The A Team!

It has been another lovely couple of days in Milton Locks-land. Despite having to cancel our planned Wildlife tots session yesterday, I went along to the Langstone Harbour Board Advisory Committee Open Forum in the evening. I gave a short talk about the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project and I had time to chat to lots of people who love the area and Langstone Harbour even more than I do.

I was then back in Milton at 8am this morning, getting ready to see third class of Year 4 children from Copnor Primary School. Copnor Primary are frequent visitors to the reserve and the children are always enthusiastic and curious. As those local to Milton may know, there is currently a lot of work taking place on Locksway Road and the nature reserve car park is a temporary staging area for the Colas machinery. The chaps working on the road were very helpful and accommodating to us and we managed to carefully and successfully work around each other’s operations. I’ve certainly learnt a bit about pavers and tarmac over the last couple of days.

We had a lovely morning, exploring habitats, identifying invertebrates and discussing man-made changes to the nature reserve. It was exciting to see and hear  the waders and the brent geese which are putting in more appearances as the season marches on.

In addition to the school adults, I was very lucky to be assisted by two very experienced and super fun volunteers. In the midst of wondering how we were going to park minibuses on a building site, I was reminded of the introduction to an 1980s TV show. ‘If you have a problem…if no-one else can help…and if you can find them…maybe you can hire… the A Team; or in our case, Carole and Pam!

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Thank you Carole and Pam!

 

Volunteers make the Milton Locks world go round. Carole and Pam are both retired teachers with a huge amount of experience working with children in Portsmouth. They are among the many wonderful people who give us their time and their knowledge for free. I’m always glad of their support and we do get to have a few giggles.

We also have education volunteers at the beginning of their careers, volunteers who litter pick and keep a general eye on things, volunteers who record wildlife and volunteers who help us tackle ‘scrub bashing’ in the winter. There are many and varied ways to lend us your support. If you are interested in volunteering or if you would like to get involved in the project in some other way, please do get in touch.

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Secrets of the Solent need our help

Cuttlefish waiting

Cuttlefish © Paul Naylor

I have been asked by my colleagues on another Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust project to spread the word about our Secrets of the Solent crowdfunder appeal, which is in its final few days. Secrets of the Solent has many aims in common with Milton’s Hidden Seashore but is taking place on a far grander scale. This project is all about protecting the fabulous marine wildlife and habitats of the Solent, including seagrass meadows, chalk reefs and rocky sponge gardens, which are home to seahorses and sea bass, seals, colourful anemones, sea squirts and cuttlefish. We hope to inspire and inform people about the wonders of the local seas which are such a strong part of the identify of our area.

 

Every £1 we raise gives us the chance to unlock an extra £9.85 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will allow us to work with local people and partners to keep the Solent special.

The crowdfunder page closes at 11.59pm on the 12th October, find out more using the link below and please support the sea life of the Solent if you can.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/wildandwonderful

Velvet swimming crab & snakelocks, Dev 1

Velvet Swimming Crab and Snakelocks © Paul Naylor

 

Exciting times for Milton Locks

Back in June, one of my colleagues suggested that we should enter the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project into the CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards. At the time, I thought this was a slightly bizarre idea, as Milton Locks is definitely not in the countryside. However, I read the criteria for the Community and Voluntary category and decided it was worth a very long shot. I sent in photos and details of the various activities and sessions we have been delivering. CPREAwards20172-1

To cut a long story short, I was repeatedly astonished to get through each selection process and end up at the final awards ceremony, just over a week ago. There were a total of five project finalists in the Community and Voluntary category, as well as many others in different categories. The evening was a great opportunity to meet and chat to people running exciting and innovative projects all over the county. Towards the end of the event, the winners were announced and Milton’s Hidden Seashore was awarded a High Commendation, one of three awards given in the category. The deserving winner of our category was the wonderful Community Roots project in Southampton – http://southamptonvs.org.uk/projects/community-roots

CPREAwards2017333Large-1[1]If you have followed the story of Milton Locks Nature Reserve over the last decade, you may know a little of the challenges and problems in its past and of the twists and turns of its journey back towards the heart of the community. This makes the recognition of being highly commended at the CPRE awards all the more meaningful; recognition which belongs to everyone who has funded our work, volunteered, attended an event, put up a poster, stopped to chat to me on the reserve, read this blog or supported the project in any other way. Thank you, to all of you.

I have a busy month of school visits and other events ahead, so I’ll keep everyone posted on wildlife sightings and interesting happenings.

Chatting over Chai

I have just arrived back to my occasional perch at Portsmouth Museum after a lovely couple of hours with the Chat Over Chai group at the Havelock Community Centre.I have now delivered 8 talks to over 50s groups across Portsmouth in the last year. Each time, I talk about Milton Locks, touching on its history, its wildlife and the community engagement work taking place through the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project. I always leave plenty of time for questions and discussion and my favourite part is usually hearing about other people’s memories of their earliest experiences of nature. I have heard some hilarious anecdotes over the years; frog spawn in teapots, shore crabs escaping on buses, that sort of thing. All these stories, some rib tickling, others sad, capture my imagination, draw me in and teach me so much about the spectrum wildlife experiences enjoyed by different people I have met. It is magnificent to watch people’s faces change as recall childhood adventures and discoveries.

Today’s group were certainly no exception. The exciting thing about the Chat Over Chai group was that, for many of the members, their early encounters with nature took place a long way from Portsmouth. One lady spoke about fear associated with crossing bamboo bridges. Another recalled tree climbing and sailing home-made boats in Bangladesh. By a wonderful coincidence, we also sail mini boats at Milton Locks. The picture below is from an event where we did just that.

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Families at Locked in the Past, a story-telling event at Milton Locks as part of the Milton’s Hidden Seashore event on 29th July 2016, taken by Lianne de Mello.

If you have an early memory of wildlife or outdoor play, why not share it with Friends of Milton Locks. You could comment on this post or email jess.parsons@hiwwt.org.uk . I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Amazing invertebrates, new friends and Wildlife Tots

This week I was delighted to receive some wonderful photos from Stuart Ball, a local entomologist (insect expert) and friend of Milton Locks. They are extraordinary shots and I have been eagerly awaiting a moment to sit down and share them with you.

broad-nosed weevil, Hypera sp. possibly

Broad-nosed Weevil by Stuart Ball

hoverfly Volucella zonaria, female

Hoverfly by Stuart Ball

Wasp spider, Argiope bruennichi, female

Wasp Spider by Stuart Ball

Stuart took these photos at our Friends of Milton Locks event last week. This particular spider is becoming a bit of a celebrity as Jim Craise also sent me another lovely photo of the very same animal.

Wasp spiders are fascinating creatures. This is the strikingly beautiful female. She uses her intricate web to catch grassland insects. The zigzag pattern on the web is designed to reflect UV light in order to attract prey. We’re very lucky to have such magnificent images to share with everyone. Thank you Stuart and Jim.

Jim Craise Wasp spider

Wasp Spider by Jim Craise

The events at Beddow Library and at the Reverse last week went very well and, as well as making new friends, we met some familiar faces. There were lots of families at the library, with children doing their summer reading challenge. I spent some time chatting to a little girl from Meon Infant School, who I had met on a school trip at the end of last term. She initially seemed at little confused and she asked me ‘Are you allowed to go to other places then?’. Often young children assume that I spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Milton Locks and she was clearly worried that I’d escaped. She then went on to tell me all about the activities we had done back in July.

Next Thursday, I’ll be running another Wildlife Tots session for pre-school children and their parents and carers. If you or someone you know would like to come along, check out the details on the Upcoming Events section of the blog and call or email to book you place.

Dear Friends, Come and find out more!

I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while as there will be two opportunities to meet and chat to people who want to find out more about Milton Locks and the Milton’s Hidden Seashore Project. On Thursday 24th August, I will be at Beddow Library with an information stand and a wildlife quiz. If you’re free, do please pop in for a chat and to test your beach combing knowledge.

Outreach stand at local Library

On Friday 25th August, I will be on site at Milton Locks between 10am and 2pm for our Friends of Milton Locks event. If you are interested in getting involved with the project in some way. there is no better time to pop in. There are many ways to get involved, whether you want to sign up as a volunteer or simply share your wildlife sightings and stories for the blog. Perhaps you know of a place where you could put up a poster or a local organisation who would like a talk or a visit. Basically, the more people we can get talking about Milton Locks Nature Reserve, the better.

Sightings and lovely photo from Martin

Our volunteer wardens, Carole and Martin were out on the nature reserve this morning and Martin sent me an email about their encounters. Here’s what he had to say.

What a difference a day makes. After the rain all day yesterday the sun appeared today so we ventured out for our walk around Milton Locks.

There were a few butterflies flitting around, Large White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and I think the picture I took is a Common Blue but I’ve no idea what the flower is. There was a very large flock of noisy starlings in the bushes and a smaller flock of house sparrows tweeting in a bramble bush which was covered in ripe blackberries. A number of swallows were swooping round in circles just over our head. Out on Eastney Lake were a lot of Black Headed Gulls, a few Oyster Catchers, a Curlew and a Little Egret. There were a number of Crows foraging in the seaweed on the shoreline and one was demonstrating their classic way of eating shell fish, carry it up high then drop on a hard surface, repeat until it breaks open, eat contents before gulls arrive then go and find another one. You have to admire their persistence. Not bad for a 30 minute stroll around the reserve whilst we were picking up litter.

Thank you for sharing Martin.

common blue by Martin Roberts