Sunday, 29 November 2009

A few changes and a bit of luck

The weather does not improve, frequent rain and wind, however we have been very lucky with tasks and activities. Thursday's volunteers managed to be out in a dry slot and on Wednesday the guided walk also passed off almost dry, the hides come in very useful at times!

There was little change in the birdlife during the week until Friday. On Friday when I opened up the Tern hide it was plain that there had been a small arrival of Goldeneye, with at least 4 drakes and 5 redheads (and this just on a quick look), also there were 9 Ruddy Ducks with 4 drakes and I know there have been at least 10 female/imms recently. There were also at least 60 Black-tailed Godwits no doubt attracted to the valley by the recently flooding.

At the Woodland hide and around the Centre the number of finches is slowly increasing, although still only 2 Brambling have been seen, but there are now 50 or so Chaffinches. Cetti's Warblers are still singing near the Ivy North hide and in the silt pond near the Ivy South hide. There are also at least 2 Chiffchaffs, mostly near the Ivy North hide.

After two days of being on the run in the reeds between Goosander and Lapwing hides I finally managed to get the two loose ponies back onto the Ibsley shore. There is also another Chiffchaff in this area, usually near Lapwing hide.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Today we counted the lakes, which is to say we counted all the waterbirds on all the lakes within the Blashford complex. I seriously doubted that we would be able to when I started, it was raining so hard that I could not even see across Ibsley Water. Luckily things improved and the totals at the end were rather more than I had expected. Looking out at Ibsley Water there do not appear to be that many birds about at present, but this is because they are well scattered around the lakes. A few of the total show that there were 1802 Coot and 572 Gadwall, the first is a species for which the lakes are nationally important (i.e. they hold over 1% of the UK population) and the second a species of international importance (over 1% of W. European population). In both cases the counts next month are quite likely to be somewhat higher, with Gadwall perhaps much higher, but we will see.

Other minor highlights were 10 Great Crested Grebes and 7 Little Grebe on Ellingham Lake, which rarely has even this many birds. There were also as many birds as I have seen in a while on Blashford Lake, but there was nobody sailing today, so this might account for this.

Away from the water 2 Brambling were reported from the Woodland hide and a Lesser Redpoll was at the feeder there once again. I saw a couple of Chiffchaffs on the path between Rockford and Ivy Lakes, they might be the same ones that are often seen near the Ivy North hide, or then again perhaps they are different. There was also a pair of Bullfinch there and a flock of some 35 Goldfinches, the last feeding on Ragwort seeds.

At the end of the day a scatter of Yellow-legged Gulls as usual on Ibsley Water, but I did not get the chance to check further as one of the ponies on the Mockbeggar shore has got out again and a quick bit of temporary fence was needed to ensure it does not get out onto the road overnight.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ivy South hide revealed

The Ivy South hide, closed a fortnight ago to allow reconstruction is now once again open for business. There is still some work to be done putting in the new access ramp but there are temporary steps for now.
It has been quiet a big job. The old hide needed to be dismantled, great work by the Thursday volunteer team to get this all done on the first morning of closure. The next day the base structure had to be removed and the trees that had grown up around it had to be removed and the roots dug out. The site then looked as though a bomb had hit it and so it needed to be levelled ready for the new hide. I also cleared a couple of dead and dying alders that threatened to fall onto the new hide this should also result in an improved the view. A couple of these trees were felled int the water to provide Kingfisher perches. I don't know if they were checking things out, but there were two Kingfishers flitting about for much of the time we were working.
Last Monday the team from Gilleards arrived bright and early to start work. After a few anxious moments when it looked like we might not get the lorry all the way down to the build site. However by then end of the first day all the supporting structure was in place and by just after lunch on Tuesday the hide was built.

On Wednesday the digger returned to tidy up the path and clear the damage caused when we struggled to get the lorry to the site on Monday. This left the way clear for the return of the Thursday volunteer crew, there were six screens to construct, display boards to put up and a set of temporary steps to go in. By the middle of the afternoon this was one so just over a fortnight after we closed th eold hide the new one is up and running.

An access ramp will be constructed as soon as the materials arrive after which the path and area behind the hide will be made good, so the job will not be fully completed for a week or two yet and it wil be necessary to close again for perhaps a day or two.

Hopefully visitors will appreciate the new hide, it is a bit higher, longer and wider than the old one and clearing a few trees has considerably improved the view both to the left and right.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sun, screens and the last dragonfly?

Work continues on the new Ivy South hide, the main construction was completed yesterday (Tuesday) and today we started on the screens and tidying up the path. All being well tomorrow we will complete the screens and put in some temporary steps to allow the hide to be used until the ramped access can be built.

We have been blessed with good weather ever since we started building on Monday, I just hope it lasts through tomorrow. The sunshine yesterday saw a few Red Admirals out and about (the one below was near the Woodland hide) and near the Centre a Common Darter dragonfly. My latest ever Common Darter was on the 18th November, so if the days continue frost free I might better that.
On Ibsley Water a party of 18 Pintail were seemingly newly arrived, they are certainly the first I have seen on the reserve for some time. There was also a Green Sandpiper and 2 Black-tailed Godwits in the morning, although both species were distant. The most obliging wader was the Snipe pictured below that was on the bank in front of the Tern hide.
A few other birds of note were about with a Brambling near the Centre and some Fieldfare overhead. There was also a Lesser Redpoll on the feeders at the Woodland hide. In the morning I heard calling Water Rails both at the Ivy North hide and in the silt pond near the Woodland hide. There were also Cetti's Warblers in both of these places.

Just off the reserve the family of three (2ads, 1 juv) Bewick's Swans remain in the field north of the road at Ibsley Bridge, these are the same birds that spent the day on Ibsley Water last week, no doubt resting after having newly flown in.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Another fine day, so fine that there were Red Admirals flying around once again. The flush of fungi continues, the picture shows a rather fine clump on a cut alder log near the Education Centre.

Gilliards arrived early to start putting up the new Ivy South hide and made good progress, completing the base supports by the end of the day. Getting the lorry carrying the new hide down to the site was a bit touch and go at times but luckily it was just possible to back all the way down the track.

Other news today included the first sighting this winter of a Brambling at the Woodland hide. Around lunchtime a Peregrine briefly chased the Lapwings and two Black-tailed Godwits over Ibsley Water, although it failed to catch anything.

In the morning I received a sad call to say that a large dog Otter had been killed on the road at Ibsley village on Saturday. This was almost certainly the one I saw from the Lapwing hide a month or so ago as this was only about 500m away and the territories of adult males cover large areas. The corpse was brought in for collection by the Environment Agency. The picture shows the animal's hind foot, with the webbing and large size very clear.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

After the storm Blashford has a butterfly day.

What a contrast today was, fine, sunny and with no more than a light breeze. Despite looking I failed to find anything blown in by yesterday's gales, despite 100 mph gusts very little seems to have been blown in anywhere along the south coast.

In fact it was so fine today there were Red Admirals flying about and even Common Darters in pairs egg-laying in pools near the Goosander hide.

Rockford Lake is still probably home to more wildfowl than any other, although Ivy Lake has the greatest number of Gadwall. However Rockford is holding most of the Mute Swans, including a few colour-ringed birds like the one in the picture. Most, or all have been ringed at the bottom end of the Avon Valley in Christchurch. I do not have the details of this bird but will post them when I do.
The recent rain combined with the still mild temperatures have resulted in a great flush of fungi all over the reserve. A range of the is shown below.

Other birds around the reserve today included 8 Ruddy Duck (including 3 drakes), 7 Goldeneye (including 2 drakes), a few Goosander, a Green Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit, all on Ibsley Water. There was also a report of 2 Pink-footed Geese with the Greylags briefly on Ibsley Water in early afternoon. In the silt pond near the Woodland hide a singing Cetti's Warbler was good to hear and there was at least one Chiffchaff near the Ivy North hide.
At dusk the usual gull roost gathered on Ibsley Water, with at least 14 Yellow-legged Gulls amongst the thousands of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There was also what was almost certainly a 1st winter Ring-billed Gull, probably the one seen about a week ago. That I could not be completely sure was due to seeing it only briefly in flight and losing sight of it when it pitched into the mass of gulls to the west of the Tern hide. It was not only the number of birds but also the fact that I was trying to look directly into the light which thwarted efforts to find the bird on the water.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Seeking hide and December in November

Blashford is somewhat in turmoil, the Ivy South hide has gone, demolished to make way for the new one and today the Woodland hide was out of action as we had to dig up the approach track. Even the Goosander hide was not immune as I felled the sallow and two birches there to allow space for the extension to the Sand Martin bank. However getting the activity over in a short burst should mean that things will be disrupted for the shortest time possible.

In a brief look at Ibsley Water first thing this morning I noted five redhead Goldeneye and two adult drakes, so there has obviously been a further arrival, I also saw that there were three Bewick's Swans recorded in the log book there on Tuesday. They were a family and echo a family with two juveniles at just about the same time last year.

A Fieldfare or two calling in the alders south of the Centre were the first I have had at Blashford this season, but otherwise work and increasingly terrible weather resulted in no other birds of note being seen, at least by me.

The moth trap was quite productive, with 14 Feathered Thorns and the first December Moths.

The rain might get the Sea Trout on the move, I often look for them at this time of year, but I suspect that when the Dockens Water is running high enough for then to pass up it is also too turbid for me to see them, still I will take a look tomorrow.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A breath of (Northern) Winter

A much colder day today, a bit of a shock after the recent mild days. It was grey, damp and chilled by a moderate north wind. Despite the cool night there were moths in the trap including a Merveille du Jour, Feathered Thorn, Red-line and Yellow-line Quakers, one of the November Moth group of species and a Northern Winter Moth (pictured below). Winter Moths are unusual in that the females are flightless, with only vestigial wings. There are two species, the Winter Moth and the Northern Winter Moth, the former is the common one in Hampshire.

Winter Moths are important for woodland breeding birds, especially Blue and Great Tits which time their hatching to co inside with the abundance of Winter Moth caterpillars.

When I opened the Ivy North hide this morning there was a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler calling near the hide, I saw neither. Later on Rockford Lake a Green Sandpiper was feeding on the western shore. Otherwise it was a quiet day until the the hoards of gulls arrived to roost. These included a Mediterranean Gull, not the usual adult but a second winter, there was no sign of the Ring-billed Gull reported a couple of days ago, but it could easily have been there in the mass of birds. There were at least 10 Common Gulls, a notable increase and possibly due to the colder weather and north wind. As usual there were also a good few Yellow-legged Gulls, certainly more than ten, but these were only what could be seen at the southern end of the lake.

Starting work on site preparation for the new Ivy South hide tomorrow, the volunteers having made a great job of taking down the old one on Thursday.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Blashford Classics

Despite a seemingly unpromising night the moth trap contained a surprise this morning, in the shape of a Vestal, a moth that, despite small size, is a migrant. The depth of colour of this moth varies and is apparently associated with the temperature prevailing when the early stages are developing. The picture shows it sitting on the egg-boxes in the trap, not the best of backgrounds, but these moths fly in the day as well as at night so I dare not disturb it.
As well as the Vestal there was another insect with classical connections, there was also a large black beetle with horns, a Minotaur Beetle. This one of the dung beetles, in this case they specialise in feeding on Rabbit dung. These large beetles are believed to be very important food for larger bat species and their decline has been suggested as one reason for the reduction in bat numbers.
Although there were a fair few insects inside the trap I noticed there were none around it, which was unusual, even when the birds have been around the trap they seem to regularly miss some. However today's culprit was possibly not winged, behind the trap I found a Common Toad, no doubt on the trail of a last few meals before the winter.
As I opened up this morning there was a Water Rail outside the Ivy North hide as well as a Chiffchaff in the trees. There was also a cronking Raven flying over as well as two or more Redpolls, perhaps these will stay around with the flock of Siskins that is gathering to feed in the alders.

As I locked up the Tern hide a quick look at the gulls was rewarded with an adult Mediterranean Gull as well as at least 6 Yellow-legged Gulls.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A change of month and a change of weather

Saturday was a fine late October day, unfortunately I was working on Sunday and what a change! It rained hard from the early hours and continued into the morning. It was the first Sunday of the month so volunteer day, I was amazed that anyone turned up, in the event four people did and we walked the paths clearing fallen branches brought down by the gales that had accompanied the overnight rain.

Luckily the rain eased of and we actually had quite a pleasant walk in the end. The Dockens Water levels were rising fast, going up perhaps 20cm in the time it took to us clear the path eats of the bridge and down towards Rockford, no more than about half an hour.
The "chute" dug along the path and sometimes known as "Jess's Plunge Pool" was just starting to fill when we went past eastwards but was topped up by the time of our return. The picture below shows it complete with water and lots of twigs and leaves.
By the afternoon the sun actually came out and the wind dropped for a time, although it got up again later. I took the chance to walk up to the Lapwing hide and update the blackboard. There were 16 redhead Goosanders, most if not all young birds, hauled out on the spit between Tern and Goosander hides.
Towards dusk I took a look at the roosting gulls, many fewer than on Thursday, although I did not stay so late. There were at least 12 Yellow-legged Gulls though and the single drake Goldeneye was displaying noisily in front of the Tern hide, it seems rather early for such behaviour.
As I locked up the Ivy North hide a calling Cetti's Warbler and a Chiffchaff were a bonus, still no sign of any Bitterns though. If they ar etyo become really regular winterers I would expect the first birds to start turning up at about this time rather than just before Christmas as in the last two years. Of course there might be one hiding out there, they are not the easiest birds to see and there is one written in the hide log for last week, but I am a little suspicious as there have also been flamingo, eagle and dodos recorded recently!
Next week we start work on site preparation for the new Ivy South hide, the hide should be replaced by the end of the month.