A Photography Session At Fleet Pond

May 22, 2015

David Pottinger writes:

Liza Toth is a very talented local amateur photographer and has taken some very impressive shots at the Pond. You can see samples of her work here and here (see also the picture at the bottom of this article).

I thought it would be interesting to get Liza to talk through one of her photography sessions and here’s the result. Liza writes:

“Ideally, I like to be out before dawn, for the best pictures. One of the advantages of winter is that this is not such a great hardship, but getting out before dawn is a challenge as the days lengthen.

Accordingly, I was out in the late morning today, which means that the sun was too bright and the photography was more difficult.

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Of course, a compensating advantage of spring is that the babies arrive, usually starting with ducks and goslings, followed by cygnets.

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When I arrived at the Pond, mama duck was sleeping on the jetty, but the ducklings were quick to pounce on the duck and swan pellets that I tossed in the water. (It is only fair to pay for the photo session with a decent currency: pellets, not bread, which is bad for the birds and attracts rats!).

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I try to feed the birds carefully so that the swans do not kill the ducks: I make sure to put plenty of food out for the swans where they are congregating, as far away from the baby ducks as possible. While they are eating, I throw pellets to the baby ducks in a separate area, luring them far from the swans.

At one point, the ducklings walked onto the jetty and I fed them there. Here is a picture of them on their walk.

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During the course of the morning, other photographers also came out to the Pond. The baby ducks were getting all the attention, and the swans seemed a little put out.

After a while, a “new” swan appeared, being returned to the Pond by the Swan Lifeline Animal Rescue Service in Eton (their number is 01753 859397 if you ever see a swan in need of help).

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This particular swan had been at the wrong end of a fight with another swan, and was glad to be home. He celebrated by flying around the Pond several times.

Every month, I aim for at least one calendar-worthy picture of Fleet Pond. Last year, I sold a few Fleet Pond calendars and donated the profits to the Fleet Pond Society.

This will probably be the April picture for the 2016 calendar, one of the final shots of my photo session today (see below).”

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Many thanks to Liza for giving us some insights into how she goes about getting her pictures!

For completeness, here’s the shot that was the People’s Choice Winner at the FPS Photography Competition for 2014:

FPS Photo Comp 2014 Liza Toth

Photo credits: Liza Toth (please note that all the above photos have been reduced in size for publishing on the blog).


Chris Packham And A Tortoise Called Charles Darwin

May 19, 2015

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Cathy Holden writes:

“The Patron of Fleet Pond Society (FPS), the naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, opened a new science complex at the University of Lincoln on 14th April 2015 with the aid of a tortoise called Charles Darwin! The latter had been training hard in order to cut the ribbon by biting through his favourite Rocket and Dandelion vegetation (see pictures above and below, as well as the gallery here).

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Chris Packham has been appointed a Visiting Professor at the University of Lincoln and will be teaching undergraduates on Zoology, Biology, Biomedical/Bioveterinary Science and Animal Behaviour and Welfare courses (see also the video clip below).

Professor Packham said: ‘If you really care for a subject, you should teach it and I am delighted by this opportunity to share my passion for wildlife and my experiences of some of the most urgent conservation issues we face.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue a career in the areas which fascinate and impassion me. The future is in the hands of this generation and I hope to contribute to preparing them for this responsibility. There is simplicity in nature’s perfection and so much to learn. I am envious of the students at Lincoln who are embarking on that journey of discovery.’

Dr Libby John, Head of the School of Life Sciences, said:
‘We are delighted to welcome Professor Packham to the academic community at the University of Lincoln. At Lincoln we provide our students with a varied and engaging programme of scientific study. They have the opportunity to work closely with world class academics on research projects, engage in international fieldtrips and conduct a wide variety of project work. Professor Packham will bring a challenging and stimulating insight to our conservation teaching.’

Chris’s interest in wildlife was formed at a young age, studying kestrels, shrews and badgers in his teens and undergraduate days. After graduation, he began taking still photographs and trained as a wildlife film cameraman. His photography continues with exhibitions and invitations to judge prestigious competitions but the camerawork gave way to presenting.

In 2010 Chris was awarded the Dilys Breese BTO Medal for ‘his outstanding work in promoting science to new audiences’ and he is an enthusiastic supporter of many wildlife, conservation or environmental charities. He ran the hugely successful production company ‘Head over Heels‘ making programmes for Animal Planet, National Geographic, ITV and the BBC.

Professor Chris Packham officially opened the University of Lincoln’s state-of-the-art Joseph Banks Laboratories on Tuesday 14th April 2015. The same day he delivered his inaugural public lecture to around 300 students.”

The above article first appeared in the FPS Newsletter for Spring 2015. If you’d like to receive this, please consider joining the Society, we’re always keen on new members! Joining instructions are here.


Fancy A Picnic?

May 17, 2015

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Above and below are some pictures of the attractive and unusual carved wooden tables in the picnic area at Fleet Pond (see also map at the bottom of this post where the picnic area is indicated).

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As you can see, there is wheelchair access.

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In the picnic area there is a walk marker in case you’d like to explore the nature reserve further. Details of the three (colour coded) walks can be found here.

The picnic area is just a convenient short walk from the car park (off the A3014, as shown – there is a sign indicating Fleet Pond).

Why not give it a try?

If you have any comments on the facilities, we’d be keen to hear them!

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Young Coots At The Pond

May 8, 2015

David Pottinger writes:

I set up a photo group in Flickr some time ago (entitled Fleet Pond Society) to help publicise the variety of scenes and events that take place at the Pond.

I recently noticed this amazing photo of a pair of young coots taken by Mark that was shared in our group. Please click on the link photo below to be taken to the original, together with additional photos and further details:

Young Coots

Please note that All Rights are reserved for the original picture.

See also the Flickr widget on the lower rhs of this blog for thumbnails of recent submissions to our group.

Please consider joining the FPS Flickr group if this subject interests you!


Volunteer Event This Sunday, 10 May

May 7, 2015

There will be a volunteer event at Fleet Pond this coming Sunday and all are welcome (see below for registering).

Colin Gray, Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, writes:

“The task for the coming Sunday is to remove young birch seedlings and saplings from the Dry Heath near the nature reserve car park. The soil should be damp but not wellington boot wet so strong waterproof boots are the best bet. Please bring a cold drink if you need one as we only supply the warm mid-morning drink.”

For further information and booking (which is essential as tools and resources have to be planned beforehand), please contact Hart Countryside Services:

Phone: 01252 623443
Email: countryside@hart.gov.uk

The Sunday volunteer tasks are supervised by a Hart Countryside Ranger together with members of Fleet Pond Society.

To give a flavour of these events, here are some photos from the previous event held on the 12th April.

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Taking a well-earned coffee break

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Getting stuck in…

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Picture credits: Carol Dunford


Fleet Pond Wildlife Day: Saturday 30 May 2015

April 30, 2015

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For a set of pictures from the same event last year, see here. Some examples are given below:

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Pond dipping

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An albino hedgehog


Invasive Non-Native Species Are All Around

April 25, 2015

Chris Packham explains the destructive impact of the American Signal Crayfish, an invasive non-native species (see also below)

David Pottinger writes:

David Buckler, a Committee Member of Fleet Pond Society, recently brought the above video on the American Crayfish to our attention. It’s well worth watching and quite shocking in it’s way. It gives a clear example of the undesirable and major consequences that an invasive alien species can produce if unchecked.

Colin Gray has previously given an overview of invasive species at Fleet Pond, see the article Aliens At The Pond. Here’s some additional information.

In late February Rachel Jones, the Hart Ranger, attended a talk by Glen Skelton of the Surrey Wildlife Trust on invasive species (held at the Basingstoke Canal Visitors Center). Here are some extracts from Rachel’s notes from the talk:

The presentation looked at each invasive species found in the catchment areas and what action was taking place to minimise the threats. Fleet Pond unfortunately has quite a few of the aliens, as do a few other sites that Hart manages.

The main ones that are of interest to Fleet Pond were:

  • New Zealand Pigmy Weed (Crassula helmsii): There are significant areas of it in the Canal not far from the Pond so perhaps this is where it came from. It is troublesome to reduce it.
  • American Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus): Parts of the River Wey are swarming with these, apparently they eat all the invertebrates and aquatic plants. They also destabilize banks as they burrow holes into the river/stream banks adding to siltation and erosion. The extent of the crayfish population at Fleet Pond is uncertain but it’s a species we must look at given that we want to increase our invertebrate and plant life.
  • American Skunk Cabbage: Even though it is not as widespread as Balsam for example, it is still a challenge to get rid of.
  • Orange Balsam: We are familiar with the Himalayan Balsam that we have in (currently) small amounts in the Brookly area (it is also on some of the other Hart sites). But we need to keep an eye on the Orange Balsam as it is creeping in as well.

Over all, it seems as though there is still no one way of reducing or eradicating these invasive species. Much research is taking place to help get on top of them but this all takes time, particularly with biological control methods.

Others mentioned in the talk & which are a problem in the nearby countryside include:

  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Giant Hogweed
  • Floating Pennywort (River Wey)
  • Water Fern (Farnham Park ponds)
  • Parrots Feather (Church Crookham canal)
  • Quagga Mussel
  • Killer Shrimp.

There is a free home course that is available if anyone would like to help us spot these threats at the Pond, or other sites that link to us or are close by. See: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/elearning/

Finally, the destructive impact of the American Mink (Neovison vison) at the Pond should also be noted.

From the SWT site (see here):

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“The American mink is a semi aquatic species of mustelid which is native to North America. It first became established in the UK in the 1950s when animals escaped or were released from fur farms. American mink have adapted well to the UK and are now common and widespread throughout Sussex.

They are one of the few animals which can follow native wetland species such as the kingfisher and the water vole into their burrows and nests, and in some cases they have had a devastating impact on population numbers of these species.”


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