According to the weatherman 'The Beast from the east' was supposed to start drifting across the country on Tuesday. You could have fooled me. It was a somewhat nippy minus five degrees centigrade as I began my walk at the relatively civilised time of 7:30am this morning. When I got back to my car at 8:55 the temperature had climbed to a toasty minus one degree centigrade. At least there was no wind, and the late February sun now had a bit of strength to it.
Cemex and Inert were conspicuous by their absence; as were participants on the local sports complex. It was all terribly quiet. No screaming kids or bellowing dads from the sports complex. No bulldozer, digger or lorries on the quarry.
As Inert were not working today, I decided to take a wander down to the crater - the big hole on the Hampshire part of the reserve. Inert, as you could see from the previous two blogs, had been filling it in. I did notice rather a lot of large piles of earth lined up near the works buildings. They weren't there the last time I wandered down to the crater. It's hard to tell what is going on. Cemex are shipping soil in, but at the same time they are shipping soil out. We see heavily laden lorries pulling out of the Cemex entrance on our way to school.
I attended the Moor Green Lakes AGM this past Thursday. Totally unknown for me to attend an AGM voluntarily. Normally it has to be at gun point. It was, I must admit, quite interesting. The speakers rattled through their presentations, before breaking for food: a rather splendid spread provided by Cemex. I am very impressed with the efforts Cemex make with local communities.
The speakers gave summaries of the species of birds, mammals and butterflies on Moor Green Lakes; and are part of national recording initiatives. Even the treasurer kept my attention. I was gob smacked to learn that the AGM report is sent to a number of libraries and the National History museum!!! WOW. It was also sobering to realise how important the reserves are.
With nothing happening on the reserve this week, I switched to my backup task of photographing wildlife. It does present me with a problem now; trying to look for anything that Inert/Cemex have done and also looking out for wildlife; especially as I now whack sightings onto iRecord.
My careful vacuuming of my DSLR and subsequent removal of that horrible hair has succeeded. No annoying hair in the top right hand corner of photographs.
I've split the slideshow into sections: some arty shots (as the sunrise wasn't bad this morning), miscellaneous shots of the reserve (including the crater), results of the Moor Green Lakes volunteers clear up around Colnbrook hide and Plover island, and some of the wildlife I spotted today.
First the arty shots.
Now moving on to the restoration efforts.
A rather mixed bag this week. I took advantage of clear weather, bright conditions and lack of squidgy mud to take some photos of Manor farm. A departure from the rather dark, murky photos of late.
Water levels in the lakes continue to fall, and I discovered a channel between Cormorant lake and Manor lake south that Inert had cut some weeks back to try and aid draining of the lakes. Only the channel was hidden behind a ridge of earth.
The ground was, for the most part, quite frozen. In parts, however, it had a frozen crust, which broke through to squidgy deep mud when I stood on it. Glad I wore wellies rather than boots, which I had originally intended. I did have some feeling in my toes at the end of the walk. They weren't frozen through.
The whole area is festooned with fox, deer and geese tracks. Plus mine. With little rain, they last for weeks.
Moving smartly on to results of Moor Green Lakes volunteers and BVCP rangers work party.
The work involved on the scrape (Tern island) was glorified gardening, spiced with the possibility of falling into the lake. People did as much or as little as they could. A mighty effort by all to clear a considerable quantity of vegetation, and yielding a pristine scrape.
A shore party set about loping back willow and birch saplings, and cutting back tall vegetation. Again volunteers did as much as they could; any help welcome. The saplings stumps were then treated to try and stop them regrowing.
I managed to find some photos of Tern island I had taken late last year to give you a feel of what it looked like before the clean up. My focus then was on photographing the wildlife, which means the photos do not quite line up with the ones I took of the scrape. I have cut and pasted the two photos together in an attempt to give a better feel. Note, it is a very crude cut and paste jobbie, but you get the drift.
Now some of the wildlife I observed.
Now I tend to be torn between racing around the reserve to record any changes Inert/Cemex have done or having a leisurely stroll to capture the abundant wildlife. Currently I still race around, but soon I should be able to sit in a portable hide.
I went back in the afternoon with my partner, partly for a walk and partly to put the trail cam back out. It spent the entire last week in test mode, therefore not taking any videos. DOH! The new one works differently to my old one.
Well, dear reader, I think this auspicious occasion needs a post of its own. I finally got rid of that hair!
I took a look on t'internet to find DSLR body/sensor cleaning. Most all the independent camera shops around this area have closed. Only the chains like Jessops seem to exist. Jessops offer a sensor cleaning service from £30, however the online photographic community were somewhat scathing of the service. I can see why, from a certain angle as you do not know the competency of the person assigned to do said cleaning. Also, my Canon has a sensor cleaner, DIY senor cleaners are readily available and reasonably priced.
My biggest worry was that the Jessops' bod would not find the hair. In this supposition I believe I am correct.
How did I get rid of the hair? Well, firstly the suggestion is that you do not blow into the camera body, even though there are blowers available. I ignored this, and blew into the camera body, but to no avail. The next suggestion was to use something that could suck air out of the camera body.
Enter our trusty, ancient Electrolux vacuum cleaner.
Firstly I tried using a hose with an attachment with the very narrow opening. I reasoned that as it generates a lot of suction it would do the trick. Well it did and it didn't work. The hair moved around, and actually got worse at one point, covering a large chunk of the right hand side of a photo.
I had several attempts at this; sometimes holding the camera with the lens opening facing down, sometime depressing the shutter just in case the hair was jammed near the mirror. All to no avail.
Finally, I took off the narrow vacuum cleaner attachment, and placed the nozzle up against the camera opening CAREFULLY, trying to make a good seal. It worked! I spotted a small glint of something in the bottom left of the camera body, just above the gold contacts.
I grabbed a pair of tweezers and pulled the hair, it put up rather more resistance that I was expecting. Boy was I in for a surprise. I thought it would be a diddy thing, about the size of an eyelash. The thing was about 2 1/2" (6cm) long! It was one of my grey hairs.
What I reckon happened is that when I changed lens, one of my hairs fell off my head and landed on the lens opening just above the cold contacts. When I attached the lens and rotated it, the hair was pushed into the camera body, and rotated around. But every time I took the lens off, the hair would be rotated such that I couldn't see it where I was expecting to. There was just sufficient suction from the vacuum cleaner to pull enough of the hair free of the camera body for me to see it.
I have included a photo of my DSLR below for those who do not use such a beast and are wondering what I am on about. Not that I am an expert, seeing as I have only used my DSLR for a few months for this blog. I have merely scratched the surface of DSLR cameras. So much to learn. Great fun!!!
Alas, dear reader, not much appears to have happened this week. Our intrepid bulldozer driver was working away hard at 7:39 am. He appeared to be filling in a rather large crater on the Hampshire side of the reserve. I haven't really been concentrating on this part of the Cemex works as the bulk of it will be turned into playing fields.
Water levels have stablised on all the lakes and ponds on both Fleet Hill and Manor farms; even though the flow out of Finch pond through the culvert is still quite brisk. It is still like quicksand in many places, but much of the vehicle tracks are now quite solid.
Having spotted its tracks last week and surmised that it was a fox, Reynard made its appearance behind the pump. The creature didn't notice me for the longest time. It was the noise of my DSLR that gave me away. The smooth mud of the vehicle track ways are crisscrossed with its tracks, and no doubt that of foxes.
I've started to record species onto iRecord. A rather nice and easy to use national database of nature sightings. You'll find entries under Fleet Hill farm, Manor farm and Moor Green Lakes. A couple of other people are also recording sightings into iRecord, but mainly of Moor Green Lakes and Longwater road.
I have a couple of small issues with iRecord. Not so much the system as the recording. One is how to record species I see every week e.g. Canada Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Blackbird, Robin, etc or say, an Oak tree; I mean, that isn't going to move for decades hopefully I think I found the ability to enter a date range, but it seemed more geared to Activities and lists.
Another is more self inflicted. The natural instinct is to only record the more unusual species. Whereas it is important to record all species. Then of course there is the sheer amount of species both flora and fauna on and around the reserves.
Anyway, with lack of progress on Manor farm, enjoy the atmospheric photos taken from 7.00 am to 8.00 am on a bright frosty morning. Light conditions were very bad to begin with whilst I was on Fleet Hill farm, but improved considerably by the time I was making my way back to my car along Manor farm from the works bridge. I will be taking more and more photos of the wildlife, mainly as an identification aid for both myself and iRecord. You can upload photos to iRecord to help verify the species.
As I sit here typing, I look out of my garden window at a blizzard! Yep, no kidding, heavy snow fall of what my daughter and I call snail snow: light balls of snow that look like hail but are really soft. It isn't settling because it is too warm.
Only two hours ago I returned from helping with the Moor Green Lakes work party to clear Tern island and the lake shoreline around the hide. It was gloriously sunny all morning, a lovely temperature to work in. The weather only began to think about clouding over when I left. Two hours later, strong-ish winds and blizzard conditions - allbeit warm.
What a turn out we had for the work party. Some regulars were missing due to half term, some new faces young and old. Just over half elected to be ferried in to Tern island in twos. They made short work of clearing the island of weeds and low scrub to create a scrape. Basically like gardening but with lots of people with a common aim.
Those of you who watched SpringWatch when they were at RSPB Minsmere a couple of years back, may remember all the drama with their scrape. Well Moor Green Lakes have two scrapes, Tern island and Plover island. Both are quite close to both the viewing hides and footpath between the car park and Blackwater. You can watch the drama without a long drive to Suffolk.
The shore detail cut back sedge and reeds with clippers and secateurs, and willow saplings and wands with loppers and secateurs.
Now, as I finish the blog post the sky is clearing, the sun is out, the snow has stopped and has all melted away. That's British weather for you! A bit more grim if you are stuck up the mountains of Scotland, Ireland or Wales, or the higher moorlands of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Fun though, if you have the correct equipment.
Sorry about the lack of photos. I forgot to take my point and shoot pocket camera.
As you can probably tell from the title of this post, dear reader, I could detect no discernible signs of restoration on the Manor farm part of the reserve. This is not unusual as Cemex/Inert flit about all over the site from week to week. I would not be surprised if they were hard at work on the Hampshire part of the reserve. There is a lot of work to be done there.
Water levels in the lakes on both Fleet Hill farm and Manor farm have dropped by at least a foot (30cm) if not more. Plenty of dry weather over the past week helped, but heavy rain is forecast for next week, if the weatherman is to be believed.
Walking along the south shores of Cormorant lake and Finch pond was a mixed joy this morning. With temperatures hovering around minus 3 degrees centigrade the ground was quite frozen. This mean't no sinking into mud or having to check its depth. On the other hand, with the ground so churned up by heavy plant, it was uncomfortably hard when walking in wellingtons.
Another blessing with a drier ground was that animal foot prints were frozen (literally) in the mud, and the vehicle track ways are covered in them. Mainly Roe deer and the various geese who frequent the site, along with many Fox tracks.
I have decided I need a more modern trail camera. My ancient steam powered jobbie has a video resolution of 640x480. Yep, the old VGA standard. Ahhh, those were the days. I noticed a modern sub £50 trail camera for sale with a video resolution of 1920 x 1080. I feel I should raid the piggy bank and purchase said camera.
In it's defense, my old trail camera has picked up some nice shots: lots of blackbirds fighting over the patch my camera points over; Great tit; Redwings; lots of shots of a brown rat feeding at night; and a Siskin!
Well, dear reader, after four and a five hours non-stop work we got the exhibition ready today. Roughly 100 paintings were hung on the wall of Sir John Madejski gallery, house in Reading Museum. There are many unframed originals, sculptures and cards for sale, as well as numerous activities throughout the week. Come along and have a look, entry to the museum is FREE.
I should be stomping around the reserve tomorrow morning, plus there is a work party this coming Sunday 11th Feb at Moor Green Lakes, meet at 10 am at the Lower Sandhurst road. The plan is to clear Tern island of vegetation, and perhaps work on the shore of the lake. Sunday's weather is set to be fair: Sun, light winds and dry until at least lunch time.
These are the originals I have for sale in the exhibition. I have two others in reserve, just in case the call goes out for paintings, should the exhibition be successful and they need to replenish empty spaces on the walls. 10% of the sale price of my art goes to the RSPB.
The Met office rainfall radar let me down today. It is normally great for timing a walk to miss heavy showers or rain. Not today. An expected break in the drizzle did not materialise. My Cameras were protected by highly sophisticated covers: Warburton's farmhouse bread wrappers. My DLSR and myself got a trifle damp on our stomp around the reserve.
A short one this week.
I retrieved my trail camera. Water levels in the Blackwater have fallen by roughly 6" (15cm). Subsequently there a fair amount of activity was caught; and not just Grey squirrels! In one sequence I thought we might have a Water vole. Alas, I suspect it was a brown rat. The camera had fired at night, and the animal was at a slightly oblique angle, making a positive identification for inexperienced old me a little difficult. It was the ears that gave the game away.
I might also have caught the American mink again.
Water levels in Stone Crusher pond have risen considerably since last week. This rise was caused by a new, deep drainage ditch Inert had cut from Finch pond to the culvert. Subsequently water levels in the stream through the culvert were much higher. The water levels in the ditch were quite high themselves. I could not walk through it, but had to leap across the ditch.
The result of the new drainage ditch was that water levels in Finch pond and Cormorant lake (and Manor lake no doubt) had fallen by a foot (30cm) or so.
I took a good look at how the Longwater road was constructed, especially as it went over the Blackwater. It is raised up quite a bit. The road from Finchampstead goes down hill quite a ways until quite close to the culvert where it goes up a bit to get over the culvert. Then some more to get over the Blackwater, before sloping down again. There would be flooding if the Blackwater and the lakes were to burst their banks. This did happen a few years ago.
Inert continue to work around the pump station, yellow bridge and south shore of Finch pond. The spoil heaps of last week were arranged into long banks. This seems to be a standard modus operandii. Perhaps it is to allow even distribution of soil?
Various track ways have been bulldozed, consolidating the ground and making it really easy to walk along. Deep joy not having to carefully survey my route, seeking out caterpillar tracks, and not having to test each step to see how far my wellies would sink into the mud.
Perhaps the biggest change, and shock to me, was that Inert have begun to dig out the earth road north of the yellow bridge. Where last week I could walk from the yellow bridge north to the channel, this week there is a dirty great hole. Not long for the yellow bridge I fear.
Firstly, before the slideshow, my long suffering wellies! This gives you an idea of the depth of mud. I was testing the depth of mud as I gingerly stepped forward, and anything deeper than what you can see without my foot encountering solid ground would entail me backing out quickly. Told you it was muddy.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.