Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Blues and Beetles

The last few days have been sunny but windy and not that warm. However they have been great for seeing insects. This is actually because they dislike the wind so congregate in any sunny sheltered spots, where they can really warm up. Even better if there are also flowers to feed from. The strong easterly winds have meant that the path along the western side of Ellingham Lake has been the place to be, the trees keep the wind off and, in the afternoon the strong sunshine has made the flowering Hawthorns really attractive to loads of hoverflies, bees and beetles. There have been several Rose Chafers, pictured left, on the blossom there, they really bury their heads into the flowers when they feed. It is also good to see the Hawthorn, the traditional "May" actually flowering in May, recent warm winters have had it mostly out in April some years.

The variety of spring flowers out now around the reserve is increasing daily. The bluebells are just about at their best, but they are not the only blue flowers. Although it is really common the Germander Speedwell is a very attractive plant and liked by quite a few small hoverflies and bees.
I also post the picture because I realised I had not posted any plants so far. I have also opted for "medium" images this time as I thought they might look better. I reckon I should be able to get pictures of a thousand species of various kinds of life at Blashford, so far only about ten or so posted here so a long way to go!
Not much news from today, the Common terns seem to be really settling in on the rafts on Ivy Lake, there were thirteen there this morning. The Coot nesting on the raft outside the Ivy South hide is still sitting and the Great Crested Grebes are still, slowly, nest building on one of the other rafts, hopefully they will give some good photo opportunities later.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A fox in the night and a snake in the pond

Unfortunately the run of failure by the waders nesting on the shore of Ibsley Water continues. There have now been five nests of Lapwing predated, the Little Ringed Plovers which were so close to hatching have gone and today even the Oystercatchers have lost their clutch. These Oystercatchers had seen off Great Black-backed Gulls and Crows, but perhaps a fox in the night was too much for them.

On the plus side the pair of Ringed Plovers that appeared a few days ago are still around and look as though they will attempt to nest. The female of the pair came right past the hide at lunchtime and I got a few pictures, one of which is here. The failed pair of Little Ringed Plovers are still present and should try again and of the failed Lapwings one are already back on eggs. Other waders today were a single each of Whimbrel and Dunlin as well as the usual Redshanks, I could not find the Black-tailed Godwit today though.

Also from the Tern hide on Ibsley Water today the pair of Pintail still present in the morning and at least 2 Hobbies around the middle of the day.

The mostly sunny weather today brought out a good few insects and there are now lots of damselflies around, including more Demoiselles, this recently emerged Beautiful Demoiselle was near the Ivy North hide this afternoon, there were also good numbers of Dingy Skippers there still as well. It was also a good day for snakes and I saw at least four Grass Snakes and a large one was reported in the Center pond in the afternoon.

Monday, 4 May 2009

A rather overcast and cool day but with signs of a few more migrant birds than we have had for most of the spring. On Ibsley Water there were 2 Ringed Plover and a Dunlin as well as the 2 Common Sandpipers that seem to have been present for a few days, a Black-tailed Godwit and the usual Redshanks, Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers. The pair of Pintail that avoided being seen by any of the Bird Racers over the weekend were showing for most of the day as were at least 2 Wigeon.

A feature of the day were the increased numbers of Swifts and hirundines, at least 300 Swifts were feeding over the various lakes as well as modest numbers of Swallows, House Martins and some extra Sand Martins.

The Common Terns were displaying and courtship feeding on the rafts on Ivy Lake and did not seem too put off by there being a pair each of Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls also on the lake. A panoramic shot of the lake from the South hide is at the top page, I will try and post a few more from different places around the reserve if this one is ok.

There seems to be a good bit of rapid flying about by Kingfisher going on from which I guess they are now feeding young. If this is right and they fledge successfully they will have lots of time for a good second brood, all being well there will be plenty about on the lakes later in the summer.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The regular 1st Sunday of the month volunteers turned out and constructed a hand rail on the entrance to the Ivy North hide and also some tidying up of the garden. This is just the kind of job that is impossible to do on my own, or even with one helper, so thanks to them for the help.

There were also a few more birds around with two Whimbrel on Ibsley Water for a good part of the day and a report of 7 more flying over. There were also two each of Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper. Hobbies were more in evidence with three or four circling high overhead. At one point two locked talons and tumbled towards the ground for several hundred feet, they were lost to view behind some trees. Also over were Peregrine and a single drake Goosander. There was also a "new" drake Shoveler on Ivy Lake.

Also on Ivy Lake at least twelve Common Terns on the rafts, but also a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The male of this pair arrived with a bulging neck and the female started to food beg, eventually he produced a waterbird chick of some sort, probably a Moorhen. However he did not seem to have got the idea of courtship feeding and promptly tried ot swallow it again. A tug of war ensued with which he eventually won. Hopefully she will decide he is a dead loss and they will give up and go elsewhere since if they do nest it will probably be the end of the terns.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

May "bugs" enjoy the sun

A generally bright and sunny day at Blashford today and although there were no many birds to see there were lots on insects about. Both Common Blue Damselfly and Beautiful Demoiselle were recorded for the first time this year. I also saw a new butterfly, in the form of several Dingy Skippers just to the north of the Ivy North hide. I am not sure if they have been recorded there previously, so it might even be a new reserve record. Other butterflies today included Brimstone, several Peacocks and good numbers of Small Coppers.

The Lichen heath was particularly lively in the warm sun with lots of bees and spiders. The picture shows a typical species of sandy places called Arctosa perita not rare but quite impressive with lots of stripes and patches that make it very hard to pick out when it is still. There are also several species of tiny jumping spiders on the heath, but all attempts to get pictures of these have failed as they are so active.

At the Centre pond a Large Red Damselfly had come to grief in the water and been caught by a pair of Pond Skaters. This sometimes happens with newly emerged ones but this seems to have been an older one that some how got caught. The pond is alive with newts at present, mostly Smooth but including some Palmate as well. A puzzled visitor asked me about the pond snails with the strange pink marks on them. These are not a species new to science but the result of a mark and recapture task done recently by a visiting school.

The common Terns on Ivy Lake are taking possession of the rafts now with at least eleven bird this afternoon and lots of displaying and calling. Hopefully they will settled down to nest soon.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Groundhopper Day

Not to be confused with Groundhog Day, today saw more moves into spring at Blashford. Although breezy there were lots of damselflies about in sheltered spots with Large Red, Azure and the first Blue-tailed of the year. The last species, although the first I have seen had obviously been out for a day or two as it was fully coloured. There were also several Downy Emerald Dragonflies about, particularly near the Centre.

Other signs of the season moving on were screaming groups of Swifts and three pairs of Common Terns settling in on the rafts on Ivy Lake. not all signs of winter have gone though, at the feeders by the Woodland hide there are still Siskins and at least one Redpoll. On Iblsey Water there is still one Wigeon and the lagging pair of Pintail were also reported.

One group of insects that over-winters as an adult or late instar nymph are the Groundhoppers. These are close relatives of the grasshoppers, which all overwinter as eggs. The on the stones near the Woodland hide I found this Slender Groundhopper at lunchtime today. There are three species in the UK and all are very small. Although I have said this one is a Slender Groundhopper, looking at the picture I now see it has rather wavy edges to the femurs on the middle legs, so it might actually be the rarer Cepero's Groundhopper. The two species are very hard to tell apart, in fact you almost wonder how anyone noticed the difference in the first place!

Still they are very smart little insects and they also show great variation in pattern and colour, they are also very easy to overlook, most wildlife watchers have never seen one even though they will have nearly stepped on thousands.