Following on from my last slightly cautious blog about the arrival of spring I can now safely say that things have definitely picked up at Radipole and Lodmoor. My walk to work yesterday morning was greeted with the sound of recently arrived Reed Warblers which were obviously keen to advertise their presence after their rather long northward journey from Africa. Likewise Sedge Warbler were doing the same under probably hundreds of Sand Martins and Swallows which were frantically feeding overhead. All very spring-like and very nice!
Other migrants on the move in recent days have included the first Whinchat of the spring, the odd unconfirmed reports of Cuckoo and Redstarts have featured a little more than in past springs. A Hoopoe was a nice surprise for a birdwatcher who was driving past the reserve last Thursday. It flew over Weymouth Way into the north end of the reserve. Wheatears have also been showing off, some of which were posing rather nicely for a photo...
Marsh Harrier action has led to some confusion in the last few weeks. Back in March things were looking as though Radipole was the chosen spot to set up home for the summer but things have dramatically changed with Lodmoor now being the favoured site but the appearance of another bird during the week might spice things up a little. Took this photo a couple of days when we both managed to surprise each other as our paths crossed!
To finish some very exciting news! You may have noticed that there’s lots of reed missing up near the North Hide? Well... it will be reappearing very soon in the form of a new roof for the Discovery Centre!
Is this weekend the end of the cold weather? I’d rather not risk saying it is but at least the Weymouth reserves feel a little more spring like. There’s been some real spring highlights over the last few weeks, perhaps best of all being up to six Garganey which have been seen well from the North hide at Radipole most days. This was taken when a few were hanging around the buddleia loop a few weeks ago.
Yesterday a stunning Osprey flew over the Discovery Centre and was enjoyed by loads of visitors at the time. As usual, it didn’t hang around and was keen to carry on its northward migration which meant no time to get a photo but this picture I took last week whilst I was counting migrating birds of prey in Gibraltar. Ospreys were quite numerous compared to past years so we might see a few more over Radipole and Lodmoor in the coming weeks.
Warblers are now turning up in good numbers. Chiffchaffs being most numerous but Willow Warblers now seem to be a little more obvious. Goldcrests are on the move and if your lucky you might spot a Firecrest which have also been migrating through. This was one trapped, ringed, and safely released at our office garden adjacent to Radipole yesterday morning. Stunning little birds!
There’ll be a chance to learn more about ringing and the chance to get close to other wildlife tomorrow at Radipole. The current weather forecast isn’t too promising but as it stands there’ll be a ringing demonstration from 9am near the North Hide but rain looks to set in from mid morning so come along early to beat the weather. If the rain comes in early we’ll have to abort! But for the rest of the day there’ll be displays in the visitor centre and pond dipping and possibly more!
Lots more things to blog about over the coming weeks including pics from some of our events which have been a roaring success over Easter but here's a taster of whats been going on!
After more heavy rain overnight the water levels at Radipole have been rising once again. It started to rain heavily again as I went for a walk on the reserve.
Crossing the bridge I looked back at the Discovery Centre which is still safe above the water.
The island outside the window of the Discovery Centre was nearly submerged. The water level measure indicates how high the water level was this morning.
The Buddlia loop and North Hide are closed today as the paths are flooded. The board walks are still safely above the lake but water has flowed over the path to the Viewing Shelter. Wellies are definitely essential on the reserve today!
The river was flowing very fast under the concrete bride.
Several coots were valiantly doing battling paddling as quickly as they can against the fast flowing River Wey in the rain.
Despite the high water levels there are signs that spring is approaching. The Daffodils are flowering in several places along the footpaths which are still above the water and there is a clump of Grape Hyacinths emerging on one of the drier footpaths. There are also several large patches of Sweet Violets. After a wet chilly walk, the Discovery Centre was a welcome place to visit for a warm up and nice a hot cup of tea.
In other words the Weymouth Wetlands Discovery Centre's second refurbishment has now been completed!
I visited the Centre this morning and took some photos of the newly refurbished interior.
It's hard to believe that nearly eight months have gone by since the 'Great Flood' in July 2012.
Ben and Michelle were there this morning welcoming visitors to the Centre. The cafe is once again fully stocked, up and running. (The hot chocolate is absolutely delicious as are the cakes!) The nature table is also back on display.
The children's activities table was in action on this sunny half term morning.
The kingfisher has returned brightening up the back wall along with the tables and chairs which were rescued from the flood.
A new improved local map showing our Weymouth Reserves is also back along with the information screens.
.... And a reminder of how high the flood waters were on that day back in July 2012. The sign is on display near the entrance.
For forthcoming events at the Discovery Centre over the Easter break, please look at our website: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/radipolelake/events.aspx The staff and volunteers at the Discovery Centre look forward to welcoming you in the near future.
Now that January is behind us and hopefully the icy blast that it brought us, I had a wander around Radipole's footpaths to look for signs of spring on this first day of February.
The Winter Heliotrope is now in full flower having recovered from the icy blast last month. This plant is a member of the Aster (formerly the Daisy) family. The Latin name is Petasites fragrans, Petasites is from the Greek petasos referring to the felt hats work by shephards. The kidney shaped leaves are felt like and large so could be used as a head covering. Fragrans refers to the vanilla scent from its pink/white flowers. The plant flowers in winter from November through to the end of February. Heliotrope means sunloving, the flowers turning throughout the day to follow the sun. As one of the few flowers out in winter, it is a welcome nectar source as well as a splash of winter colour to our paths at Radipole and Lodmoor at a time when flowers are in short supply
Other plants I found in flower near the Winter Heliotrope were Cow Parsley and Hogweed. Cow Parsley normally comes into flower in late April and is abunduant in our reserve hedgerows. This very shortl and spindly specimen has been struggling to do its best effort to flower since mid January which is unusually early. Not far away there were several Hogweeds making an effort to flower. This plant normally flowers from June but is known to flower during the winter months. These plants though flowering well are very short giving us the opprotunity to appreciate the pinky tinged flowers close-up. In summer Hogweed reaches heights of 6 to 8 ft (1.8-2m) and the flowers are out of reach for vertically challenged people like me!
Elsewhere on the paths on Radipole and Lodmoor are patches of fragrant lilac Sweet Violets. Have you ever sniiffed a violet to appreciate its perfume and then find that you can't smell it again? That's because one of the chemicals in its scent is Ionine which has the power deaden smell receptors once it has been sniffed. So now you know! Sweet Violets flower from early Februaryr through to April but the flowers do not produce seed. Sweets Violets flower again in autumn. If you look hard enough you will find small inconspicuous flowers without petals or scent hidden away beneath the leaves which set seed in abudance.
On the paths there are several clumps of daffodils leaves which have been up for some weeks and are now coming into bud. It won't be long before we the daffodils are in flower.
On Radipole we have two Sweet Bay Trees coming into bud. In Britain Sweet Bay grow to about 25ft but in the warmer Mediterranean climates where the Sweet Bay originates they can reach heights of up to 60 ft. Over on Lodmoor's Beachdown Way are two early Blackthorn flowers surviving the frosts. It won't belong before the shrubs are in fulll blossom.
Hawthorn trees are also on the move with leaf buds bursting in late January and starting to 'green-up' our hedgerows. In damper areas the Lesser Celandine leaves are in abundance, a sure sign of spring. The yellow daisy flowers will follow soon. Lesser Celandines in flower have been seen near the reserve.
After a dark wet winter I am looking forward to the longer, warmer spring days when our reserves become alive again with our colourful flowers.