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Half term is almost here and with it comes some great family fun to be had at the Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre at Radipole Lake from Sat 14 Feb – Sat 21 Feb Drop in any day between 10 am and 4 pm to join in with the free craft activities including seed bomb making and the return of the ever popular pebble painting.
The seed bombs are made by getting a ball of wet clay and rolling it in compost and wildflower seeds. People then take these home and launch them into the garden where they grow into wildflower areas; beautifully simple and great for wildlife.
On Wednesday 18 Feb we are doing something a bit special and having an Otter Day from 10 am – 3 pm to celebrate the otters that live on Radipole Lake nature reserve. Otter day is dedicated to these fantastic animals and you can make an otter mask, follow our otter trail around the nature reserve and take part in our quiz plus lots more ottery fun and its all free! You may even be lucky enough to see one!
Ottery Fun! Picture credit: Mike Langman
We had a visit from a bit of a legend at the weekend. Having visited Arne yesterday, Gary Prescott #thebirdingbiker made it to Radipole Lake on his way to Devon. Gary is fund-raising for us and other charities by cycling around the UK, and visiting ALL 200+ RSPB reserves en-route. Occasionally allowing himself a stay at B+B's, he is mainly sleeping out at night. And he's only just started, the challenge will take him all year. What a TOP MAN.
If you would like to support Gary with a donation, offer of accomodation, bird sightings (he's hoping to see 300 species this year) or just wish him luck you can go to his blog http://bikingbirder2015.blogspot.co.uk/
Gary Prescott and the RSPB Radipole Lake team, RSPB
At Radipole Lake spring is on the way; catkins, bullfinches feeding on the buds and violets out in flower all the signs of a change in season. We might not quite have the weather to match it yet but it won’t be long.. Its been an amazing bearded tit winter with lots of people getting fantastic views of them, bitterns have been seen again and water rails too and one of the rarer visitors last week was a Siberian chiffchaff.
Bearded tit winter. Picture credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Posted by RSPB Weymouth W
Its 2015!! and winter has well and truly arrived. Across Radipole Lake amongst the floods we have had freezing winds, frosty nights and icy days. All this hasn’t deterred the male and female marsh harrier from cavorting about as if it were spring, tumbling through the air, sky dancing and people have been treated to fantastic views of the courting couple. Amongst the reeds, bearded tits are being seen in good numbers and a bittern has been spotted both on Lodmoor and Radipole Lake.
Radipole Lake is such a great place to see the often elusive water rail and I have often watched them from the cosy warmth of the Discovery Centre window. At the moment we have one affectionately known as Wally that at dusk has been out on the duck feeding platform.
The elusive and beautiful; water rail. Photo credit: Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
Over on Lodmoor the buds of the hedgerow bushes like blackthorn are attracting good numbers of bullfinches, the males showing up fantastically well in their pink suits.
Male bullfinch. Photo credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Don’t forget its Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, 24 and 25 January, giving people across the UK the chance to be part of the world’s biggest wildlife survey. Around half a million people across the UK took part in 2014 and between them counted more than 7 million birds.
Get counting! Photo credit: Rahul Thanki (rspb-images.com)
As part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, RSPB Radipole Lake nature reserve in Weymouth will be hosting a series of special events during the weekend with something for everyone.
On Saturday 24, get involved in the family fun and make a fantastic magical mini-garden out of natural materials anytime between 11 am and 2 pm. £2.50 per child. Dan Bartlett, Senior Visitor Centre Assistant said “Bring the kids down for a great time using an array of natural materials to make a mini garden, let them run wild around the nature reserve and enjoy the tea and cake in the Discovery Centre whatever the weather.”
On Sunday 25, there will be FREE guided walks around Radipole Lake nature reserve leaving from the Discovery Centre at 10.30 am and 1.30 pm both lasting an hour and a half. Dan Bartlett, Senior Visitor Centre Assistant said, “Come on down to Radipole Lake nature reserve for an easy stroll around this stunning wildlife site, comical bearded tits, majestic marsh harriers, who knows what we might see!
As well as this, you can find out about taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time then submitting the results to the RSPB. For the second year, running the RSPB is also asking participants to log the other wildlife they see in their outside spaces, to help the charity build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving nature a home.
Find out more about the Big Garden Birdwatch at: rspb.org.uk/Birdwatch
Find out more about these events at Radipole Lake at: rspb.org.uk/events or calling 01305 778313.
And lastly some sad news after 10 years as Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre Manager, Michelle Williams has moved on to pastures new. Michelle ensured the smooth running of the centre over the years and was a great people person, fantastic at helping people to have a great experience at Radipole Lake. We will miss you and wish you all the best on your new path. Always ready to dress up in fancy dress it was hard to choose a goodbye picture!
Goodbye and Good luck Michelle from all the RSPB Dorset Team; staff and volunteers alike.
This weekend on Sat 13 Dec, is the last one of our fantastic binocular and telescope events at Radipole Lake and is your last chance to come along and try out a wide selection of optics, a great present for a loved one or a treat for yourself perhaps. Expert staff will be on hand to help you make the right choice and Radipole Lake is a great place to try optics out with its big picture window and plenty of wildlife to focus on! Drop in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm.
Also on that day is a treat for the little ones as a big red and white bearded fellow puts in an appearance, yes you guessed it, Santa Claus is coming to Radipole Lake! He will be feeding the ducks from noon until 2 pm so come on down and join in all the festive fun.
Its all about birds on mass at the Weymouth nature reserves at the moment with a spectacular 300-400 lapwing over on Lodmoor and hundreds of gulls at Radipole Lake including 150-200 Med Gulls and large numbers of common gulls. Winter is the time when birds flock together and large numbers of birds are an awesome sight whether in flight or settled on the ground.
Winter lapwing flock. Picture credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
The marsh harrier males have also been having a bit of a spat with each other recently with aggressive flight and talon locking while the female looks on.
Up coming events for the New Year 2015
Mon’s 19, 26 Jan Beginner’s Birdwatching Course at Radipole Lake 10 am-12 noon
and 2 Feb Identifying a range of birds and using binoculars correctly are just some of the skills you’ll pick up on this 3 week course. Free but booking essential on 01305 778313.
Its that time of year again and Radipole Lake has a whole host of events lined up with something for everyone from shopping events to crafts to Santa coming to town!
Looking for that perfect present for the wildlife lover in your life or just want to treat yourself why not pop along to Radipole Lake on one of our Binocular and Telescope Demo Days. It’s a great chance to try out a wide range of optics from our panoramic viewing window with expert staff on hand to advise you and help you make the right choices. Date: Sat 13 Dec. Drop in anytime between 10 am- 4 pm.
Binocular and Telescope Demo Days. Picture credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Want to make Christmas extra special this year why not book onto one of our Christmas Cake Decorating mornings with our fantastic cake maker Marion and learn sugarcraft cake decorating techniques. This is your chance to decorate a fantastic Christmas cake to take home and all for £5! Dates are: Fri 5 and Mon 8 Dec. Booking essential on 01305 778313.
Some of last years amazing cakes. Picture credit: Michelle Williams, RSPB
Keeping the children entertained can be tricky during the Christmas holidays especially with all the excitement so why not bring them along to our Christmas crafts for Children drop in sessions from 10 am-3 pm every weekend until Christmas and get them crafting!
And lastly an event not to be missed is our Feed the Ducks with SANTA !! on Sat 13 Dec from 12 noon-2 pm. Ho! Ho! Ho! Yes Santa will be paying us a visit and here is your chance to feed the ducks with him. Fantastic.
If you are just heading over for a wander there is plenty of wildlife to entrance you. Recent highlights include wintering bittern and marsh harriers who have been seen sky dancing which gives strictly come dancing a run for its money. Male and females tumble together down through the air while locking talons and often passing food. Spectacular stuff!!
Marsh harriers sky dancing. Picture credit: Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The winter work program for wildlife continues at great pace with the creation of a massive (check out the picture!) scrape at the northern end of Radipole Lake for waders. Only completed a couple of weeks ago it has already attracted grey heron, common sandpiper, flocks of black-headed gulls and loafing ducks. The next step is to link the scrape to the public trails and install a viewing area.
Scrape near North hide. Mark Singleton, RSPB
Also seen around the nature reserve in the last few weeks have been fantastic views of bittern, kingfishers, marsh harrier and lots of bearded tits. Extra special comes in the form of a female long-tailed duck in winter plumage which arrived on the 21 October and is still around now. It has been visible from the Discovery Centre window on numerous occasions, how very convenient! While munching on ploughman’s and wonderful cake and sipping coffee its amazing what you see from this huge picture window. Its a great place to watch wildlife on cold wet days and the cake's not bad either!
Long-tailed duck pictures. Luke Phillips, RSPB
Another much rarer visitor has been a white-winged black tern, this young bird seems to have been wandering around the south coast and popped into Radipole briefly before heading off again realising that it should be elsewhere!
Over at Lodmoor people have been enjoying the winter evenings of starling antics as a few thousand flock together and put on an aerial display to rival any air show.
Last week a great bustard was spotted flying over presumably one from the reintroduction programme on Salisbury Plain. People have also been enjoying views of marsh harrier, bittern and bearded tits.
Up coming events
Christmas Crafts for Grown-ups at Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre.
Fri 28, 11 am-1 pm
Try your hand at making something to decorate your home this Christmas. £3 per adult. Booking essential on 01305 778313.
Christmas Crafts for Children at Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre.
Sat 29 & Sun 30, between 11 am-3 pm
We’ll be using natural materials to make something a
little bit different for Christmas. Free.
Radipole Lake has been hooching with birds lately, our fantastic bearded tit walk was fully booked and people got great views of an amazing 50 bearded tits erupting from the reed bed, its been a great year for them. We also saw chiffchaff (still here!), marsh harrier (magnificent!), reed bunting (always nice to see them) and kingfisher (dazzling colours). We are ringing bearded tits on site to find out where they end up. If you happen to be around when it’s going on it’s a great chance to see these birds in all their amazing minute detail and see some important science happening. Numbers of bearded tits will start to reduce as they disperse elsewhere, hopefully the science will tell us where!
Bearded tit in the hand. Picture credit: Luke Phillips, RSPB
Also turning up in big numbers are Mediterranean Gulls with 100 recently arrived and numbers growing every year. Hard to believe that only a few years ago these were a real rarity. Some of these birds are ringed and reading the colour combinations enables us to see a couple of regulars turning up like our favourite R13U or R2D2 as he is affectionately known! These rings tell part of his life story and its fascinating seeing where he has been hanging out. First ringed as a chick in Pas-de-Calais in northern France he seems to spend his autumn and winter at Radipole Lake/Lodmoor, obviously he really likes it here and summers in France. Very nice too.
Med Gull R2D2 to his friends. Picture credit: Luke Phillips, RSPB
On another science theme ‘birds eye view’ technologies are being used to survey and monitor habitats on our reserve at Lodmoor using the sci fi sounding ‘Drone’. These remote controlled GPS mini helicopters are great for surveying inaccessible habitats like marshes and reed beds producing high quality images of the site quickly, easily and with less disturbance to wildlife than traditional methods and they are fun to fly too!
Drone view of Lodmoor. Picture credit: Drone/Matt Self, RSPB
Other exciting bird news comes in the form of a bittern seen flying around the reserve and an appearance of an avocet for a time last week. Radipole Lake is also home to a Dorset plant rarity golden dock, we had spotted it growing on the Discovery Centre Island so Luke Phillips donned his waders and went to have a look and discovered 24 plants over there!
Golden dock, living up to its name. Picture credit: Naomi Bailey, RSPB
Half term fun
Mon 27-Thurs 30 Bird feeder making sessions at Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre 1-2 pm
This is a great time of year to start feeding the birds. The nights are drawing in and the temperatures starting to drop which means birds will be looking for extra food. Join us to make your very own feeder to take home for your garden. 50p per feeder. No need to book. Info: 01305 778313.
Fri 31 Halloween Trail at Radipole Lake 10 am-3 pm
Join us if you dare to venture out into the weird and wild world of Radipole Lake. There’ll be a spooky trail to follow but also keep your eye peeled for the wildlife peeking back at you from their hiding places deep within the reeds. Free – no booking required. Info: 01305 778313.
Fri 31 Halloween Party at the Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre 6–7.30 pm
Come along in your spooky wildlife themed costume to an evening full of apple bobbing, scary music, games and more. You might also get to meet the Wicked Witch of the Weymouth Wetlands! Prize for the best fancy dress. All children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Free but booking essential on 01305 778313.
This year we are very lucky to have received a generous grant from SITA to enhance the reserves wetlands around the North Pool.
This Autumn the existing North Pool will be getting a face lift, removing built up vegetated soil and encroaching vegetation. A section of the fields to the south of the existing pool are also benefiting from the Grant with the creation of a completely new ‘scrape’ system. This, whilst also improving viewing opportunities for the public, will ensure that it meets the needs of a variety of species that are found at the site throughout the year, increasing feeding opportunities and providing more space for roosting waders and wildfowl and hopefully drawing in higher numbers and increasing the importance of Radipole for migrating, breeding and winter bird life. The creation of a new scrape calls for some big equipment, so visitors can expect some disturbance during works which will be taking place between 30th September and the 10th October. Another fancy bit of machinery will be helping us manage the reserve during the same period; the Truxor. This bit of kit enables us to get into very wet areas and cut back reed encroaching into the water channels, which not only opens up views for us but also stops the reedbed drying out.
Its a bit of a beast; the Truxor in action, Picture credit: Toby Branston, RSPB.
As autumn arrives so do the waders and over on Radipole Lake the new moon tide has meant very low water levels, exposing the mud and creating the perfect feeding ground for black-tailed godwits, snipe, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, dunlin and water rails. Amongst the reeds bearded tits have been seen in large numbers early morning and up at north hide its been fantastic for birds of prey with a rare merlin putting in an appearance along with a hobby (chasing the last of the migrant hawker dragonflies that can be seen around the nature reserve) and marsh harriers still around. Seems a perfect time to head over and make a day of it.
The magnificent merlin. Picture credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Over at Lodmoor we still have 2 Belgium spoonbill teenagers on a european tour, well they may not exactly be from Belgium but probably from there or Holland and obviously like it at Lodmoor as they have been hanging out for a while. They have been joined by black-tailed godwits, a few ruff with a wryneck mixed in for good measure, oh yes and a tree sparrow seen flying over head. Lets hope he stops in Dorset and finds something to his liking, we need more!
Tree sparrow. Picture credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Radipole Lake’s fantastic marsh harrier mural is all finished and looks incredible, many thanks to artist ATM. Come over and take a look at the finished piece.
Marsh harrier mural nearing completion. Picture credit: Michelle Williams, RSPB
Thurs 2 Oct Discover Radipole Lake – Bearded tit special! 8-10.30 am
This is by far the best time of year to see the elusive but beautiful bearded tit hence this extra ‘Discover Radipole’ walk. Radipole Lake provides them with the perfect habitat and this year we have good numbers of this special bird. Autumn is when young birds start to explore and get the urge to find new reedbed to colonise. This behaviour is called ‘erupting’ but you’ll have to come along to find out why! RSPB members £3 and non-members £6. Includes a hot drink at the end of the walk. Booking essential on 01305 778313.
Well not quite but we have recently finished having the roof of the Discovery Centre re-thatched, using a large proportion of our very own reed from Radipole’s reed bed, which is fantastic. It had not been re-thatched since the late 1970’s so badly needed doing and was partly funded through a legacy. It looks superb and has some nice touches on the ridge peaks with a thatch swan on each, a bit of a makers mark. Huge thanks to local thatchers Nathan Yates of ‘The Purbeck Thatcher’ and James Scott of ‘Sunrise Thatching’ for a truly splendid job and getting it finished for us!
The new roof! Michelle Williams (RSPB)
In addition a new piece of artwork generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund has been commissioned for the front of the visitor centre. The large lifelike marsh harrier will celebrate the return of the marsh harrier to Dorset and is being painted by London based street artist ATM who specialises in paintings of birds. He says on his facebook page that, ‘My paintings are a celebration of birds, a reminder of what species once lived here and could again with more consideration and improved habitats.’ He has had fantastic reviews for his work including this from Urban Times:
"British artist ATM ‘s love of nature is evident in the staggering levels of flair and detail with which he paints endangered birds throughout London. The contrast between nature and the urban environment is something that he says is at the core of his work.”
Marsh harriers returned to Dorset in 2009 after an absence of nearly 50 years when a pair nested at Radipole Lake successfully rearing 3 chicks. They continue to breed in Weymouth annually and have now started breeding at other Dorset reed beds. This year two pairs of marsh harrier nested on the RSPB’s Weymouth nature reserves fledging a fantastic 6 chicks.
Autumn migration is well under way at Radipole Lake and with the usual suspects has been some of the more unusual in the shape of a spotted redshank seen just outside the Discovery Centre and a red-backed shrike up at the north hide. Over on Lodmoor, spoonbills have been showing quite well and popping over to Radipole Lake every so often for a change of scene.
The continued warm weather has meant that lots of butterflies are still on the wing and dragon and damselflies like the amazing blue/green emperor dragonfly. The hedgerows are full of nuts and berries this year with masses of haw berries, blackberries and sloes which the birds are feasting upon. Its a great time to get out and about at the Weymouth nature reserves.
Sat 20 & Sun 21 Kingfisher Weekend at Radipole Lake 10 am-3 pm
Autumn is a busy time of year for kingfishers. Hopefully a successful breeding season has produced lots of extra kingfishers and now they are all on the move to new places to spend the winter. Radipole Lake is a perfect place for them to spend a few weeks feeding and sussing out their next move. Join volunteers and staff to stake out the best spots at Radipole Lake for a glimpse of this stunning bird. Free – no booking required. Come along anytime during these times over the weekend. Info: 01305 778313.
Posted by Emma Foulger
Radipole Lake has turned into a Mecca for Canada geese recently with an amazing 300 plus descending on us with a few fantastic feral hangers on in the shape of a barnacle goose and bar headed goose. Its always lovely to see these fellas. Water levels before all this rain were very low and the shallow water made it very attractive to them.
Autumn waders continue to build up with black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper and common sand piper, a sure sign the weather is on the turn, yes its colder and raining!! A cheerier sign is the increase in the vibrant kingfishers seen around the nature reserve, guaranteed to cheer up even the dullest day. Its at this time of year kingfishers head to coastal regions for the winter where food is much more abundant. Lucky us!
Over on Lodmoor the last of the common tern chicks are fledging on the islands and an arctic scarcity a wood sandpiper graced our shores which was very lovely indeed.
Our Weymouth team had some fun at Weymouth Carnival too!
We all enjoyed taking part in the Weymouth carnival. It was a very long day (approx 2 hours waiting around in the Pavilion car park before setting off and then we got to the end point at about 8:45pm) Luckily the sun was shining and the crowds were out in their thousands. You will be pleased to hear that our entry won the prize for the best walking entry!!!!
Michelle as a lobster! RSPB photo credit
Luke Phillips with the cup! RSPB photo credit
Grid reference: SY6780 (+2km)
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