Luxury Penthouse to Rent, Riverside View, Fishing Rights and Natural Surroundings Included

DSC_0974We spent a very happy day last Thursday at Swanwick Lakes nature reserve playing at the edge of the water. This of course was made all the better with the t-shirt weather that we had. The aim was to build a kingfisher nesting cliff to entice them to stay on site all year.

Kingfishers generally nest in river banks and excavate nests out of loose soil, digging a long tunnel with a chamber at the end. I don’t think anybody who has seen a kingfisher would expect this of them and it does seem like a strange thing for a bird to do. It is however a good strategy as the small cliffs at the side of the river tend to drop straight into water and so are very tricky for predators such as stoats to access. I’ve also seen them nesting in the root bases of fallen tree. These often form pools where the root base has been ripped out of the ground and so creates a perfect little spot for them to nest.

A lot of sites have Kingfishers in late summer and through the winter but don’t have them in the spring and early summer. This is generally because of the lack of suitable banks in which they can nest. The late summer individuals will be the first brood which are then self sufficient and then all of them rove around a bit in the winter. You get a number along the coast as well, especially in cold times when fresh water is frozen over.

So if you have a site ‘sans bank’, you have to help them out a little bit if you want them to stay all year and everybody likes a Kingfisher so many reserve officers take on the challenge of enticing them in. Enter the fake Kingfisher cliff.

This is how we went about it.

Step 1. Find a suitable spot. This is on the edge of a lake with a some deepish water in front of it, preferably with a bit of a bank already. We found a good spot on toms lake.DSC_0962

Step 2. Dive in two stakes on the edge of the bank. You then clad the front with boards. You also need to box in the sides.

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Step 3. Back fill with soil. This builds up the bank behind it. It’s good to have a team of volunteers/minions to do this

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Step 4. Place the nest box. Once you have the soil high enough (the entrance hole needs to be a metre or so above the water) you then need to place the box at a slight angle, so the box is a tiny bit higher. You also need to line the bottom of the box with clay or soil so its a bit more natural.

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Step 5. Cover with soil. This surrounds the box and you want a good layer over the top. You can leave this loose so you can access the box to clean it out.

Step 6. Fill the tunnel section with loose sand/soil. The Kingfishers like to excavate a little themselves.

Step 7. Clad the front with clay. This makes it look more natural (we haven’t done this yet).

Step 8. Sit back and watch the Kingfishers flock in.

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Hopefully step 8 will be the case but they are tricky little things. I’ve seen boxes on other sites used but in other places they aren’t touched. There has been one at Swanwick for a few years now but has never had any success. It may be a number of reasons but we intend to put three up in total to maximise our chances of success. Hopefully one will look attractive.

 

 

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Sightings for week ending 12/03/2017

Its been a busy week down Farlington this week. Lots of Bearded Tits, a Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Barn Owl, tons of Curlew, Brent Geese and Shelduck and still a Short Eared Owl or two. There was a leucistic duck by the building Tuesday which I think was a Gadwall, despite being positioned next to a Pintail.

Today was particularly gloomy but there were 500+ Dunlin feeding on the mudflats west of the marsh with a few Black Tailed Godwits and Redshank mixed in. There was also one solitary Avocet roosting on the lake. I haven’t seen any Avocet around for a little while, despite the high numbers earlier in the year.

Spring really descended on Thursday. We were working in tshirts at Swanwick Lakes, basking in the warmth on the edge of the lakes. Whilst we were sat at lunch we had a Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and a Red Admiral pass by! These are the first butterflies that I have seen this year.

I think Saturday will be the better day this weekend and so will be a good opportunity to see the last of the waders and wildfowl. The numbers have certainly dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks and it will be sensible to keep an eye out for the first of the summer migrants. Reports of Wheatears and House/Sand Martins have been arriving across the country for a week or so now!

Sightings for week ending 05/03/2017

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It’s been a mixed week weather wise and I think that this will carry on into the weekend with Saturday looking good but Sunday turning grim. So if you are getting out, Saturday would be the best bet.

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I have managed to spend a lot of time down at Farlington this week which has been lovely. Thursday was a fantastic day where we worked in the reedbed and I am glad to say that we were absolutely surrounded by Bearded Tits. I waded into the reed to look for a ditch and four were sat in a tall stand. They were pinging around us all day. Unfortunately this does not help you if you wish to see them as my best views have been whilst standing deep within the reed. I have seen them regularly near the feeder by the building and I have tried to keep it stocked with grit. I have also put millet in and the Reed Buntings are often present.They have started singing as well, I had a lovely view of a pair today.

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With some reasonable spring tides the marsh has been alive with birds. Well over a thousand Brent Geese were in the deeps on Tuesday and today they moved onto the top of the north marsh. Wigeon, Lapwing, Teal, Shelduck and Pintail are still in high numbers and today there were a good number of Grey Plover and Dunlin on the deeps.

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I sat at the lake after checking the sluice today and I was graced with a fly past from the Short Eared Owl and then the Peregrine put everything up. Later in the afternoon a Barn Owl floated up and down the eastern sea wall before heading into the bushes. This combined with a Buzzard and a feeding Kestrel made for a good day for predatory birds.

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There was a Kingfisher reported by the deeps today and I saw one at Southmoor this morning, hovering above the inter-tidal area.

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All in all there are still plenty of waders and wildfowl in Farlington but they’ll soon be going so it’s worth getting down for a last look.

Another Trip to Distant Shores

Slightly different weather conditions to last time

Slightly different weather conditions to last time

Yesterday the mainland South Hants reserves teams went over to the Isle of Wight to help Jamie, IOW reserves officer, with a large tree felling job. Apart from the horrendous traffic getting to the ferry, the day started well & we were treated to blue skies which allowed for a little seabird watching on the Solent crossing.

Chawton Field - looking north towards Cowes along the Medina river.

Chawton Field – looking north towards Cowes along the Medina river.

Chawton field is one of the newest pieces of land to come under management from the island HWT team. It sits next to the Medina River, just south of Cowes. The estuarine environment is rich in wildlife but under an ever increasing amount of urban squeeze. The task for the day was to remove a line of planted Willow, Oak and Ash to make the pasture behind more attractive to roosting waterfowl at high tide – a much needed sanctuary from the human impacts in the surrounding area.

In between the heavy showers (not that you would know it from the blue sky photos) and chainsaw time we sat down for some lunch looking over the estuary. In that short amount of time amongst the usual Brent geese, Shell duck and Oystercatcher we saw 2 kingfisher, a Little grebe and a Red-breasted merganser.

Lunchtime view - not a bad place for a picnic

Lunchtime view – not a bad place for a picnic

In other bird news, at Farlington, there have been 58 Avocet  reported (11th Jan) to the west around the main channel by the bridge of Eastern Road. Two Spoonbill (reported present from 9th – 13th Jan). They have been fairly mobile around Farlington & Langstone harbour but mainly reported as on the scrape behind the reedbed. And also a Dartford warbler has turned up, reported in the same area as before Christmas (on the seawall near the entrance to the bushes footpath, half way between the lake viewpoint and the car park).

Heres hoping the Greater Yellowlegs which have now disappeared from Titchfield turn up at Farlington….

A Darter, a Rail and a Fisher

I know I am no longer officially within the 108ft area, but on Friday I was at Swanwick Lakes interviewing for the new Reserves Officer and hopefully keen 108ft blogger. During a break in proceedings I went down to the Centre Lake in the sunshine and was rewarded with a late common darter basking on one of the handrails.

a late common darter

a late common darter

This is not my latest ever but getting close, it was also not the only interesting bit of wildlife that I saw, there wa sa water rail just beside the path as well. Right at the end of the day we were also rewarded with a kingfisher perched beside the dipping pond.

Boardwalks and Goldcrests

I was yet again at Swanwick today working with another volunteer group from our partners from NATS. I had planned to continue with the path along the eastern side of New Lake, but an early visit to the site showed that the rain had made the ground conditions very difficult, so  change of location was called for. So we went to East Valley instead and set about constructing two boardwalk sections.

Early days

Early days

The start of boardwalk making seems slow, but it pays to get the basic structure right, with everything level and firmly placed before the boards are added. We were all morning putting the supports in place, setting and resetting the supports until they were right. We ate lunch at the Centre and afterwards we saw a kingfisher and a grey heron on the Centre Lake, I also saw my first drake gadwall of the autumn at Swanwick too. When we started back the whole came together pretty quickly and soon the task was complete, with only a few bent nails along the way.

The NATS team, their task completed

The NATS team, their task completed

I offered a brief walk round at the end of the day for those that wanted to see more of the reserve. It was obvious there had been an arrival of birds in the last day or two, most conspicuously an increase in goldcrest, they seemed to be all over the place. In the morning I also noticed a few blackcap and whitethroat on New Hill.

Reports coming in indicate a large arrival of wildfowl overnight with well over a thousand wigeon and lots of brent geese seen at Farlington Marshes today.

 

 

Swanwick in the Sunshine

It was a great day to be out and about so I headed out to Swanwick to look at tasks for the coming months. I had been into the office at Beechcroft first thing and when I went out to the car to set of to Swanwick I was greeted by the sight of a very smart male blackbird on the roof on the car parked next to mine.

blackbird

blackbird

This is a male of at least two and probably more years old, the very black plumage and all yellow bill being the signs of this.

When I got to Swanwick the Centre Lake was looking very good int he sunshine, even if it was partly covered in ice. As I started to walk around the shore a kingfisher flashed past and off through the trees.

Centre Lake

Centre Lake

The area just to the north-west of the lake has a large area of cherry laurel bushes, these are producing seedlings that are spreading throughout the wood to the detriment of the native flora and trees. We are very fortunate at Swanwick that we have very good growth of hazel seedlings, something that does not happen at many sites as deer tend to browse off the young plants. We would like to encourage the native hazel, along with all the native wildlife that depends upon it.

small hazel

small hazel

We have started to remove the smaller cherry laurel seedlings, pulling them up by the roots when they are small enough, like this one.

laurel seedling

laurel seedling

The bigger bushes, although many are more like trees, will take rather more than a firm pull, these will need felling and the regrowth from the stumps will need to be dealt with as well. You can see the problem the deep shade causes by the total; lack of any ground flora under the bushes and the fact that even on s bright sunny day I could hardly get enough light to get a picture!

deep shade under large cherry laurels

deep shade under large cherry laurels

I had a good look around the reserve at various jobs that will need doing over the next few months. The cattle have all gone now and they seem to have done a good job in the end, grazing of most of the grass but not poaching the ground too much. Poaching in this case does not indicate culinary activity but the trampling of the ground so that the surface cuts yup and starts to get turned to mud. Before they come back next year we will need to check and repair the fences, not that they are in a bad way but there are always branches falling off the trees here and there and staples get lost from the posts. One of the features of Swanwick are the old hedgelines, in some cases with boundary banks and ditches, these ould have been old boundaries, probably without fences but with hedges layed on the bank tops to keep livestock in. In most cases these have grown out as they have become overtopped by trees, the thorns have dies out or grown very tall. In some places the bank top trees show signs of having been part of  a hedge long ago, one case in point is this field maple near flat meadow.

field maple on old boundary bank

field maple on old boundary bank

The day felt definitely like winter, but there were still various reminders of autumn around the reserve, most fungi have gone now, but I came across a line of quite large ones in East Wood, although I have not yet looked them up to identify them.

fungus

fungus

beside the path by New Hill I also found a very colourful spindle, with a few of the fruit still clinging to the pods .

spindle

spindle

I had not had a really good look around East Wood before and I came across another area of cherry laurels spreading into the wood, so the task goes on growing. I also found a large area of very luxuriant hart’s tongue ferns including this particularly large one.

hart's tongue fern

hart’s tongue fern

During my wanderings I heard and saw the kingfisher on at least two further occasions on both New lake and Ben’s Lake. I also saw 6 gadwall, a cormorant and 2 grey herons. In the woods several redwing and both great spotted and green woodpeckers, at least 2 marsh tit and 2 or more buzzards. I was surprised that I did not see or hear any siskin or redpoll in the alder trees though.

Tomorrow I will be at Farlington, where I understand the Environment Agency will be finishing work on the seawall by the end of the week, so with any luck we will be back to something like “normal” by the weekend.