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4 January 2024 : 
New Beginnings at Blashford Lakes ; From Gravel to Grebes
Mike Read

Mike Read presented a striking set of photographs taken over 15 years at Blashford Lakes, a nature reserve north of Ringwood which was planned and landscaped under his guidance.  

The area was originally a WW2 airbase, with bisecting runways still visible before the gravel extraction.  Once the site extraction had ceased, various parties played a part in bringing nature back to the scarred landscape.  Islands, bays and peninsulas were worked into the landscaping to provide ideal habitats, giving protection to wildlife.  Sloping access points were also provided for safety.  Hides were built alongside a visitor centre, opened by Sir David Bellamy.

Mike's photographs arranged by season beautifully illustrated the arrival of different species to the area.  Green Sandpiper, Avocet, and Little Ringed Plover were spotted in the open gravel beds.  Nightingales arrived but have since moved on.  Lapwing breed on the reserve, along with Sandmartins in specially made artificial sand banks.  The rare Bitterne have also been spotted in the reeds. 

The audience were interested to know how to identify male robins from females - the brown markings on the top of the head - with a rounded front for males, and a more pointed marking for females.  The group were also interested in seeing the Chetty's Warbler, a recent arrival from the continent.  Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers has nested at Blashford Lakes, with their striking barbed markings to the back.  Mike also documented the murmurations of Starlings coming in to roost.

Some of the fauna of the area was pictured, namely the bee orchids which can now be found populating the grassed areas.  Some of the species trees, including an interesting cherry, have now been taken down in favour of native trees.

Mike discussed the successful breeding of introduced Ospreys in the Poole area, with 1 surviving chick from 2022 and 3 fledged young from 2023.  He expects sightings of Osprey at the Lakes to increase over the coming years.

One interesting photo showed the Ivy Bee - only discovered in Dorset in 2003, but now spreading along the south coast.  It's lovely to hear of species identified in our own county!

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of the photographs captured, particularly the atmospheric backlit photos of bird on the water.  Mike's engaging dialogue helped to provide an interesting insight into a local reserve, with many members expressing renewed interest in visiting the Lakes again in 2024!

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