30 October 2019 Friends of Ballard Water Meadow AGM

                                    Friends of Ballard Water Meadow                                   www. FriendsofBallardWaterMeadow.co.uk

The Friends of Ballard Water Meadow will be holding their Annual General Meeting for 2019.

This is an open invitation for all members of the group and for the general public to attend and hear about our activities, achievements and our aspirations for the future.

It will be held at New Milton Town Council Town Hall Ashley Road New Milton BH25 6AS
                                  On: 30 October 2019 @ 7.00 pm.

There will be a guest speaker: Bob Lord, a retired Senior Site Manager for Hampshire National Nature Reserves. These reserves were established to protect our most important habitats, species and geology. Bob has had a long and varied career working in the capacity as Site Manager/ Nature Reserve Warden on National Nature Reserves across the country since 1976 and has also worked for Natural England. He is a plant biologist, botanical surveyor and will give a short presentation on:

          Biodiversity in Barton On Sea and New Milton

                       – Can we do more?


Walk report: 19 September 2019 Isle of Wight

Black Bryony berries

A perfect calm sunny September day. Fifteen members met Angela at the Isle of Wight Ferry Terminal to go to Yarmouth and walk the old railway line to Freshwater. We saw a few birds from the ferry, a sunbathing Peregrine, Black-headed Gulls and a group of Black-tailed Godwits probing the mud. Overhead a wartime Supermarine Spitfire was being taken for a spin.

On arrival in Yarmouth we found a botanist’s paradise. We were able to brush up our acquaintance with seaside plants such as Cord-grass, Sea Mayweed, Rock Samphire, Sea Beet, Sea Purslane, Sea Aster (like a Michaelmas Daisy but with fatter fleshier leaves), Seablite and Common Sea-lavender. Further on we found Glasswort (Salicornia). The hedgerows were full of autumn glory, hips, haws, sloes, blackberries, Privet, elderberries, Black Bryony, this has been a wonderful year for berries.

Mute Swans and gulls
The railway line has a variety of habitats. Once into the oak wood we kept a look out for Red Squirrels but they weren’t coming out to see us. We found lichens, Evernia, Usnea, Parmelia and Xanthoria and huge clusters of Hart’s-tongue Fern and Male Ferns and Cherry and Knopper galls on the oaks. Wild Madder was an unusual find, as was Spurge-laurel, but less so Stinking Iris. Swallows and House Martins were gathering overhead preparing to migrate to Africa. Curlew, Lapwing, Grey Heron and Little Egret were feeding in the mudflats and our lunchtime entertainment was provided by a lady feeding a family of six Mute Swan cygnets and many gulls.

After lunch we took a detour to explore the Afton Marsh nature reserve. This is an area of fen and open water, and broadleaved woodland which is the floodplain for the River Yar. It was formerly a grazing marsh, but has now been taken over by reeds. In the woods we found many butterflies, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small White, Painted Lady and Peacock Butterfly and the open water was the hunting ground for the magnificent Emperor Dragonfly and other dragonflies and damselflies. Among the lush vegetation was Angelica, Hop, Alder and willows and a flock of Long-tailed Tits passed overhead. This loop made a very nice extra and after a very welcome cup of tea at the End of the Line cafe we made our way back to the ferry. AM. Photographs © Richard Coomber

Speckled Wood
Common Darter

Our first evening talk: 24 September 2019 Barn Owl Project by Kim Boog

The first evening talk (24 September 2019) of our 2019/20 season is:


An entertaining talk on these beautiful birds which are sadly becoming scarce. The speaker is from the Barn Owl Project Hampshire, and will bring along with her both Barn and Tawny Owls.

The indoor meetings are held at The Lymington Centre (McLellan Hall) on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month and commence at 7.15pm. Visitors are always welcome for a small charge (adults £5, juniors £1).

Walk report: 05 September 2019 Wilverley Plain

We set off from the Wilverley Pit car park on a bright but chilly morning to look, mainly, for smooth snakes on Wilverley Plain. We were led by Ben Limburn from  Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC). He and his associate Owen explained how these rare reptiles were being monitored on the plain. The volunteers use ‘refugia’ (basically a piece of corrugated material, in this case non-metallic roofing material) which the local reptiles use to shelter under. The refugia are black in colour which absorbs solar heat making them attractive to reptiles. All the refugia are labelled, but if you come across one in the forest it is advisable to leave them alone – the temptation is to lift them to see what is hiding underneath is great, but Adders also like them so be wary! 

Smooth Snake
Smooth Snakes are under many threats in this country, not least the weather. Britain is at the northern limits of these beautiful reptiles and our population is very important. In Europe they breed every year, but here it can be between 2 and 4 years between broods. They carry the eggs inside them, giving birth to live young. This means that gravid females must bask extensively to incubate the eggs inside them. This is a strategy adopted by the majority of native reptiles (Common Lizard, Slowworm and Adders all do the same). The main prey species of Smooth Snakes are other reptiles, they are not constrictors but just overpower their prey with their weight and strength.

Smooth Snake
Ben had all the refugia entered in a GPS handset, so he was able to lead us to them, though that is easier said than done and the chances of randomly finding them is quite slight! At the third refugium we found the snake pictured. A youngish female who seemed very relaxed at being handled, though we put her back as soon as we had all seen her so as not to cause too much stress. ARC always need volunteers, so if you fancy being one check out their website at www.arc-trust.org

On the Plain itself we also saw Wheatears and Stonechats, and we found Autumn Lady’s Tresses (a beautiful, but easily overlooked orchid) and Field Gentians.

The biscuits were provided by Mike and Mary, and I had a couple of Hobnobs. (Lucky you! – editor) (CR)

Photographs © Chris Robinson

06 September: New Links

Three new links have been added to our Links page

White-tailed Eagle News takes you to http://www.roydennis.org/category/latest-news/ - for up-to-date information on the reintroduction programme taking place on the Isle of Wight