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.
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.
If you are enjoying these posts, and particularly if you have not been before, why not pop along to our Open Morning this Saturday 25th March. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, find out more about what is going on and there will also be some hands-on activities for families to get involved in.
For more information on this and other events, click the ‘Upcoming Events’ button on the blog. Also, if you have a photo or a sighting that you would like to contribute to the Friends of Milton Locks, please do comment on one of the posts or email me on email@example.com.
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.
Red Breasted Mergansers by 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.
Our mystery-filled, foggy Friday afternoon was really rather wonderful in the end. Fog horns continued in the background right through the day and my group for the afternoon set about mapping the nature reserve, not with pens and paper but with found objects. Our canvas was the beach, our frame was a big blue rope, and like all of the best treasure maps, we had an ‘x marks the spot’, which I added when they had completed the map. We used our spatial awareness and geographical skills to decide how to mark the features of the reserve. The children’s ideas included boats made of old bricks, three dimensional trees and our little windbreak shelter represented by a cuttlefish bone.
The treasure hidden at the spot marked by the x was a box of storytelling props which we used towards the end of the session. One of my favourite things about Milton’s hidden seashore is the fact that it is never the same two days in a row. The atmosphere today was truly unique.
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.’
A Black-headed Gull
Female blackbird by the car park
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.
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!
On Friday afternoon, the rain cleared and the sun even put in a brief appearance. Portsmouth Home Ed Group braved the changeable conditions for another visit to Milton Locks. The children in this group range in age from 3 years old to 13 years old (or 33 years old if you count me). We took advantage of the high tide to use plankton nets and make and sail some mini driftwood boats. We also made some interesting beachcombing finds. Some of our spots were surprisingly jumpy!
Sand hoppers are tiny crustaceans that live under seaweed and other debris on the strandline. They are very active when they are uncovered and one of the children remarked ‘It looks like they’re having a party’. We managed to catch some in a bug pot for a closer look before releasing them back into their habitat.
Not all of our finds were entirely natural. This mysterious object is a DIY style tape measure with seaweed growing on it. We were wondering what journey it had been on to get to Milton’s hidden seashore.
This little object is often called a mermaids purse. It is in fact the egg case of a small shark called a Small Spotted Catshark. Confusingly, the same species used to be called a lesser spotted dogfish. I can confirm, however, that it is definitely a shark rather than a cat or a dog.
We had a wonderful afternoon in between the showers with lots of fun and learning taking place.