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Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve

Recently Southampton Natural History Society had a guided walk to this small jewel of a nature reserve on the outskirts of Southampton.

This week a couple of us joined a small group from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) for a small mammal survey.

Swanwick Lakes, once a clay pit for a local brick works, is now a beautiful oasis for nature in an otherwise urban area. A mixture of woodland, lakes and meadows attracts a large array of species.

The majority of the site is woodland, and during the spring it comes alive with bird song and woodpecker drumming as a multiplicity of birds settle down to nest. Rare species such as marsh tits also thrive at this reserve.

Come summer the meadows are in full bloom; they hum and buzz with thousands of insects. North East Meadow is adorned with orchids and knapweed, as well as marbled white, meadow brown and gatekeeper butterflies. In the woodlands elusive white admiral, purple emperor and silver-washed fritillary butterflies flit between the trees.

The lakes and ponds around the site are prime locations for dragonflies and damselflies, including unusual species such as the downy emerald.


In the company of dozen members and staff of the Wildlife Trust, we helped unload 30 or so Longworth traps which capture small mammals for identification and live release. The traps are set out for two nights. On the first night, the traps are fixed open to allow mammals to investigate and get used to their presence. On the second night, the traps are set and well stocked with bedding material and, importantly, food. Small mammals need to be feeding constantly and so plenty of apple, carrot, nuts and dried insect larva placed in each trap to ensure that an animal can survive overnight.

Given the torrential rain over-night, some of the animals may have been grateful for a roof over their heads too.

Because of the weather, we were uncertain how productive the traps would be but in the end we had good numbers of Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), Field Vole (Microtus agrestis), Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus) and Common Shrew (Sorex araneus).

For tips on the identification of these and other small mammals visit

Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve is adjacent to the Nationa Air Traffic control centre – don’t be daunted by the high security as you arrive at the end of Sopwith Way, the reserve is on your right before you are required to present a security pass at the entrance to NATS!!

For more information about the reserve visit or download the trails leaflet.