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.

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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

 

 

 

A sneaky peak!

I’m delighted to share a sneak preview of some of the creations produced at one of the recent art mornings at Milton Locks, ahead of our little outdoor art exhibition on Friday. Last Friday, several families braved the showers to join in the first of our morning workshops. All kinds of creativity took place, from the traditional, watercolour end of the spectrum, to the more unusual and high spirited use of mud and found objects.

Milton Locks by Katy

Part of a larger painting of the reserve by volunteer, Katy.

 

 

Muddy hand prints

It turns out that mud can be just as useful as paint.

If this has wetted your appetite for outdoor art, in a range of styles, why not pop along to the reserve on Friday 4th August between 11am and 2pm to see the fruits of our labours.

Summer holiday art antics

Morning all. I’m coming to the end of a raucously busy summer term, so normal blogging service will soon be resumed, as I have a little more time in front of a computer screen. This is just a quick post to let everyone know about our summer art events which have just popped up on the website.

Last summer, our Heritage Art Day was one of our most successful ventures, so this year we have dedicated more days to encouraging people to capture and celebrate Milton Locks through art. The following pictures, from last year’s art antics, give a flavour of the inspirational and extraordinary creations that were produced from a simple morning on the beach.

 

See the ‘Upcoming events’ button on the blog to find out how you can get involved or email me on Jess.Parsons@hiwwt.org.uk to find out more.

Surveys and interesting finds with Catch 22 crew

I arrived at Milton’s Hidden Seashore this morning just as the heat wave weather broke over Portsmouth. As I was setting up, I could hear thunderstorms rumbling out over the Solent and across to Hayling Island. I had a brief altercation with some hail stones but the weather cleared quickly by the time my group arrived. We have had a fresher and a breezier day as a result.

One of the best things about being Community Education Officer at Milton Locks is the variety of people I get to meet and work with. One week I’ll be working with a Brownie group or pre-school children and their families, the next I’ll be running a school visit or giving a talk at a community centre. No two days are the same, which makes the job endlessly fascinating, not to mention wonderfully fun. Today’s activity introduced me to some more new people.

This morning I met a small but awesome group of staff and students from Catch 22 in Portsmouth. Among it’s many areas of work, Catch 22 provides local young people with individual learning and training experience while enhancing employability skills. The group who visited Milton Locks today were finding and identifying invertebrates on the nature reserve, learning about sampling techniques and recording data and generally enjoying being outside and having a laugh.

I managed to take a few photos, some more successful than others. The group had a good giggle at me trying to take photos of moving things.

Catch 22 empty sweep net JP

A photo of a sweep net, taken a split-second after a butterfly was in it. Whoops!

We did capture a few interesting finds on camera. The following beautiful little animal is something I will always associate with Milton Locks in the summer.

Catch 22 marbled white JP

Marbled White Butterfly in a sweep net (after several attempts)

 

 

We were surrounded by butterflies, grasshoppers and crickets all morning. As well as the Marbled White, we saw Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown butterflies. We also had close up encounters with handsome Roesel’s Bush Crickets. One of the students was particularly taken by a banded snail we had spotted.

Catch 22 banded snail JP

Banded snail

We moved on to the shore as the tide began to ebb. The retreating water left behind a strandline full of the usual curiosities. Whilst looking at shore crabs, sandhoppers and a tiny sea gooseberry, another student found something very interesting and a bit gruesome. When we looked at the mystery object, we realised it was part of a dead Thornback Ray.

Catch 22 part of thornback ray crop JP

We can only speculate about what had happened to it on its journey to the strandline at Milton Locks but it was certainly a fascinating find and we won’t forget the smell of it in a hurry.

 

As you can no doubt tell, I really enjoyed the session this morning. Thanks Catch 22 guys for your enthusiasm, your sense of humour and your willingness to get stuck in.