bedraggled and thought it may have been attacked, injured or even dying. As if to prove me wrong the little fella,who must have spotted me, jumped up, hopped onto the side of the boardwalk, uttered a fairly tuneless tweet and then fluttered up into the bushes.

Having now studied the photos I took at the time, I have come to the conclusion that the poor little thing looked quite wet and I am wondering if its early excursions into flight may have resulted in ditching in the briney (well one of the small ponds), from which it has managed to flutter out and was in fact drying itself in the sunshine. Anyway good luck to the little chap and he had better not try repeating the feat when he heads south in a month or so.

Talking of boardwalk encounters, my habit of trying to walk as quietly as I can when I approach junctions or corners on the reserve and listening for animal activity at every opportunity paid dividends yesterday when I was able to walk up on this male Muntjac.

Not perhaps the closest encounter I have had, but a good photo opportunity nonetheless.