Inert and assorted haulage lorries have made astonishing progress with infilling and restoring Finch pond this last couple of weeks. Before we delve into the changes, I must remind you, dear reader, that I have permission to be on this site. Even so I, like Inert, are keeping clear of certain areas so as not to disturb ground nesting birds.
You know how it is you sense something has changed in a scene but can't quite place your finger on it. This is how it was for me when I popped down to the site mid week. The area around the south shore of Finch pond and Longwater road was now largely flat. Inert had levelled most of it. As you will see from the photos, this was a bit of an illusion.
However, the area has been levelled considerably. The 'new stream bed' no longer exists. Neither does the small pond next to the Longwater road entrance. Both have been filled in. Until Inert cut a new channel, this does mean that Finch pond has no outflow. The large heaps of soil and gravel around the Longwater road entrance have been flattened.
Incidently, there are plans to create a car park around the Longwater road entrance. This should certainly ease pressure on the small Moor Green Lake car park, and make access to the new reserve easier as cars need no longer negotiate the single track Lower Sandhurst road.
I noticed that the pump has been switched back on again after a few weeks of inactivity.
By far the greatest change has been the progress Inert have made with infilling Finch pond - particularly along the north shore. A wide tongue of land now stretches eastward from the Longwater road to roughly three quarters of the way across Finch pond, parallel to the north embankment. I walked to the end of it on Saturday, something I would not have been able to do a couple of weeks back.
Strangely, Inert have left a little channel (i.e. gap) between this tongue of land and the north embankment.
I have been eschewing my normal jaunt along the north embankment recently as it has become quite unpleasant due to the mid chest high high nettles. However, Inert have scraped a rather nice path through the vegetation along the north embankment, starting west at the Longwater road and ending at the base of the ridge.
They did something similar last autumn, and I am not sure why. Possibly to give access to surveyors, possibly for a test dig, or possibly because the bulldozer got bored and wanted to do something different. Who knows, but it did afford me a chance to walk along the north embankment, partly to see what, if anything, Inert were doing around the ridge (nothing it transpires) and partly to photograph the infilling of Finch pond.
I believe the plan is to bulldoze most of the north embankment into Finch pond. There need to be some form of gradual slope as there is a plan to have a public right of way along this area. We shall see. It will be a shame if it was all totally flat, as a little bit of height gives a wonder and different perspective when viewing the wildlife on the reserve.
On to the slide show. Bit of a mishmash I'm afraid. Thursday was pretty manky, weather wise. It was grey, dreary, misty with occasional shows spitting at me. My DSLR struggled with the conditions. Saturday morning was equally dire. I eschewed my normal very early morning walk. Instead I popped down at 18:30, where the weather was gloriously warm, sunny if somewhat blustery.
As usual, dear reader, I popped down to the Manor farm workings on Thursday to see what was up. I tend to go at a quiet time, when some of the workers are having their lunch. This is not planned by me, it simply works out this way.
Inert and contract hauliers were back on Manor farm making great progress with in filling Finch pond. This time I noticed they worked on the north and south sides of the pond, with the bulldozer shuttling between the two. I am not sure how the lorry drivers decide where to drop their loads, but they are not hesitant. They trundle up, reverse, drop the soil, then trundle back for another load.
Some drop their loads for the boulder sorter outer, but I figure this is easier to decide upon.
I was also intrigued by all the trackways put down to guide the lorry drivers. Mostly marked with raised banks of soil, I have noticed the use of big boulders, and now traffic cones.
Again the assortment of different haulage companies involved was noticeable. Underpinned by John Stacey, it looks like Cemex are hiring whomever they can whenever the lorries come available.
This week I noticed that the main trackway used by the lorries had been damped down. Not surprising considering the amount of dust kicked up. As I was making my way back to my car I noticed the vehicle responsible. A tractor with water tank came trundling down the trackway. It turned and reversed down to the shore of Finch pond, where it filled up with water. Sensible.
Moving on to Fleet Hill farm, I noticed that work continued throughout the week on this part of the new reserve. The remainder of the trees were planted out, as well as the reeds. The latter were dotted about the numerous ponds on this part of the reserve, all protected by chicken wire fencing. No doubts to keep the numerous rabbits and deer from feasting on them
I was quite surprised how few reeds were planted. OK, in reality I reckon a couple of hundred or more plugs in all, but I thought it would be much more extensive. Still whomever planned all this knows far more than I.
My biggest luck was in photographing a Weasel, even more so I feel as I keep to the tracks. I was quite astonished how small they are. I think it happened upon a dead Water Vole. As is the case, I heard a rustling and quick flash of movement in the grass, then thought nothing more figuring the creature had dashed off. However, the rustling continued and then I spied the Weasel near the edge of the track about 6' (2 metres) from me.
I suspect it had detected the dead vole and was checking it and me out cautiously. Eventually it decided the vole was worth eating and that I wasn't a threat, so grabbed the vole. Strangely it didn't take off immediately, but checked me out again, thus allowing me to take a photo of it complete with its food.
Before the slide shows, a quick visualisation of what Inert are doing to Finch pond, and possibly Cormorant lake. Bear in mind that plans can change, but the left image is taken from what is supposed to be the most up to date outcome for the west area of Manor farm. Though I have my suspicions about the accuracy of the outcome of Cormorant lake.
The image on the right is from Google Earth as of last year. The blue hatched area is my best estimate of the progress Inert have made in filling in Finch pond. As you can see they have a fair ways to go, but I reckon they can easily finish it this year.
The slide shows kick off with Fleet Hill farm. I must remind you, dear reader, that I do have permission to be on the site. Even so I am keeping to tracks, well away from possible breeding birds.
It was pure heaven not walking on muddy, squelchy soil or in freezing, wet weather. It is amazing how quickly the soil dries out. I am quite intrigued by the tree plantings as their positions screen most of the reserve from both the bridle path and existing footpath. Bit of a shame, I feel, even with the viewing points.
As I get to know the lakes better over the next few months I may begin to give them unofficial names. I might call one of them Lapwing pond - as Lapwings are most evident on it. They are always flying around this lake, defending their territories from other birds.
A Roe (?) deer kept a wary eye on me from the shore of Lapwing pond. It never moved from its spot all the time I was there - mostly photographing the Weasel. It might have been guarding a fawn. I kept my distance, trying to look as least threatening as possible.
Now on to the Manor farm part of the future new reserve. Some photos were taken on Thursday on my bridge camera. It does so well in good strong sunlight; deep joy. I made a short foray into the site on Saturday, but kept close to the Longwater road entrance. Again, I must stress that I have permission to be on the site, but even so I am currently keeping to tracks and well away from Cormorant lake and the grasslands.
Finally, a couple of images of a Hoverfly. What attracted me to this insect was the noise it made as it flew. It made a loud, reasonably high pitched buzzing noise as it flitted about my back garden; not the usual hum of a bee or wasp. I knew it wasn't a bee. Instead I thought it was some sort of fly - as in blue bottle type fly. After photographing it and then hunting on t'internet I discover it is one of the 200+ species of Hoverfly we have in this country! I never knew we had that many species.
What a lovely warm, bright morning for a stomp around the Fleet Hill farm part of the planned new reserve. After dropping the memsaab off to take part in the Wokingham walk, I descended on Fleet Hill farm and walked along bits I haven't presented you with in this blog. Those bits are the bridle path that Cemex created last year.
The planting of trees west of the wooden footbridge is very extensive, with quite a lot more still to go in. I do find the position of the trees a little puzzling as it would screen the reserve from both the new bridle path and the existing footpath. Granted there will be viewing points, but it does seem a little odd to screen so much of the reserve.
At the end of my jaunt I did spy trays of plug plants awaiting planting. They kind of looked grass like - possibly reeds. I know there is meant to be extensive reed planting on Fleet Hill farm.
The highlight was spotting a Hobby flitting about the northern edge of the reserve, near the woods. I did see it last year but wasn't able to photograph it. Today I managed to haul off some shots, even though the blighter was partially screen by a hedgerow. I managed one shot that was quite decent, given the limitations of my ancient cheap second hand DSLR and Tamron 14-300mm lens.
I have the DSLR set to an ISO of 200 which makes fast moving shots a little tricky with fast shutter times. I might try it at its max of 1600 (told you it was ancient) as I read that the xTi isn't bad at this ISO setting. Not much I can do about the paltry 10MPs though. It can still take great photos, even with its ham fisted, naive owner at the controls.
I was a little surprised at how little wildlife there was on the Fleet hill farm part of the reserve. It is possible that I went at the wrong time i.e. mid morning and not winter. I know there are huge numbers of birds around during winter months. It is also possible that although the most advanced in terms of restoration, Fleet hill farm was also the most recently active as a reserve, plus there would have been disruption last year due to the restoration efforts. Even so, some Lapwings have made it their home, and were having territorial battles. The usual plethora of Mute swans, Mallard, Coots, Moorhens and Tufted duck were around.
Over the coming months I plan to get more acquainted with this part of the new reserve.
I started my walk at the Longwater road entrance to the footpath through Fleet Hill farm. I followed this round to the wooden footbridge, with its new Kissing gate - the metal kind to stop motorcyclists entering the reserve. Then I struck off west along the unadopted bridle path to the western edge of the reserve, where it abuts Fleet Hill farm. I went off piste (remember I have permission to do so) to return to the wooden footbridge via the middle set of lakes.
Now the wildlife bit. I will start, dear reader, with two photographs from my garden. I was well chuffed to observe at least eight Starlings industriously hunting for Leatherjackets in my lawn and edge of borders. Partly as they are helping control the damaging Leatherjackets, but mainly as their numbers have increased markedly since last year. I wasn't able to get all eight that I observed at once into one photo. There may be more than eight, as they flitted to and fro.
I managed some rather nice photos of the Great Crested Grebe which appears to have relocated itself back to Lower lake now that the weedkiller spraying has stopped. The weedkiller is killing off Dock, Nettles, Himalayan Balsam (still loads of these left), and other non-grass species. Not sure if this is a good idea or not, as apart from Himalayan Balsam the other species do host a lot of wildlife.
I find that the Great Crested Grebe and the Little Egret are tamer and more accepting of humans on this lake. I suspect it is because so many people walk along the bridle path bordering the edge of the lake. I've never been so close to a Great Crested Grebe. Even the viewing hides on Moor Green Lakes do not get me this close.
After a short hiatus, due to the magnificent bank holiday weather, your wet footed blogger is back.
Firstly: Whilst I have permission to be on the Eversley Quarry site (all you interlopers take note) I will be largely keeping to the footpaths for a couple of months. Partly this is due to the bird breeding season being in full swing (I'd be gutted if I stepped on a Sky Lark nest on the grasslands or a nest of other birds on/near the mudflats), but also as walking along the north embankment has now become unpleasant and a tad dangerous. It is unpleasant due the near waist height nettles and grass soaking soaking my trousers through, which is not much fun at 7:30 am. Also, with all the deer around I have to contend with ticks; I have had a couple hauled out of my flesh. The thick vegetation makes clambering up and, more pertinently, down the steep side of the ridge tricky in the extreme as it is impossible to see foot/hand holds. I have slithered down at least once - luckily no injuries, except pride.
Inert have also joined in the conservation efforts by keeping off certain parts of the site - mainly Cormorant spit and the north/east shores of Cormorant lake. They appear to have turned off the pump to allow water levels to rise a tad to stop foxes and badgers getting onto Cormorant spit - which is now a large island. However, a narrow channel of water is not going to deter a fox or badger if they are minded to get onto Cormorant island. Inert are still continuing to fill in Finch pond.
Secondly: a slight change to the schedule. Now that spring has finally sprung, the garden and other outdoor pursuits beckon. Thus the weekends become somewhat precious. Apart from the odd walk along the reserve with my partner, I will lessen the frequency of weekend forays. However, currently I find it more interesting to pop over to the reserve at lunchtime on week days as so much is going on. It was dead boring when there was only one lorry and our bulldozer making the odd appearance.
I may not take and post endless photos of the shores of Finch pond inching ever east and north or of seemingly identical shots of lorries and diggers. The latter might make for a great time lapse sequence, but it will be tedious and boring if published every week.
So what has happened during my short hiatus?
The gates to the Fleet Hill farm part of the reserve were both wide open when I arrived. Intrigued I hopped across the Longwater road to investigate. My nose was assailed by the metallic smell of weedkiller. Any of you who have put weed and feed onto your lawn will know what I mean. Sure enough there was a man on a quad bike trundling around the shores of the lakes spraying stuff. It could only be weedkiller.
Anyway I walked around to the wooden footbridge. There was a man repairing the fencing along the footpath, and he had also installed new metal five bar gates (the old gates had toppled over) and a metal kissing gate on the footpath to the north edge of the reserve. About time to.
I had a chat with the chap. Seems that the female horse rider who had been illegally riding her horse up and down the footpath was rather angry about the kissing gate and had a right go at the tradesman - who simply said talk to Cemex. Apparently she apologised to the chap the next day - so might have got an earful from Cemex.
Hopefully this should stop her riding her horse on the footpath and out of bound areas of the reserve - there is a perfectly good bridle path built by Cemex - which shouldn't get torn up like the footpath has. I wouldn't like to meet a hulking great horse on the narrow footpath - you'd have to squeeze yourself against hedges to allow the animal to pass, and hope it doesn't get spooked and lash out. The northern end of the footpath, where it enters Finchampstead village, has a large, clear sign explicitly stating that horse riders should not use the footpath.
I also noticed that the tree planting has continued to the west of the wooden bridge - probably going up to Fleet Hill farm itself. The fence building chap was told that some 8000 trees were being planted. Hmmm, that's 2000 more than the tree planters told me the other week. No matter at least they are going in.
Unfortunately I have no photos of all this work. My ancient DSLR had an apoplectic fit. The photos I took of the kissing gate and wooden bridge area were totally overexposed. No matter of fiddling in image processing software could produce something viewable. Also, photos I took of the various tree planting exercise were deleted! I think this had more to do with Windows 10, as I had to abort the download. I'll try and persuade the memsaab to go for an extended walk this weekend so I can take some snaps.
On to Manor farm. Yes, the lorries continue to trundle through and dump soil, which the bulldozer driver has pushed into Finch pond. However, today the bulldozer was no where to be seen. As I have mentioned before, this is not unusual. Inert seem to flit all over the three sites.
Activity around the Yellow bridge was also muted. The old roadway to the bridge has been dug out completely and fed into the boulder sorter outer. The piles of soil around this beast continue to grow ever larger, and lorries appear to be bringing it soil to sort, which a sole digger feeds to it.
My suspicion is that the sorted soil will be partly bulldozed into Finch pond, and partly spread across the 'land mass'.
Wildlife was muted - as you would expect with all this activity. I did spot a Great Crested Grebe in Cormorant lake. May be it decided to translocate itself from Fleet Hill farm due to the spraying.
I'll start with some wildlife photos. These were taken over a period of a month.
Let's start with the belligerent crow - Carrion I think. You may remember that I have mentioned the crows seem particularly belligerent on this site - attacking anything that annoys them. I have seen one mobbing a Buzzard and Red Kite before, but never managed to photograph it. Well I managed to do so about a month ago. Unfortunately they were over The Ridges, which was at least 500 yards away from where I was standing on the south footpath. My ancient DSLR and Tamron 300mm lens did its best, but the birds largely come out as dots.
The crow launched a series of attacks on the Buzzard. It would first chase the Buzzard and, in a classic aircraft dogfight manoeuvre, climb above the Buzzard. When the crow reached a suitable altitude it would dive onto the Buzzard. The Buzzard would be weaving to and fro so that sometimes the diving crow would immediately clash with it. Other times the crow would have miss but have sufficient momentum from the dive to bank hard and clash with the Buzzard. This whole manoeuvre would then be repeated for 5 to 10 minutes.
These are various shots of wildlife over the past month or so. Some are on Fleet Hill farm others on Manor farm. Taken at various times of the day with my bridge camera - which does well in good light conditions and offers 1200mm zoom for those long range shots. When the price drops I may consider a Nikon P900 in the future, with its 83x (or 2000mm equivalent) zoom. We always want that extra zoom :-)
After a frosty start to the first of May (!!!) we set off to the reserve at 14:00ish to see what Cemex et al were up to. Needless to say the lorries are still trundling, the bulldozer still dozing, and the diggers still demolishing the old roadway and feeding all sorts into the boulder sorter outer.
There didn't seem to be as many lorries today - I counted about ten - but regardless considerably more of the west side of Finch pond has been filled in. I reckon Cemex et al will soon start on the north embankment - unless the intention is to keep or landscape it i.e. give it a gentle slope for the bridle path.
Walking round the south footpath to Cormorant spit it became immediately obvious that Cemex have built a rather nice scrape. If they haven't then they have gone to a lot of trouble to landscape a nice pile of sand and gravel. All the evidence strongly suggests that they structure built on the north part of Cormorant spit is a scrape.
Not only has a scrape shaped lump been built, but the gap which was opened to let vehicles onto Cormorant spit has been closed off. The banking has been built up again thus prevent vehicles driving onto Cormorant spit.
There was a reasonable amount of wildlife around, all going about their business and ignoring the vehicles and personnel around them. I've only posted a few of the images I took. One set in particular I have not posted as I can't work out if it is a bird settled on the spit or is a bit of rubbish.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.