With the New Year just hours away thoughts are inclined to turn to the year just gone and that to come.
2010 saw some further developments, the education shelter was put up in January and the pond dipping boardwalk was replaced, two valuable enhancements to the education infrastructure. The Ivy South hide was replaced at the very end of 2009, but as part of the same project and the webcams were installed. All useful additions to the reserve, although I would be the first to admit that we are still not perhaps making the best of the cameras, something to work on for 2011. These works were majority funded by the Aggregates Sustainability Fund.
This blog has attracted more visitors during the year with numbers continuing to rise steadily throughout.
It has been a good year for birds and these have made for a good total for the BTO Challenge, although we have yet to see if it is a winning total. Highlights have been glossy ibis, long-tailed skua, bearded tit, waxwing, great grey shrike and just the other day a long-eared owl. The returning great white egret and recently, bittern have also been good to see again.
In February the reserve won two "New Forest Access for All" awards, one for best outdoor facility and the other as overall winner of all categories.
So what is to come in 2011? It will be a slightly uncertain time, our funding is likely to be impacted by the overall cuts in public funds, both directly in that one of the project partners is New Forest District Council and because the availability of and competition for project funding may get more difficult. The reserve is, of course, free to visit and this is not likely to change, but we will probably be trying to find ways to increase our donations income and recruit more members.
Despite uncertainty we do have plans in the pipeline for a bid to make a short self-guided trail directed at families, with a theme around getting people to experience the reserve in different ways, to look or listen in a more focused way. I have just put in a bid for to the Million Ponds Project to create up to ten small pools at various locations. We also hope to complete a Higher Level Stewardship application to help with funding of works in general and particularly for the restoration of Mockbeggar Lake.
We are also actively looking at reducing the carbon footprint of the Education Centre, hopefully replacing the old oil fired boiler with a wood fired one and perhaps using the roof area for solar heating and energy production.
Of course we will also be continuing with the wide range of education work and hopefully welcoming good numbers of visitors to enjoy the birds and other wildlife on offer.
I have now worked at Blashford Lakes for over four years and it has been a very satisfying project to work on, lots of opportunities to improve the area for wildlife and people, just what a nature reserve should be all about. Although it is a recently abandoned industrial site it does offer a wide range of habitats and the chance to manage them to make the most of their potential. This is really the task of the reserve, if wildlife is to survive in our overcrowded world we must make the most of any chances that offer themselves, not just at Blashford but everywhere.
Thank you for your support in 2010 and especially to those that have helped out as volunteers on the reserve during the year.