I have gone for what seems like a long time without writing a blog!! We have been away in England, travelling around Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and London to see the Harry Potter studios and visit my dad’s family. While we were there, we had to do one other BIG thing and that of course, was hunting for wildlife and nature!

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On the second day of our holiday we travelled to RSPB ‘The Lodge’, this was kind of like my Mecca, as it’s where their HQ’s are! This reserve is really beautiful and peaceful, it was opened by the RSPB in 1961 and covers 180 hectares including the largest stretch of heathland in Bedfordshire. We walked for hours but as we stopped quite a few times to stare at things and because we were visiting family in the evening, we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted or explore all of it! We were instantly amused by the gate lodge when we spotted loads of mole hills, we don’t have moles in Ireland……sigh!

 

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A ‘Scarce Footman’ , we ‘rescued it from the pond but it was damaged and probably near the end anyway….

Almost five minutes into our walk, we met a staff member who showed us a specimen of a ‘cuckoo’ Jewel  wasp, she was really friendly and helpful. I completely forgot to take a photo or ask for her name, I am really ‘shy’ in front of people. The Lodge is a really beautiful building with a lot of diverse habitats. We went to the bird hide first to do some spotting, lots of Great tits and magpies but the Grey squirrels and rabbit interactions were hilarious. Squirrels are real feeder opportunists! As we were about to leave I saw a Goldfinch, but it literally flew off before I realised! As we walked through the balmy afternoon, there was so much life and sound in the air. It was lovely and sunny, a nice change from the drizzly grey skies we left behind in Fermanagh! I spotted my first ladybird of the season and it was insect heaven, so much to take in!

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As we walked towards the heathland, my mum spotted a muntjac deer in the trees, I have never seen one and although it is an invasive species, it was cool to see. We stopped beside the pond to have some lunch and we had some great chats with passers-by about Brexit, nature, birds and politics! I really feel comfortable in reserves, it’s like we are all on the same wavelength (although some grown-up birders can be a bit grumpy, more on that tomorrow!). We saw lots of ant nests, damselflies, dragon flies and as we approached the Iron Age banks the bird life took flight!

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Having lunch by the pond, as you can see, we love nature. That’s me in the middle.

We saw, buzzard, hobby and possibly a merlin. It was like raptor paradise! They were very far way and thanks to my lack of camera (ahem) it was impossible to photograph them! The hill forts were really interesting and as we read the information signs, we were always accompanied by insect visitors. The forts date back to over 2,000 years ago and as we ambled around the Galley Hill, I could almost imagine my ancestors congregating there. It was really magical. You couldn’t really see out as our ancestors would have, due to the large amount of tress but I think the RSPB have done a fabulous job of trying to restore the heathland. Captain William Peel, who bought the house in 185 was responsible for the plantation of the  ancient heathland. Hindsight is a great thing, so I won’t judge him, that harshly, sort of!

A long-horn beetle, a species I don’t know – anyone?? A comma butterfly and cinnabar moth caterpillar.

A poplar hawk-moth and ice-lolly rabbit companion!

We had such a fab day and as we cooled off with our ice-lollies beside the bird feeder, we had a rabbit for company, but my little sister did a good scarecrow impression so the birds stayed away 😉  As we walked towards the car, we were tired but all wasn’t over yet! As we walked towards the car a stoat ran across our path! A little brown torpedo and as I have never seen one before, I marvelled as I remember the stoat supermum from this year’s Springwatch!! What an end to the day!!

We are RSPB members and I would urge others to do so too. They do really important conservation work, as well as their wonderful reserves! They have fabulous reserves in N.Ireland too and I’ll be writing about them also.

Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about our visit to RSPB Rye Meads, where the car journey caused a stir! I was going to combine the reserve posts, but I’m blabbering on too much!

 

I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about our day at The Lodge, it really is a fabulous place!

Dara