I spent the morning trawling (not literally!) the Dockens Water for sea trout unsuccessfully today. Although these fish do travel up through the reserve to spawn further up-stream they do so only when the river is in flood following heavy rain, usually in November. Because the water is so deep and murky when it is in flood, these days they are a challenge to spot within the reserve itself though from regular reports from one of our volunteers who lives further up-stream we know that they do pass through. Before the Trust carried out restoration work on the river they were not an uncommon sight within the nature reserve in late autumn/early winter, but the work has been so successful the fish pass straight on through now - great news for wildlife, not such great news for fish-watching Wildlife Trust staff!
January is very late for sea trout, but we have had such low rainfall I suspect they have been sitting in the Avon, "crossing their fins" waiting for a decent bit of rain to fill the tributaries that they spawn in. Following a tip from another of our volunteers who was visiting the reserve yesterday Michelle and I were privileged to watch several sea trout traversing a weir on the Linbrook at the southern end of the Blashford Lakes complex. Unusually they were quite brown in colour (sea trout are normally silvery) and I would guess that this is due to their enforced prolonged stay in the river and a corresponding change in diet.
Back to today and another uncommon sighting on the reserve has been a solitary avocet - seen flying south-north over Ivy Lake this morning it ended up settling down on one of the islands on Ibsley Water along with a few black-tailed godwit and a good number of lapwing.
Ivy North Hide is still the spot to watch for bittern from - although there have been no sightings as yet today (3pm), two were seen yesterday and for those visitors that do not time their visit for bittern showing there is always a fair chance of water rail. Dipping out on the bittern today two of our visitors were pleased to be able to report a great grey shrike being chased off north by song birds from the willow coppiced woodland on the edge of the lichen heath.
*Bittern update 4.oo-4.30pm - one bittern now showing*
Despite a somewhat gloomy start weather-wise it has been another busy day with a steady flow of visitors throughout.
We don't like to nag, but do where we need to, so could I please remind everyone to only park their cars in the designated car parking areas - it does pose us problems when several cars park on the road side along Ellingham Drove and today there were also cars parked in the marked coach parking bay on the approach to the Wessex Water treatment works. Not a problem today fortunately, but we do have quite a few weekend groups booked into the diary this winter who will be arriving by coach and that space will be required.
The main visitors car park for visitors not booked into the centre for activities is still the large car park adjacent to Tern Hide - even today when cars were parked outside of designated car parking areas elsewhere there was more than ample space available over there.