Open Day Success… and no rain!

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the morning of the Open Day, the sun was shining – but not for long. Soon the rain was pouring down and the wind was blowing like there was no tomorrow. “Better dig out my waterproofs” I thought

Upton Open Day 16-5-09The start of our walk – Steve tells people about the rusty reptile tins

By the time I got to the Urban Wildlife Centre at 10.30am the sun was shining again. It was going to be one of those days!

I was based in the Education Room with the “wildlife”. However due to the rubbish cold weather no one had been able to find any reptiles warming themselves under the tins nearby and the only small mammals were a pair of baby woodmice.

Upton Open Day 16-5-12

A snake of people walk out onto the heath

What we did have were the saviors! Two glorious buckets of water… one with pond water and the other with river water from the River Piddle (I love that name).  With pond dipping nets and some white trays Emma (one of our willing helpers) was able to find some great pond and river creatures. Mayfly nymphs, worms, snails, caddisfly larva – you name it we had it in those two buckets. We even managed to find three Newts!

With the help of a nifty bit of technology we were able to put a small drop of water on a dish and project some of these wonderful little creatures onto the screen of a computer at 200x magnification. Mosquitoes may be a pain in the butt (literally) in a summer evening but projected onto a screen, a mosquito larva is mesmerising.

Upton Open Day Steve with Smooth Snake

Steve Davis telling us about the Smooth Snake

With live images from our Lorton Meadow kestrel nestbox and a local great-tit nest box projected onto the big screen at the end of the room, and lots of colouring in and activities for kids, it wasn’t long before we had some customers and the room soon filled with the sound of oooh’s and ahhhh’s, laughing and chatting.

At midday I was asked to help on one of the guided walks on Upton Heath (following up at the back to pick up the waifs and strays). The idea was to give people a better understanding of the heath and the habitats and wildlife it supports. It’s such a misunderstood place – and many people just think of it as “scruffy, untidy land”.

Upton Open Day Steve with Smooth Snake

Steve Davis with the Smooth snake

So off we went with our “snake” of people, up onto the heath in strong wind but occasional sunshine. Steve, the leader, stopped along the way to give interesting heathy info, and he even found TWO smooth snakes(warming themselves under rusty tins placed strategically around the walk). These are our rarest snakes in the UK, so it was a real treat for people to see them. Only Steve could touch them (as you need to be licensed to handle them) but some people got pretty close views!

Eventually it was time to head back to the Centre, stuff ourselves with burgers and sausages from the BBQ, clear up and head for home. A great day. 100+ people through the door and hopefully a few more people going away with a better understanding of the heath, their local wildlife and the role that Dorset Wildlife Trust plays in helping to protect it.

Time to put my feet up!


16 thoughts on “Open Day Success… and no rain!

  1. Great stuff Jane,

    Unlucky with the changable weather. Its been like that all week here. Good to hear about your successful day. It must feel great to be volunteering for something like that.

    I’d love to see a Smooth Snake, but they are so rare that I will have to search hard!

    • Hi Joe. Yes it’s a great organisation. I expect you have a Wildlife Trust nearby where you could get involved. The smooth snakes were brilliant… stars of the show… shame we didn’t see the other 5 reptiles of the heath though. On a sunny day you can sometimes see them all!

    • We’re a hardy bunch in Dorset. It’s amazing, people always seem to turn out (what ever the weather). It was great to see so many children as well and the burgers and sausages were very much appreciated after a chilly walk on the heath.

  2. Great blogging Jane. You really captured the essence of the day, and even managed to find some pictures to use, despite the many strange faces that I seemed to be pullng for some bizzare reason! It was great day, and many thanks to you and the other volunteers who helped make it a success – it wouldn’t have worked without your support.

    • Well, it was hard to find a picture that wouldn’t scare small children, but I think I managed it! 🙂 I agree a great day, helped by dedicated staff, volunteers and support from the local community

  3. When are the DWT giving you the job of PR person???
    Seriously, it sounds like a successful and interesting day – sometimes I really like these kind of days with unpredictable weather, adds another element.

    • I know! I’ll be giving them my invoice later! It was a great day. Sunshine would have been nice but as you say, the weather did add another element.

  4. I’ve just been in your neck of the woods – well, Swanage and Durlston anyway. I’d have loved to have come along to your open day – I’m fond of wiggly water creatures and would have enjoyed the mosquito larvae. Thanks for writing such a lovely blog – it’s great to read about UK wildlife from someone who has hands on experience!

  5. sounds like a success! I beat that smooth snake inspired a few young (and old) minds. The recent open day at Bedfords was washed out in the morning, but in the sunny afternoon quite a few people headed down to the pond for some dipping 🙂

    • Hi Rachel. I expect they are Pipistrelle Bats (could be soprano or common). The best thing you can do is contact your local bat group (contact your local Wildlife Trust – they should be able to put you in contact).

      If it is a well known roost then they probably already have records for it and would be able to tell you what they are.

      We watched a roost with over 500 bats in it last year (in a 1970’s semi-detached on a very normal street). It was funny sitting in someone’s front garden watching bats come out of their modern house.

      Good luck!


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