Wednesday, 30 September 2009

September bows out (gently)

A very quiet day in every respect, no wind, no sun (well almost none) and I had to look hard to find much in the way of wildlife. That said there was some, a Common Sandpiper and a juvenile Ringed Plover on Ibsley Water as I opened up suggested a slight movement of birds. During the day the Great White Egret was seen a couple of times either on Mockbeggar or on the pond near Lapwing hide, although not by me. A Hobby, or more probably two were hunting over the trees near the centre and over Ivy Lake, meaning that I saw at least one nice bird even though I was routing a new waymarker, mind you this was exciting stuff compared to the morning spent planning next years budget!

The moth trap contained few moths of note but there were some smart caddis flies, although I cannot identify them. There was also a Capsid bug, possibly of the genus Orthotylus, I have tried to ID it but confess I have failed. No doubt it is a common species but I do not remember seeing it before.

My home moth trap did rather better with one new species for this year, an Orange Sallow, not a rare species, but like all the various sallow moths quiet an attractive one.

According to the forecast a cold front approaches so perhaps a change in the weather will liven things up.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The day started so foggy that I could hardly even see Ibsley Water when I opened up the Tern hide. Mind you a look later in the day, in bright sunshine, showed that I had not missed much, all the regular birds were there but no sign of anything new, typical of a fine sunny day really, nothing to bring any passing birds down.

The task for the day was to get in the tern rafts from Ivy Lake for the winter, to this end we had an extra volunteer day and so there were six of us, just right for the task. I like to get the rafts in for the winter as it allows the shells to be removed and get washed off by the weather and prevents the Cormorants from roosting on them and leaving the results of their fishing trips.

All four rafts were brought in, some had quite a growth of vegetation considering what would seem a poor growing medium. One also had two dead terns, I expected them to be unfledged chicks, but they were an adult and a fully winged juvenile. It was not clear what they had died of, both had been partially eaten, but that could have been after death. I would not expect adults to be taken by many predators and to find two birds on the same raft seems especially odd.

Although I was out in the boat so missed it, the wildlife highlight of the morning was a large Adder found under a spare raft top on the bank. Adders occur quiet widely on the reserve but are only relatively easy to see in one or two places.
En route to our raft retrieval task we passed Rockford Lake, where there were 8 Egyptian Geese and a Green Sandpiper. It says something about the day that these were the birds of the day.

In the absence of birds I had to fall back on inverts, a large, long-legged spider in the toilets proved to be a male Pholcus phalangioides a species that lives almost exclusively in buildings and caves.Crossing the lichen heath there were several newly emerged Brown Argus butterflies, but they were very active in the sunshine and I could not get a picture, still they are smart little creatures and they have obviously produced a good late brood, so perhaps I will get a chance in the coming days.

The moth trap produced fourteen species including some velvety Black Rustics and some very bright Pink-barred Sallow.

Perhaps a change in the weather later in the week will produce something, who knows maybe the Sandhill Crane, now reported to be on the move from Orkney, will decide to fly down the Avon valley on the way south.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Red Underwing, red fungus and something that went splash in the lake

It is a while since I have done an update, since the last we have had National Moth Night and day and there have been a few interesting sightings to report.
National Moth Night was on Friday 18th and twenty people attended. Five traps were run and several trees were "sugared". Conditions seemed ideal, calm, cloudy and quite warm, the moths were not spectacular but at least there were some. The object was to look for migrants and we did catch a few Rush Veneer moths but few other obvious migrants. I say this because a number of our regular resident species are boosted in numbers by arrivals form the continent.

The trapping was quite successful but the sugaring was not so good, we saw only one moth, a Copper Underwing, but at least that stayed for a long time. The mix was newly made by boiling up black treacle, dark brown sugar thinned with a little beer to stop it becoming toffee. I have used this mix in lots of places over the years, usually with only slight success, apart from when I ran a site in Sussex, when it was always successful and often spectacularly so. I have no idea why Sussex moths responded so much better than Hampshire ones, but that is just the way it was.

The following morning I opened up the traps for ten people and we found a few more species than the night before. Unfortunately the most spectacular was a Red Underwing that was on the outside of the center building and flew away before anyone had arrived, typical!
Although it has been dry it is still autumn and so the time for fungi, although not that many have been in evidence so far. One that has is the pixies favourite, the Fly Agaric, the one in the picture was in a group growing at the southern end of the Rockford path.
On Friday 25th we did our September wildfowl count, anyone who has been at Blashford recently will know what I mean if I say it was more accurately a Coot count as this was far and away the main species with 1773, of which over a thousand were on Ibsley Water. Also of note were 65 Little Grebes there, although this was surely not all of them as they are more or less impossible to count accurately. The Great White Egret was on the old silt pond beside the path behind the Lapwing hide, as it often is early in the morning. However none of these were the highlight of the count, this accolade went to an Otter, which swam along the eastern shore of Ibsley Water. I was in Lapwing hide as it came level with the hide, at first close in then porpoising out in deep water before returning and coming up the bank and past the hide, just to the north. A magical experience, good views for perhaps two or three minutes eventually passing within thirty metres of us. There were pictures taken, although not by me, I will put some up if I can complete negotiations.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Boats, Deadmen and Gothic overtones

Wednesday saw the Lower Test volunteer team clearing the large island in Ibsley Water, keeping it clear makes it suitable for roosting ducks and waders as well as nesting birds. Last winter there were sometimes over two thousand Black-tailed Godwits roosting on this island. The nearby banks of the lake were also cleared of taller growth making them better for grazing wildfowl such as Wigeon, Coot and, inevitably geese.

Today the regular Blashford volunteer team were working to clear willows that have invaded one of the few reedbed areas on the reserve. The idea is to see if clearing the willows will allow the reed to spread back. Some of the old rotted logs had growths of deadman's finger fungi, not a rare species but not typically found growing on willows. The blackish growths do have a passing resemblance to a finger and the larger ones are much the same size and shape.

As well as fungi there are other signs of autumn approaching, two of the typical autumn moths turned up in the moth trap. Below is the Frosted Orange, quite a few autumn species are red, yellow or orange, bright colours for such defenseless creatures, but presumably camouflaged amongst autumn leaves. A second autumn moth is the finely patterned Feathered Gothic. The feathering is on the antennae of the males, the one in the picture is a female so does not have the "feathers".There have also been a few birds about, there has been a Wood Sandpiper on Ibsley Water on both of the last two mornings along with Green and Common Sandpipers. Today there was also a Greenshank, two Dunlin and an Osprey seen high over the Education Centre. A few Yellow Wagtails have been seen and heard on both days.

Friday of next week is National Moth Night, we are hosting an event at Blashford in the evening with traps, sugaring and more. You can book a place by phoning the Centre. Tomorrow I am going to cook up the sugaring brew using black treacle, molasses sugar and beer, so if you are at Blashford expect a whiff of toffee in the air.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A bird on the hide....

A good start to the day yesterday, when I arrived to open up the Tern hide there was a Wheatear on the roof. It was quite approachable and allowed a few pictures to be taken one of which is below. Wheatears are scarce but regular in both spring and autumn at Blashford, although this year seems to have been much poorer for them than last.
It is always good to see a Wheatear, they are very neat birds, but they are also conspicuous and so easy to spot, they also indicate a movement of small birds has occurred over-night and so alerts you to the possibility of other migrants. As it turned out other migrants seemed to be rather few, just a scattering of Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps.

The most obvious migrants in the last few days have been martins, especially Sand Martins, over Ibsley Water, with well over one thousand birds at times, rather fewer House Martins and very few Swallows. All these hirundines have attracted several Hobbies, although I have only seen them succeeding in catching dragonflies.

Although this is a good time for wader passage there have been very few of late. On Saturday there were only single Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and a reported Little Ringed Plover.

A few wildfowl are starting to arrive with single Wigeon, Teal and Ruddy Duck and a few Shoveler all on Ibsley Water.

After a rather protracted break I will try and post regularly again, with most of the autumn still to go there will hopefully be lots to report.