Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Terns update

The Common Terns nesting on the Ivy Lake rafts have fledged their first young of the year, three chicks form the brood on the southern raft were flying strongly around the south of the lake this morning. Rather less convincingly one of the larger chicks form one of the broods on the northern raft flew off the raft and fell into the water, luckily it was able, just, to get back into the air and onto the raft again. Although the adults are busy feeding the chicks and there are about fifteen pairs with at least 34 chicks, it seems some adults have failed to nest successfully.
This bird was preening on a post outside the Tern hide, it was having real difficulty getting to those hard to reach bits, but with a bit of bending it made it.
A second bird was just sitting around, although it does show the darker outer primaries contrasting with a very fresh inner, this is what produces the characteristic dark "wedge" in the wing that picks them out from Arctic Terns in flight. These shots also show the longer legs and black-tipped red bill, although some of them start to loose the black tip as summer moves to autumn.
Nesting update:
Little Ringed Plovers - At least three of the chicks are still surviving and were being sheltered from the rain by the female this afternoon.
Lapwing - At least one of the chicks at the Tern hide is still feeding on the shore.
Oystercatcher - One chick still alive on the "Cormorant Island" in Ibsley Water, it was hiding int he docks during the rain this afternoon, but is big enough to not get too chilled now.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Amphibians and aliens

The volunteers were working at Blashford today and spent the morning clearing the alien plant Himalayan Balsam from along the Dockens Water. Although the task was not inspiring the chance to walk slowly along a length of the Dockens was very enjoyable, it really is a very attractive Forest stream. Along the way we saw a good number of Common Frogs, no doubt nearer to the stream due to the dry weather we have been having the one below was particularly well marked one.

Himalayan Balsam is not the only alien species to be seen at Blashford, there are lots of plants, especially water plants, originally brought in by the aquatics trade and lost or casually dumped into the wider environment. Aliens are not only plants though, the beast below is the larva of a ladybird recently arrived in Britain. It is the Harlequin Ladybird, originally from E.Asia it has spread around the world with the plant trade and is now one of the commonest species in N.America and rapidly becoming so in Europe.

This species, as well as eating aphids is also supposed to eat other ladybird larva, including those of our native species, so part of the increase is probably being achieved by decreasing the numbers of native species. Alien species actually rarely establish, but if they do they nearly always seem to end up causing problems for native species.

Bird Nest updates:
TERNS - A further count of the tern chicks confirmed 34 chicks as well as three adults still sitting.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS - The pair nearest to the Tern hide are showing all the signs of imminent hatching, so perhaps this weekend there will be fluffy little ones, let's hope the rain is not too heavy or prolonged.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Different views and Tern update

Not everyones favourite type of wildlife, but Horseflies are remarkable creatures and, as anyone who has been out walking recently, this is their time of year. The females are on the lookout for a blood meal, but the males feed at flowers. Most species have bands or patterns on their eyes. This species has simple bands but some have cloud-like patterns in shades of black and green.

Two views of Ivy Lake, above from the SE corner looking NW from the screen, probably the best place to see the Common terns on the rafts. If you click on the picture to get the bigger view you can see the four rafts, each one of which has terns nesting on it, in all about 15 pairs this year.

This view is from the northern screen on the Rockford path, looking towards the Ivy North hide

The latest count of Common Tern chicks made yesterday revealed at least 27 chicks with three adults still sitting, either on eggs or very small chicks. The ages of the chicks vary quite widely, with some starting to grow real feathers and one brood just hatched. This reflects the protracted arrival of adults this spring, many did not arrive until the second week of May, by which time a few of the early arrived pairs were already nesting.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Hummer Day

In the late morning yesterday I had just finished checking through the moth trap when I noticed a moth flying around the open area at the back of the Centre. It was hard to get a good look at it, although initial thought were that it was a Humming-bird Hawk Moth. Pretty soon it landed on the stones and, although hard to find at first, it became clear that it was one, albeit a rather smaller one than most. This is the first I have seen this year, let's hope it will be the first of many, they really liven up lunchtimes when there are several hovering around the flowers.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Stag and a lot of Peacocks

A brilliant sunny day at Blashford, a little warm for my chosen task of mowing, but it had to be done. It was excellent weather for insects and along the way I encountered quite a selection, a few of which are pictured below.

First the stag, this male Stag Beetle was found near the tool store and seems to be the first record for the reserve.

Then the Peacocks, this is one of several nets of larvae on the nettles along the path on the eastern side of Ellingham Lake. The area towards the southern end is always really good for larvae of this species, the nettles are in the sun but quiet well sheltered by the roadside hedge. I suppose this makes for ideal conditions, certainly the egg-laying females seem to think so.

This is one of at least two Banded Demoiselles I saw today, the usual species at Blashford is the Beautiful, the gravel bottomed stream is much more suitable for that species. These Bandeds presumably have come up form the main river Avon which has conditions much more suited to that species.

Believe it or not this is a moth caterpillar, it looks more like a small snail, but inside the case there really is a miniature caterpillar. I am not sure yet which species but the cases are distinctive and it should be possible to name the species. It was attached to the lower part of the trunk of a large poplar tree beside Ellingham Lake.
Lastly, the least welcome insect discovery of the day. Wasps have started to build a nest just inside the door of the tool store. The nest is still quite small but has a first generation of workers actively enlarging it so it will grow fast from now on. I think it is going to have to go, this really is not a safe place to have an active wasp's nest.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The season moves on

Back after being off for a while and quiet a bit has changed at Blashford. The Common Terns on the rafts on Ivy lake have hatched their chicks, I reckon at least 12 pairs several with three chicks. Most are of a similar age but one, on the southern raft is much larger and will be growing real feathers very soon.

There are now swarms of geese on Ibsley Water, come to moult on the safety of a large lake with lots of grass to graze. Most are Greylag but there are also lots of Canadas and a few hybrids and a single Bar-headed. The Lapwings continue to fail to hatch any chicks, something is taking their eggs with depressing regularity. However a pair of Little Ringed Plovers near the Tern hide are still sitting on eggs and a second pair nearby probably are. The female Little Ringed Plover is pictured just returning to her nest, look closely and you can just see a small spider on top of her head, it was there for a long time, possibly looking for a high point to "balloon" from.

The Sand Martins continue to do well with the bank really busy today and a Little Grebe on a nest just below the hide as well.

Near the Centre the feeders still have Siskin on them, including at least two juveniles.

A few other picture from the day below:

Moles often seem to be found dead on the surface at this time of year. I have always assumed they are out and about in the night and get caught by predators who, finding them distasteful, discard them. This one was next to the path on the east side of Ellingham Lake.

One of the Dark Mullein plants on the west side of Ellingham Lake had several Mullein Moth caterpillars feeding on it. They were of very different sizes, some almost full grown others looked newly hatched. Presumably they are from eggs laid by different females. In this picture there are also several Figwort Weevils.