Looking at the weather forecast yesterday afternoon I wasn't sure if I'd be making it in this morning - we even topped up all the bird feeders just in case! But the day dawned with only a light snow come sleet and a quick check of the forecast determined that I probably should come in... despite an (almost) overwhelming temptation to stay at home with our not quite one-year old son for his first proper snow (discounting last year when he was a few weeks old and oblivious and a fortnight ago when we were away for the best part of it!).
However, here I am and the reserve is, as you can imagine (you'll have to as my camera is at home with wife and son!) stunning! There has been a couple of inches, but the snow has now stopped and the sun is shining.
The lakes, which had been thawing nicely yesterday, are now more frozen than ever. I wanted to get this post in relatively quickly this morning so you all knew what the state of play was so I have yet to venture as far as Goosander Hide or Rockford Lake.
I was keen to see what the badgers had been up to as they are usually out and about after a snow fall, but last night they clearly were not. They had been out and about at some point as the "badger bowls" that we put food out in at the end of the day had been emptied, but there were no badger tracks around them at all. This is quite interesting to know as we would love to be able to offer more (and more successful!) badger watches from the hide, but they seem to venture away from the sett relatively late on when it is too dark to view them. Last night they were obviously out before it snowed and did not come out again afterwards.
There are plenty of other tracks though; lots of birds, including pheasant, squirrels, foxes, roe deer and an occasional rabbit. I've written in the snow next to some of these to "label" them for you!
Will head out now to explore the rest of the reserve and will add to this post if I find anything exciting!
Nothing new, but as suspected there is now more ice on the lakes than previously. The small patch of open water on Ivy Lake remains in the same place, just below the northernmost screen and is now inhabited exclusively by mallard and four of the resident mute swan.
Ellingham Lake unusually is also fairly well covered with ice - there is some open water along about 1/4 of the western shore that had a few mallard, tufted duck, little grebe and great crested grebe on it and another patch of open water below the clubhouse at the northern end of the lake that had tufted duck, mallard, coot, great crested grebe, a drake ruddy duck and a (presumably the) redhead smew on it.
Snails Lake is open along the southern shore for about half of it's length and dominated almost exclusively by coot as far as I could tell looking into the sun (which was very bright coupled with the glare off the snow and ice!).
Blashford Lake (where strangely enough, no sailing was taking place) had one redhead goosander and a relatively large number of coot, pochard, great crested grebe and gadwall.
The ice free areas of Rockford Lake have now moved to a small area on the southeastern corner, a larger area towards the middle of the lake and another small area in the northwestern corner. This is where the wigeon are, along with a number of mute swan, coot and tufted duck. Yesterday a mute swan was reported struggling in the ice on the western shore of the lake and sadly it had not made it - in nature however, good things can result from every tragedy and a buzzard was feeding on it as I walked up the path. It is unusual for a swan to get caught in the ice in this way and was probably suffering the effects of some other condition... possibly it had landed badly on the ice and damaged itself, or, and this is probably more likely in this instance, it had been entangled by fishing line, which, sadly, is a common occurence on this particular lake.
Ibsley has areas of open water around the islands to the north, but is completely frozen in the "Goosander Hide Bay" now. There is a small patch of open water to the right of Lapwing Hide where presumably the goosander will come into roost this evening. Many of the gulls that normally roost on the lake and then head off to feed up the valley were still there loafing around on the ice alongside a drake goosander, coot, little grebe, great crested grebe, gadwall and a few wigeon and shoveller.
As you might expect the feeders are very busy with finches and other woodland birds, but only the odd brambling. The couple of green woodpecker I saw were looking very green in the snow!The record breaking fat cake is going down a treat!
The reserve has been very quiet visitor wise - apart from a car of idiots wheel spinning up and down the Drove and doughnutting in the car park that I just saw off there have only been 6 people on foot around the reserve and a family that dropped into Tern Hide! With that in mind I will get around and lock up the hides and leave a bit earlier and try to get home before the melting snow re-freezes on the roads if I can.