Sheila Mackie has sent in a picture of the aforementioned Eastney Lake kingfisher. Enjoy! Thanks very much Sheila.
Sheila Mackie has sent in a picture of the aforementioned Eastney Lake kingfisher. Enjoy! Thanks very much Sheila.
It has been far too long since I last posted on the blog, so I thought I would share yesterday’s adventures with you all. The weather was beautiful, and just after I arrived, at about 8:30, I was finally treated to a good view of our kingfisher. I didn’t get a photo of it unfortunately. I’ll leave that to the experts. If anyone would like to send me a picture of the famous Eastney Lake kingfisher to put up here, I’m sure people would love to see it. Regular visitors and local people have mentioned seeing it for a few weeks. I’ve heard its characteristic high pitched flight call a number of times when I’ve been working at Milton Locks, but yesterday morning, I finally saw the unmistakable flash of blue and orange to go with the sound.
After that magical moment, the volunteers and I set up for our February Wildlife Tots session. Although the session was fully booked, a couple of parents called in the morning to let me know their children were unwell. It sounds as though various germs are doing the rounds again. We still had several families to join in with the fun and what we lacked in number, we made up for in enthusiasm.
We had a high tide which meant that wellington boots were a good style choice. I had brought out all kinds of activities for the children to take part in, but the clear favourites were water play using buckets and items from our mud kitchen and making dens for cuddly toys. Although these activities sound very simple, they are wonderful ways for little ones to build a sense of familiarity with nature and curiosity in the world around them.
Here are some of the animal homes. The rabbit’s home was made of sticks tied together with grass and the seal looked very cosy in his nest. I must say, I’ve never seen a seal in a nest before, so this one must be very special.
The element of Wildlife Tots that I’m increasingly fond of, is the sense of community that seems to be developing. The sessions are not really just for the children. They provide a space for families, including parents and grandparents, to meet up and enjoy the simple fresh air and the opportunity to play together. We also have lots of volunteer help, so for me, it hardly feels like work at all.
Our next public event is the Milton’s Hidden Seashore Open Morning on Saturday 10th March. Why not pop along to help us welcome the spring.
I went for a quick stroll down at dear old Milton Locks yesterday on my way to run some errands. As promised here is a photo of the newly positioned entrance sign and also a beautiful blackboard sign produced by my artistic colleague, Emma.
I wandered on down onto the reserve itself, which was looking beautiful in the thin, wintery light. The north wind stung my face, which after a morning in office, isn’t as unpleasant as it sounds. The tide was low and various waders and Brent Geese were busily rummaging in the mud. If you get the chance, and you need a break from the madness of the festive season, why not pop down and absorb the sights and sounds of the winter wildlife. A thriving community of plants and animals are quietly (sometimes noisily) living, unnoticed, metres from our houses, schools and businesses. Personally, I rely on peaceful, wild moments like these to see me through the mayhem of life in our urban corner of the world.
My visit wasn’t long as darkness was creeping in and a long list of other jobs calling me.
As we are fast approaching the end of another year, I felt it would be a good moment to say a big thank you to everyone who has been involved in the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project across 2017. It has been a wonderful and slightly exhausting year. This year alone, I have met over 2600 people either at Milton locks Nature Reserve or at other events across the city.
I’ve seen 641 children on formal education visits (through their school or home education group) and a staggering 877 adults through outreach visits such as talks or information stands. We also made 43 new, tiny, friends through our fledgling Wildlife Tots programme.
Thank you to all of you, whether you have volunteered, turned up at an event, picked up a bit of litter or stopped to chat to me at the reserve when I’ve been setting up for something in the teeth of a gale.
Financially, the project is being made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since January 2016, we’ve had a whale of a time creating a sense of excitement and pride in the nature reserve and in the surrounding community. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who buys a lottery ticket. You are helping Milton’s Hidden Seashore, and all kinds of other awesome projects across the country, to enrich the lives of so many people. More information about lottery funded projects at the Trust and special events happening this weekend, can be found at http://www.hiwwt.org.uk/HLF-thank-you
Seasons greetings everyone and see you in 2018.
As winter tightens its grip on our beautiful British landscapes, the practical conservation management season begins for nature reserves up and down the country. Milton Locks nature reserve is no different, and the main job that needs to take place is to give the place a good cut back. Every year, my colleagues and our wonderful volunteers go in with brushcutters, loppers and saws to push back the scrub and ensure the patchwork of habitats remains intact. What looks like a rather harsh operation is in fact a carefully calculated effort to ensure that the balance of open grassland, scrub and woodland is allowing as much wildlife as possible to use the nature reserve. If we left the reserve to its own devices, the likelihood is that most of Milton Locks would be covered in scrubby bramble and baby poplar trees. Whilst we do want some bramble, many of the insects, reptiles and our lovely Kestrel rely on the open sunny grassland habitat.
The volunteer team were down there this morning. I popped in to deliver them some cake and catch up with Reserves Officer, Chris. I took a couple of photos whilst I was there.
In addition to the ‘scrub bashing’ as its called and some litter picking, the volunteers are also moving the entrance sign of the reserve. It has long been a mystery to us as to why the entrance sign wasn’t actually at the entrance of the reserve. Instead, it has always been set back a few metres from the beginning of the footpath. As I left this morning, the volunteers were just preparing to move it to a more proud and prominent position. I’m excited to see it when I’m at Milton again later in the week.
I will share photos of the results of the tidy up as soon as I have them.
I write this post, sitting at home, wrapped around a cup of tea, gently thawing and slowly drying out. After years of trying, this autumn we have managed to extend the outdoor learning ‘season’ beyond the October half term. Of course it is perfectly possible to learn and play on a nature reserve at any time of year, but the challenge has been convincing people that they want to come along to outdoor events or workshops in November. This week I have been down at the marvellous Milton Locks three times. Once for November Wildlife Tots , once for a meeting and again this morning to work with a group of child-minders. As I drove back this afternoon, I was keen to sit down and share some photos and some tales from the seashore.
On Thursday, we had a very well attended Wildlife Tots session. The aim of these sessions is to provide outdoor play opportunities for under 5’s, their parents and/or carers. As we were setting up, the volunteers and I suddenly noticed that we had some nosey visitors by the tarpaulin.
A family of mute swans were quietly rummaging through our bags of equipment, probably looking for food. We didn’t have any food, but we did have a lot of very small children about to arrive, so I gently herded the handsome family back towards the sea. We often take our swans for granted in this part of the country. However, they are impressively large and beautiful birds up close. They can also be a little bit scary when they want to be. Swans are also a good analogy for the way I sometimes feel before an event or a school visit; calm and collected on the surface and paddling furiously underneath.
The swans left and the families arrived. Paddling in wellies, mud pie making, story reading and general exploring were all on the agenda. The weather was kind to us and we even glimpsed the sun for a few minutes.
Weather wise, today was a different story. It was forecast to rain at about 12noon which would have given us two dry hours of the three planned for our workshop. Unfortunately, it started raining at 8am. My chief volunteer (also known as my very forbearing husband) came along first thing to help me set up and I bumped into several of our friendly dog walkers as I was preparing. The child-minders were coming to Milton Locks for a workshop designed to build their confidence to take their children outdoors. The seven ladies who attended were very keen to try things out, share ideas and join in with a bit of silliness. Who needs sunshine when you have friendly, inspiring people to hang out with.
One of the activities I often run with adults who work with children is to give each team, of two or three, a hula hoop. The teams’ challenge is to make a picture in the hoop and for everyone to guess what the picture is of. These are the three picture from this morning. I’ll leave you to guess what they are. Feel free to share your answers via the comments button.
The outdoor part of the morning, unsurprisingly, finished earlier than expected and we retreated to the Thatched House pub for coffee and a conversation about play styles and useful ideas.
If you would like to find out more about Wildlife Tots, click on the Upcoming Events button above to see information about dates in the future.
I came into the office this morning to find an email and beautiful images from one of our most active Friends of Milton Locks, warden volunteer Martin. Martin and his wife Carole (from the A-team, see below) pop into the reserve once a week to collect any litter and keep an eye on things. Here is what Martin had to say.
We live over the hill and awoke today to a foggy morning but we thought we’d still do our regular visit to Milton Locks. What a good decision, we arrived to blue skies, bright sunshine and with little breeze barely a ripple on the lake. It was just about high tide so as we walked down the path we could see a Little Egret right up on the beach and it stayed around so I could get some shots of it, I do like their yellow feet.
The reserve was looking excellent in the autumnal sunshine. Out on the lake and round into the harbour there were many hundreds of recently returned Brent Geese swimming around quietly calling to each other. Quite a sight, and sound, when something spooked them and they all took off but they returned very quickly.
As we sat on a bench in the warm sunshine drinking our coffee from the local shop and looking out over the harbour we thought “is this really November?”. Yes and a joy to be out.
Thank you very much Martin. If you would like to find out about wardening or volunteering in another way, please do get in touch.
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!
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.