Over the last few weeks our Rangers have been busy  replacing the old steps on Castle Bottom NNR with an extension to the existing boardwalk.

The boardwalk which takes visitors from one side of the stream and mire, helps make the slopes on either side a little easier, and this autumn with the help of our Thursday volunteer we have extended it up the slope on the Blackbushe end of site, replacing the old and eroded steps.

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We hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the wonderful things that make the Rangers happy, 100days and 100photos -showing you some of the activities we do on our sites with the help of our great volunteers and some of the beautiful wildlife there is to see!

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Our forth and final Summer Fun activity on Wednesday was another great success!

In total 20 children took part in the session and helped Rangers investigate the murder of Derek the Duck who was found lying close to Stroud pond -the children’s mission was to pond dip in search of possible culprits in the watery habitat but also to discuss other possible culprits who might be found on land.

Those taking part explored the banks of Stroud pond and were able to use the pond dipping platform which was installed in 2012 -the platform was designed to sit low in the water, often remaining submerged, so that during drier periods  children can continue pond dipping even when water levels drop too low for dipping from the banks.

Amongst the beasties found were dragonfly nymphs, Diving beetle larvae, diving beetles, water boatmen and a newt.

At the end the children considered their findings, voted on possible culprits and then on further investigation of the crime scene found that Derek had been killed by litter left on the Common. Everyone had great fun, with some children getting right down into the mud in search of creatures!

At the end all our investigators went away with a magnifying glass so they can continue their nature detective investigation in the future!

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Tucked away behind Blackbushe Airport, with the main entrance and small parking layby on Coopers Hill Road, Castle Bottom is a beautiful but frequently overlooked site. Many people don’t even realise it’s there! Fortunately wildlife hasn’t had any difficulty finding it and taking full advantage of the mix of mire, heathland and woodland.

New Forest ponies have been grazing the site through the summer to help us keep scrub from encroaching on to the heathland. The grazing creates areas with short grass where flowers such as common centaury, bird’s foot trefoil, and milkwort flourish. The 2 areas of mire give rise to interesting flowers that need acidic conditions and low nutrient levels. Bog pimpernel, bog asphodel and sundew are a few distinctive ones. Sundews have evolved to be carnivorous to get enough nutrients to survive, when a small invertebrate inadvertently strays on to one of the sticky leaves it slowly closes around it and digests it.

Common centaury     Common centaury

Ponies grazing   New Forest ponies

sundews   Sundew
Also this summer, birds have been making good use of the site. The nightjar walk saw at least 3 males displaying, churring, and wing clapping. The dawn chorus walk provided good views of willow warbler, garden warbler and a sparrow hawk in display flight. Not wanting to miss out, adders and common lizards have been seen basking in sheltered spots where the ground is bare.

The invertebrates have also had a successful summer with many warm days for visiting flowers, finding a mate and patrolling their territories. Many species of dragonfly and damselfly inhabit Castle Bottom; golden ringed, black tailed skimmer, emerald damselfly and azure damselfly to name a few. They are strong fliers and skim the top of the heather in search of other invertebrates to eat.

 

 

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Keeled skimmer

 

golden ringed dragonfly 1.jpeg         Golden ringed dragonfly

SONY DSC    Emerald damselfly

 

Butterflies, bees, flies and beetles are also in abundance amongst the heather. One of the most interesting and distinctive beetles to see is the poplar leaf beetle and its larvae. The adult looks like a large ladybird without spots. The larvae when large are also very distinctive, yellowy cream colour with black spots along its body through which it emits an acidic smelling fluid.

 

poplar leaf beetle larvae      Poplar leaf beetle larvae

SONY DSC       Poplar leaf beetle

SONY DSC  Large skipper
As summer comes to an end there will still be plenty to see at this beautiful site. Keep an eye out for birds and fungi.

 

 

Great fun was had this week by children exploring the Eastern End of Yateley Common as part of our summer fun adventure trail, the trail which could be followed using clues or for the more adventurous by map reading led participants around the woodlands, heathlands and grasslands in the vicinity of The Gravel Pit Pond at the Eastern end of the Common. 32 children took part in the trail and where able to undertake activities such as scavenger hunts as well as looking out for Fairies and Gnomes that were hiding amongst the trees along the route, back at the start/end the children were able to follow a blindfold trail, find their way through a maze and learn about compasses.  

At the end every participant went home with their very own compass and a short guide on compasses. One little boy was so pleased with his gift he said “Wow, I’ve always wanted a compass!”

This activity, the third of our 4 summer fun activities allowed us to make use of some of the things we find on the Common; The maze was created using wood collected during winter tree and scrub removal which will now be cut up and sold as fire wood and the blindfold trail made use of tyres which were dumped on the common only last week.  Whilst fly-tipping is unsightly, sometimes dangerous and costly to remove we do at least try and make use of items when and where we can rather than just dispose of them.

We are now looking forward to next weeks Summer Fun activity: Nature Detectives Pond dipping

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