Saturday, 23 April 2016

Winall Moors

Two weeks ago I visited my favourite nature reserve, Winnall Moors in Winchester. I went to university in Winchester and once I discovered this gem I visited virtually every day. Thanks to this I am in the unusual position of having four years worth of photos to share with you so on this one occasion the photos were not all taken on one visit.
Winnall Moors is located ridiculously close to the city centre and historically was water meadows. It’s now managed by the Hampshire and IoW Wildlife Trust and is undergoing a large lottery funded project. It sits on the flood plain of the River Itchen and so there is no chance it could ever be built on. The main reserve is fairly small, with a mile long circular path taking you through it though actually the reserve extends a fair distance (and I was once fortunate enough to take a guided walk around part of the reserve the public don’t usually get to see).
The main reason Winnall Moors is so fantastic is the River Itchen, one of the few British rivers that are still home to both otters and water voles. I’ve never seen an otter in the reserve but the water voles are so abundant that if you go in the Spring or Summer you have a high chance of seeing at least one.
As with most rivers it’s also home to lots of bird life like mute swans, mallards, coots and moorhens. I’ve also seen water rail and kingfishers around the river fairly regularly.
The reserve has a rare mixture of habitats from woodland to fen meadows and reedbeds. The reedbeds are home to various warblers including sedge warblers, reed warblers and even Cetti’s warblers. On a bird ringing event I saw all three but usually it’s tricky to spot them, let alone work out which they are (all three are very similar looking). However, you are very likely to hear them warbling.
The list of things to see goes on. There’s plenty of insect life including scarlet tiger mothsbanded damselflies and emperor dragonflies. In the winter it’s not unlikely that you can see roe deer in the reedbeds. There’s also lots of fish in the river including atlantic salmon, bullhead, brook lamprey, eels and pike. You can sometimes see pike on some stretches of the river and several bridges give you an opportunity to look for other fish. There’s even plenty of interesting flowers to spot, some marking the old water meadow ditches: southern marsh orchidsragged robin and yellow flag iris.
Winnall Moors is exciting because it’s one of those nature reserves where you never know what you are going to see but are almost guaranteed to see something exciting. And it’s always beautiful, no matter what time of year you visit.
For more information on the reserve and visiting it, check out the HIWWT website.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Wild March

I thought it might be of interest to do a diary-like summary of each month. I’ll highlight things I’ve blogged about, wildlife sightings I haven’t and general comments on the local weather.
12th March: On a visit to Sandbanks in Poole I spotted a turnstone in its Winter plumage:
13th March: I visited the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve which I then blogged about.
14th March: On my way home from work I spotted my first butterfly of the Spring, a peacock. This was in a fairly urban area but the nearby Blashford Lakes nature reserve reported seeing a few different species this week.
17th March: In the early hours of the morning, at 3:16AM, a meteor shot across the sky. I was sadly fast asleep at the time but the media seems to suggest that here in Ringwood was one of the best places to see it. This image comes from Richard Bassom via the BBC News site and was taken here in Ringwood!
I have seen the car park fox at work over the last few mornings. It only seems to be there when the sun is shining, presumably warming up before going to sleep for the day. Fortunately the car park is fairly quiet when I arrive around 8:30AM and the fox pays little attention to me. My fingers are crossed that I might spot some cubs at some point later in the season.
Today is also the equilux, the day where we have as much daylight as we do darkness. From here on in the days start becoming longer than the nights.
19th March: I’ve started to notice lots of blossom on the local trees which shows that Spring is well and truly starting:
20th March: It’s the first day of Spring! And it’s a grey miserable day sadly. So far though March has been largely sunny and we have very little rainfall.
24th March: A week of fairly warm weather which has seen a few more butterflies emerge. I’ve also noticed a few birds looking like they might be gathering nesting materials, especially the blackbirds near my house. I imagine it won’t be all that long now before we start seeing the first young birds.
The car park fox has been there most mornings this week, even when it hasn’t been as sunny, and one morning there was a second fox sat next to it, though this one ran away before I could get a good look at it.
25th March: I took a short walk along the Castleman Trailway which I then blogged about.
29th March: Storm Katie hit us yesterday. There were very strong winds which have caused a fair bit of damage and over an inch and a half of rain which is quite a lot given how saturated the land already is. I drove past a few local rivers today and saw that they had once again flooded well above their banks. This sort of weather might hold back Spring for some wildlife although I suspect it will be a good year for waders and other wildlife that like the flood waters.
30th March: Today it was revealed that there are pine martens in the New Forest, which I blogged about here.
31st March: The RSPB shared the results to this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch and I wrote a blog post comparing my results with the national ones.
That’s all for March! April is a great month for wildlife so I hope to have some interesting things for you so watch this space.