After yesterdays shenanigans (link to yesterdays blog post here), I woke up a little sore but looking forward to spending the day volunteering at Maple Lodge NR in Maple Cross. I try to visit this reserve as much as possible. It's a little hidden gem of a place. Link to the reserves website here.
As I didn't know what form my volunteering would take today, I decided to play safe and wear trainers and padded socks along with a gel insole.
I'm glad I did as my duties today were to be one of the many guides leading new visitors around the reserve, taking in the three main hides and pointing out other objects of interest. As I arrived an hour before the first visitor was due I decided to go for a short walk to see what was around, and more importantly, what would be of interest to any new visitors to the reserve.
And look what I found......
An Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar.....
I must admit I didn't have to look too hard - I just checked the area where we had two caterpillars last August. I was just lucky today that I was the first to spot the first one for this year.
Also found by the Teal Hide was this very large Puffball fungi...
My first guided walk saw me take three OAPs, a couple with a young baby in a pushchair and two friends (one in a wheelchair) around the reserve.
Maple Lodge is mobility friendly with levelled paths and with the three main hides having dedicated access and watching areas for wheelchair/mobility scooter users.
My second guided walk was with two couples, and my last guided walk was with just one couple, one of which was using a mobility scooter.
And the reports back from all three of my groups, was access was brilliant, paths were good and the hides were excellent for both mobile and less mobile viewers.
After finding the Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar this morning, my second discovery came whilst I was having a break between tours two and three.
I was sitting on the 'guide rest chair' at the back of the Clubhouse when movement caught my eye to the left. I looked round but couldn't see anything. This happened a couple more times before I eventually got up and walked over to the edge of the path.
There was nothing there except some dead leaves, a few old traffic cones, several stacked branches and a pile of dirt.
Then the pile of dirt started moving.......
I was watching a mole hill being made !!
It was a little like watching a volcano about to erupt. The soil would be pushed out of the top of the little 'hill' and I'd be ready with my camera to capture the moment something emerged except it didn't.
But I was able to alert the ladies in the Clubhouse and all of the guides, and lots of new visitors also got to see the 'moving mole hill'. A couple of hours later, the mole was obviously digging a tunnel going down the side of the path as another smaller mole hill appeared, and as it did several large juicy worms emerged and disappeared into the undergrowth.
Obviously a mole popping out of the top would have been the icing on the cake, but it didn't, but I was happy to witness something I had never witnessed before. A mole hill actually being created.
I managed to grab 15 minutes to myself to wander off and photograph butterflies. This Small Tortoiseshell happily showed off its closed wings, semi open wings and fully opened wings....
and I spotted a Hornet before my phone rang calling me back for the third guided tour.
Elsewhere on the reserve the Kingfisher perched outside the Clubhouse hide giving some new visitors great views, Little Egret was spotted from at least two of the hides, a solitary Green Sandpiper settled briefly at the Teal Hide and a Painted Lady butterfly, Sparrowhawk and Muntjac deer were spotted before the visitors arrived.
When the sun emerged this afternoon the buddleia bushes at Puddingstone/Comma Corner became alive with Comma (of course), Green-veined White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and lots of Common Blue damselfly, at least two Ruddy Darters and a Southern Hawker dragonfly.
At the end of the day, as the last of the visitors left and cleaning up had almost finished, we released the moths that had been caught in the trap last night.
Now admittedly I have already forgotten the names of a few of them, but I'm sure someone will id them for me....
The ones I do know are....
Swallow Prominent Moth...
and the unmistakeable Poplar Hawkmoth...
The ones below are the ones whose names I have already forgotten (in my defence it has been a looonnnnng weekend)....now edited thanks to Dave S
|Todays hand model was Keith Pursall.....Iron Prominent|
And my feet ? They didn't start hurting until I was back home.
What a great day.
I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to my three groups and pointing out insects, caterpillars, butterflies and the occasional bird and talking about the reserve in general.
This is the first time I've led a guided tour, and although my heart sank a little when I was first told I am so glad I swallowed that away and got on with it.
Well done to all of the volunteers, the cake makers (including my Mum), the other guides (I think we had 6 guides in total with each guide leading at least three tours each) and the committee that organised the Discovery Day.
I will be volunteering again.