Waterside Natural History Society visit Testwood Lakes

The Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve is a small wildlife reserve sandwiched between the M27 motorway and the busy A35 into Southampton.

It provides facilities for schools and youth groups to learn about wildlife and is a popular dog walking area for the surrounding urban area of Totton.

The venue was chosen by the Natural History Society as a relaxing break from Christmas shopping and to avoid the cold wintery weather.

In the event the weather was a balmy 15 degrees centigrade with a partly clouded sky and no wind; more reminiscent of a summers day than mid-December.

Three lakes make up the Testwood Lakes including Testwood Lake, Little Testwood Lake and Meadow Lake.

The site was created from old gravel pits in 2002 by Southern Water who utilise the Little Testwood Lake as a water resource for domestic water supplies.

The lake receives its water from the adjacent River Test during periods of high water flow.

Little Testwood Lake is also used for fishing and Testwood Lake has facilities for Sea Scouts.

Meadow Lake and the associated water filled scrapes are used solely for bird watching activities.

There are two enclosed bird hides in this area, the Sand Martin Hide and the Heron Hide, and several wicker fence panels with viewing ports.

The surrounding area has a rich variety of mixed woodland, meadows and marshy hollows, including a stretch of the River Blackwater, which provide a diversity of habitats for such a small site.

During construction of the site archaeologists discovered the remains of a wooden bridge, a boat and a rapier from the Bronze Age.

A Bronze Age dwelling has been constructed on the site for educational purposes but is surprisingly sympathetic with the enclosed marshy area on which it stands.

Most of the birds congregate to the area between Meadow Lake and the scrapes and they are visible from both hides.

Naming hides after birds is quite common but fraught with disappointments.

Sand Martins like Swallows are only ever summer visitors but even providing artificial nest sites does not guarantee their use in the summer.

The Heron Hide however does give more chance of seeing a Heron and in fact one was present during the visit.

The majority of birds were Black Headed Gulls; noticeable from the black spot above the eye.

A single juvenile Herring Gull occupied prime spot on a small post in the lake and several male Coots were seen fighting over a female.

The group name for Coots is ‘raft’ or ‘covert’ but neither word seemed apt for the commotion as they splashed about the lake.

A Canada goose looked on imperiously as if it had seen it all before.

The scene from the Meadow Hide was generally one of peaceful tranquillity.

A pair of golden brown Roe Deer appeared through the gloom at the far end of the lake and a single Pochard surfaced like clockwork every few minutes to take a breath of air.

Several Teal swam lazily in groups and a couple of Wigeon sat on the bank with their head folded back to rest on their wings.

A pair of Tufted Ducks mimicked the Teal in diving for food and Cormorants dried their wings on one of the small rafts.

A few Lapwings stood motionless near one of the scrapes but the peace was eventually shattered by a pair of Swans coming in to land by slapping their feet loudly on the water.

It appears that December 2015 will turn out to be one of the warmest on record leaving many plants confused.

Flowers were still present on summer plants such as Red Campion and Blackberry.

At the same time next year’s spring flowers appeared on Dogs Mercury and catkins on Hazel trees.

It is not unusual to see these between Christmas and New Year but mid-December is rather early to say the least.

Some of the Elder bushes around Lower Testwood Lake had red berries and flower buds on the same plant.

Woodland_fern

An area of wet woodland had an unusual covering of ferns on the ground.

Most were Buckler ferns with a few Hartstongue ferns on the ditch banks.

An information sign indicated the presence of Marsh Fern but was not seen on this occasion.

Although some of the plants were confused by the warm December weather others were not so easily fooled.

There are still several months in which frost and snow could appear to stop all plant growth.

Spring however can still be present in the mind such as for the solitary Song Thrush that was seen on the return to the car park and which gave a stuttering song from the top of a bush.