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.

More photos from a local wildlife fan and friend of the reserve

I’ve recently been given permission to share the work of another keen Milton wildlife photographer who has captured some extraordinary images in our relatively ordinary patch of green in Portsmouth. Thank you Sheila Mackie for letting us share your beautiful pictures.

 

Speckled Wood by Sheila Mackie

Speckled Wood butterfly by Sheila Mackie

Collared dove by Sheila Mackie

Collared Dove by Sheila Mackie

If you have wildlife sightings or photos of Milton Locks Nature Reserve that you would like us to share on this blog, please email me at Jess.Daish-Miller@hiwwt.org.uk . I don’t spend much of my work life at my desk, so please bear with me – it might take me a few days to post what you send.

Stop in and say hello on Thursday

I will be down at Milton Locks again on Thursday morning this week (13th April) with lots of hands-on family activities. We are going to make a concerted effort to record lots of the species we come across, so watch this space on Thursday afternoon for a big sightings list and tales of an adventurous morning. Better still, pop in, say hello and grab a bug pot. Fingers crossed for the weather!

Minibeast hunting at Milton Locks

Minibeast hunting at Milton Locks

Milton’s Hidden Seashore Open Morning

The sun was out for our open morning at Milton Locks Nature Reserve on Saturday. We saw over 60 people including a walking team from 72nd Portsmouth Scouts who stopped in on their way past. We also had the pleasure of meeting the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth, who got fully involved in the activities and chatted to the project team and visiting families.

All in all, it was a successful morning and we spotted a slow worm, a red admiral butterfly and a peacock butterfly amongst other delights. We were also visited by a flock of redshank, who disappeared every time someone tried to point binoculars at them. Here are some snaps I took on the morning.

Sunny scenes from the beginning of morning at the reserve.

Open Day Lord Mayor JDM

The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress were definitely the most elegantly dressed of our visitors on Saturday. I felt even more scruffy than usual by comparison.

Interesting things from last week

I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and catch up with posting some photos I was sent last week. Jim Craise spotted 9 Red Breasted Mergansers from Milton’s hidden seashore and sent me two pictures. I’ve seen these before in other places around the Solent, but not at Milton Locks. These handsome ducks have narrow, saw-edged bills which are perfect for catching small fish in the harbour. Personally, I also think that they are serious contenders for the ‘best duck hair style’ award.

Mergansers 2 Jim Craise

Red Breasted Mergansers by Jim Craise

Red Breasted Mergansers Jim Craise

More Red Breasted Mergansers by Jim Craise

Orsolya Pap, who is one of the mums from our Friday Home Education group, sent me a really interesting photo which I’ve been looking forward to sharing. It is a close up of what was under her feet in the spot where she was standing on the shore. You can see in the photo that this particular area of the beach is made up almost entirely of tiny Hydrobia snail shells. More than any photo we’ve posted so far, this is a really good incentive to a stop and have a closer look at things when we are outdoors.Under our feet Orsolya Pap

 

Sightings and peaceful moments from Carole and Martin

Portsmouth this morning is a mysteriously grey and foggy place. Fog horn sounds are drifting in from the harbours and the Solent, like eerie music. Yesterday, however, was a sparkling spring day. Martin sent in some words and photos that I would like to share with you all.

‘Carole and I had a lovely walk around Milton Lock in the sunshine this morning.  Here are a few photos I took. The blackbirds were at the entrance to the reserve, right next to our car. There were lots of noisy starlings in the bushes but I couldn’t get a decent picture. The redshanks were towards the top end of the lake, there were about 40 of them in the flock stood there waiting for the tide to go out, I notice that several of them are ringed. After our walk round the reserve we went and sat by the sea lock in the sunshine for a coffee and watched a seal catching fish in the harbour, brilliant.’

Blackheaded gull Martin Roberts

A Black-headed Gull

 

Blackbird 1 Martin Roberts

Female blackbird by the car park

Redshank flock Martin Roberts

Redshank waiting for the tide

Thank you for the photos Martin. They’ve made me realise I must make time to visit Milton’s hidden seashore when I’m not in a rush and I can just pause and absorb the sights and sounds.

A quick butterfly moment

This is a very brief post this morning to share a wonderful photo sent to me by Jim Craise. The picture was taken yesterday and is proof that we will eventually see the back of the winter weather. There is nothing like the optimistic orangey red of a Red Admiral butterfly to cut through the dull grey of a drizzly Wednesday. Hang in there folks. Spring is coming. Thanks Jim!Red Admiral Jim Craise