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.