Friday, 31 December 2010
2010 saw some further developments, the education shelter was put up in January and the pond dipping boardwalk was replaced, two valuable enhancements to the education infrastructure. The Ivy South hide was replaced at the very end of 2009, but as part of the same project and the webcams were installed. All useful additions to the reserve, although I would be the first to admit that we are still not perhaps making the best of the cameras, something to work on for 2011. These works were majority funded by the Aggregates Sustainability Fund.
This blog has attracted more visitors during the year with numbers continuing to rise steadily throughout.
It has been a good year for birds and these have made for a good total for the BTO Challenge, although we have yet to see if it is a winning total. Highlights have been glossy ibis, long-tailed skua, bearded tit, waxwing, great grey shrike and just the other day a long-eared owl. The returning great white egret and recently, bittern have also been good to see again.
In February the reserve won two "New Forest Access for All" awards, one for best outdoor facility and the other as overall winner of all categories.
So what is to come in 2011? It will be a slightly uncertain time, our funding is likely to be impacted by the overall cuts in public funds, both directly in that one of the project partners is New Forest District Council and because the availability of and competition for project funding may get more difficult. The reserve is, of course, free to visit and this is not likely to change, but we will probably be trying to find ways to increase our donations income and recruit more members.
Despite uncertainty we do have plans in the pipeline for a bid to make a short self-guided trail directed at families, with a theme around getting people to experience the reserve in different ways, to look or listen in a more focused way. I have just put in a bid for to the Million Ponds Project to create up to ten small pools at various locations. We also hope to complete a Higher Level Stewardship application to help with funding of works in general and particularly for the restoration of Mockbeggar Lake.
We are also actively looking at reducing the carbon footprint of the Education Centre, hopefully replacing the old oil fired boiler with a wood fired one and perhaps using the roof area for solar heating and energy production.
Of course we will also be continuing with the wide range of education work and hopefully welcoming good numbers of visitors to enjoy the birds and other wildlife on offer.
I have now worked at Blashford Lakes for over four years and it has been a very satisfying project to work on, lots of opportunities to improve the area for wildlife and people, just what a nature reserve should be all about. Although it is a recently abandoned industrial site it does offer a wide range of habitats and the chance to manage them to make the most of their potential. This is really the task of the reserve, if wildlife is to survive in our overcrowded world we must make the most of any chances that offer themselves, not just at Blashford but everywhere.
Thank you for your support in 2010 and especially to those that have helped out as volunteers on the reserve during the year.
At last the fog has lifted and although the ice is slowly thawing (Ellingham Lake is completely ice free again) the majority of open water on the reserve and surrounding lakes remains frozen so with less to see most people are stopping off for an hour or two and moving on rather than staying all day or half a day as is frequently the case. Ivy, Ibsley and Rockford Lakes have all got significantly more water and a corresponding increase in birds. There is even open water off the "spit" to the right of Tern Hide now giving good views of goldeneye this afternoon. At least the footpaths and car parks are no longer the skating rinks that they have been, although with another drop in temperature forecast for tomorrow that of course could all change again.!
Writing this at 4pm, as far as I am aware there has been nothing of note observed today, but there were reports of two red head smew on Ibsley Water from Lapwing Hide yesterday and also of a long eared owl from the same hide on Boxing Day by one of our neighbours and regular visitors - a sighting which Bob will be very pleased to add to the reserve list and the BTO Challenge list as well.
The bittern has not been reported since Wednesday, the female bearded tit yesterday. Water rail are showing relatively frequently from Ivy North Hide and the Woodland Hide has still got good numbers of finches, particularly brambling and siskin, but some redpoll as well.
It will be busy tomorrow so if you are planning on coming to the reserve if you can walk or use the bus please do and if you are coming by car please be patient and park in designated car parking places only.
Bob will be in tomorrow so you can probably expect a far more comprehensive Blog entry imminently, but in the mean time a "Happy New Year" from me...!
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
12:30pm - I have just been informed by a visitor that the bittern is once again outside Ivy north hide, they watched it eat a roach! The bearded tits are also about by the same hide.
1:30pm - I went to Ivy North hide, and just my luck couldn't see the bittern but I did get a fantastic view of my first cetti's warbler!
Sunday, 26 December 2010
Ivy Lake was completely frozen over, although I still opened the Ivy South hide and then walked back along the Ellingham path. Crossing the bridge there was the rare sight of the Dockens Water frozen from side to side although there are still ice free patches where the flow is fastest.
Friday, 24 December 2010
In the afternoon I went up to the Lapwing hide, the light was too bright to see the birds well but it did make for a picturesque scene. A small area of open water just south of the hide was receiving the arriving goosander, many of which were standing or sitting on the edged of the ice.Lastly a couple of scenes, the first from the path just south of the Lapwing hide.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Ivy Lake too is almost completely frozen and Rockford mostly so. Ivy has few birds other than mallard, but Rockford is well supplied with coot, gadwall, and mute swan, but not a great deal else. Ellingham Lake, as usual has large areas free of ice, but also largely free of birds, I always look in hope that some wandering wildfowl will have dropped in but they rarely do.
Most of the paths around the reserve are passable with care, they are icy and if you are visiting and have boot spikes they are well worth using. The car parks on the Center side of the reserve are usable, but icy and as I said above, the main car park is very icy and closed to cars and probably not worth walking across either.
It might be just before Christmas and it might be icy, but that did not put off the Blashford volunteers, six people turned out to make some more fat feeders to put out more of the "Biggest Fat Seed Cake in the World". We also cleared some of the ice from the ground at the Woodland hide to provide more feeding areas. After we had done this we stayed in the hide for a few minutes and in no time there were several brambling and lesser redpoll in on the feeders along with the commoner blue tit, great tit, coal tit, chaffinch, siskin, dunnock, robin, blackbird, great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch.
The bird news of the day came from the Ivy North hide where a bittern was seen in the late morning, once again the first bird of the winter has turned up in the week before Christmas. I did go to try and see it, failed but did see the female bearded tit, the male had also been seen, it is good to know they are still around.
Late in the day 2 Caspian gull were seen on Ibsley Water, both adults, although when I had looked earlier all I saw were about 5 or 6 yellow-legged gull and a peregrine, still maybe tomorrow...
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Ellingham Lake is storming ahead with the big thaw and is now only half frozen. The bird population was predominately coot and mallard with some gadwall and little grebe in front of the club house.
Snails Lake has mostly coot with some pochard, gadwall and tufted duck. Blashford Lake has pochard, coot, gadwall and tufted ducks.
Ivy Lake is still frozen over, the small pocket of water in front of the screen still remains but with now just a handful of mallard, coot and swans. Rockford Lake has three pockets of water with mostly coot, pochard, tufted duck and a few wigeon but noticeably a lot less than Saturday. The swan carcass has been quite impressively stripped bare.
Woodland hide is much the same, a busy feeding frenzy of all the usual woodland birds with good numbers of brambling. The badgers had ventured out yesterday night leaving lovely footprints in the snow around the entrance to the hide, most footprints are starting to melt now though.
Over on the other side of the reserve we saw a fallow deer disappearing over the bank on the approach to Goosander hide, however there was nothing to see from the hide itself.
Lapwing hide provided the best variety of waterfowl, although it is right over on the far side of Ibsley water. There were some shoveler, pochard, tufted ducks, gadwall, one goldeneye and a large number of coot. Walking back to the road there were flocks of siskin flying over our heads feeding at the tops of the alder trees.
So the best spots to visit at the moment are Woodland hide, the path between Rockford and Ivy Lake, Blashford Lake and if you are feeling adventurous then Lapwing hide, although the birds are on the far side of the lake, so ideally you need a telescope.
And here is a Christmassy scene of recycled decorations from our craft event yesterday featuring wobble the reindeer, who got so hungry he ate his own leg off!
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
At the start I guessed that about 160 species would be a winning total, quite a tall order but probably achievable. I don't know where we are just now, but we might have made up some species on our rivals as the last quarter has been pretty good. Species added for the year have been: goshawk, waxwing, great grey shrike, jack snipe, hawfinch, avocet, Iceland gull, brent goose, water pipit, black redstart, red-breasted merganser, scaup, garganey, ruff, red-legged partridge, curlew sandpiper, stonechat and mandarin a good mix of species. I am still trying to track down reports of a few species that either have or have been suggested as being recorded earlier in the year, these are ring-billed gull, firecrest and common (or mealy) redpoll.
I have also been unable to find any record of a few species that I would usually have expected to have been recorded at some point, these include knot and golden plover. Slightly longer shots, but still species that are recorded from time to time include wood warbler, grasshopper warbler, rock pipit and sandwich tern.
Overall it has been a good year and I think it will prove to be the best year yet for the total number of bird species recorded. If anyone can add any species or shed any light on any of those so far uncertain I would be delighted to hear.
On a related note, I am hoping to add some species lists for the reserve as links. These will include birds, butterflies and dragon and damselflies. Each list will include notes on status and where they might be seen. In time I will add others, with moths perhaps the next most likely in the short(ish) term.
Monday, 20 December 2010
The Christmas craft event "Cheep Cheap Christmas Tree Treats" that was scheduled for today will now take place tomorrow, Tuesday 21st, turn up any time to the Centre and create some natural and recycled decorations for your Christmas tree and make a treat for your garden birds!
Saturday, 18 December 2010
However, here I am and the reserve is, as you can imagine (you'll have to as my camera is at home with wife and son!) stunning! There has been a couple of inches, but the snow has now stopped and the sun is shining.
The lakes, which had been thawing nicely yesterday, are now more frozen than ever. I wanted to get this post in relatively quickly this morning so you all knew what the state of play was so I have yet to venture as far as Goosander Hide or Rockford Lake.
I was keen to see what the badgers had been up to as they are usually out and about after a snow fall, but last night they clearly were not. They had been out and about at some point as the "badger bowls" that we put food out in at the end of the day had been emptied, but there were no badger tracks around them at all. This is quite interesting to know as we would love to be able to offer more (and more successful!) badger watches from the hide, but they seem to venture away from the sett relatively late on when it is too dark to view them. Last night they were obviously out before it snowed and did not come out again afterwards.
There are plenty of other tracks though; lots of birds, including pheasant, squirrels, foxes, roe deer and an occasional rabbit. I've written in the snow next to some of these to "label" them for you!
Will head out now to explore the rest of the reserve and will add to this post if I find anything exciting!
Nothing new, but as suspected there is now more ice on the lakes than previously. The small patch of open water on Ivy Lake remains in the same place, just below the northernmost screen and is now inhabited exclusively by mallard and four of the resident mute swan.
Ellingham Lake unusually is also fairly well covered with ice - there is some open water along about 1/4 of the western shore that had a few mallard, tufted duck, little grebe and great crested grebe on it and another patch of open water below the clubhouse at the northern end of the lake that had tufted duck, mallard, coot, great crested grebe, a drake ruddy duck and a (presumably the) redhead smew on it.
Snails Lake is open along the southern shore for about half of it's length and dominated almost exclusively by coot as far as I could tell looking into the sun (which was very bright coupled with the glare off the snow and ice!).
Blashford Lake (where strangely enough, no sailing was taking place) had one redhead goosander and a relatively large number of coot, pochard, great crested grebe and gadwall.
The ice free areas of Rockford Lake have now moved to a small area on the southeastern corner, a larger area towards the middle of the lake and another small area in the northwestern corner. This is where the wigeon are, along with a number of mute swan, coot and tufted duck. Yesterday a mute swan was reported struggling in the ice on the western shore of the lake and sadly it had not made it - in nature however, good things can result from every tragedy and a buzzard was feeding on it as I walked up the path. It is unusual for a swan to get caught in the ice in this way and was probably suffering the effects of some other condition... possibly it had landed badly on the ice and damaged itself, or, and this is probably more likely in this instance, it had been entangled by fishing line, which, sadly, is a common occurence on this particular lake.
Ibsley has areas of open water around the islands to the north, but is completely frozen in the "Goosander Hide Bay" now. There is a small patch of open water to the right of Lapwing Hide where presumably the goosander will come into roost this evening. Many of the gulls that normally roost on the lake and then head off to feed up the valley were still there loafing around on the ice alongside a drake goosander, coot, little grebe, great crested grebe, gadwall and a few wigeon and shoveller.
As you might expect the feeders are very busy with finches and other woodland birds, but only the odd brambling. The couple of green woodpecker I saw were looking very green in the snow!The record breaking fat cake is going down a treat!
The reserve has been very quiet visitor wise - apart from a car of idiots wheel spinning up and down the Drove and doughnutting in the car park that I just saw off there have only been 6 people on foot around the reserve and a family that dropped into Tern Hide! With that in mind I will get around and lock up the hides and leave a bit earlier and try to get home before the melting snow re-freezes on the roads if I can.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
The forecast was not good for today, rain was predicted from quite early, however it was Thursday and so volunteer day and true to form we managed to work cutting rhododendron until just after midday before it started to rain. The ticket is almost all cut now, there is still a lot of tidying up to do but we are well on the way to getting rid of it.
With the Christmas break on the way I was trying to get some paperwork out of the way, to clear the way for our osprey platform and to create some new shallow pools. You might wonder what paperwork this would involve, but it seems that at least the first will need planning permission, so there is lots to do.
There was one report of note during the afternoon as the great grey shrike was seen in the main car park, it had prey of some sort and flew off with it towards the Goosander hide. Obviously a bird to look out for and if it is finding prey on the reserve perhaps it will be around regularly.
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Ivy Lake was almost completely frozen, whilst Ellingham was totally ice-free, but nearly bird free as well. Still I knew there would be a lot of birds on Rockford Lake and there were, counts included 799 coot, 220 gadwall and 66 mute swan. However the best bird I saw there was not on the lake at all, as I was starting the count I was aware of a bird flying over my head, after a moment I realised it was a great grey shrike, it flew into a tree on the Ivy Lake shore then off towards the water treatment works. This was presumably the one seen nearby a few days ago, but this time it was definitely in the reserve and so another one for the BTO Challenge total. I would guess it is also the bird that has been seen on and off on Ibsley Common.
I then visited Blashford Lake, I had not been there for a little while and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of birds on the lake, no doubt the reduced amount of sailing recently due to ice cover has allowed the birds the freedom to feed in peace. The number of gadwall was especially impressive and was a major contributor to the overall record count of 1149 that we got in total today. Snails Lake was also quite busy and like Blashford Lake around half frozen. However these were the last lakes to count for me as those to the south were all frozen over. The gadwall count is close to 2% of the NW European population and the first we have had over the thousand, although we have got within twenty or so twice before.
At the end of the day I went to Ibsley water again to count the geese and goosander, the greylag included the 5 white-fronted goose, although there had been only the four adults. Just before I arrived they had flown off to the valley and shortly after returned with the juvenile in tow, it seems very prone to getting lost. The goosander reached at least 111 before I had to leave, still a respectable number. One last bird of note was a Canada goose, there were lots but one stood out, in fact it seemed to prefer the greylag, it was a little smaller, darker, shorter-necked and smaller-billed than the usual birds. Evidently it was of one of the other races, with an appearance somewhere between a lesser and a dusky. Like dusky Canada goose it had a reduced white face patch and seemed to have a dark chin-stripe as well.
Monday, 13 December 2010
Setting off to open up the hides I flushed a woodcock from beside the store. A Cetti's warbler was calling at the Ivy North hide, I listened out for the bearded tit but without success. I decided to take the Ellingham Lake path back to the Centre and as I went along the boardwalk beyond the Ivy South hide a water rail shot out from below my feet. Checking Ellingham Lake and Pound it was evident that the smew had moved on and that the Pound had iced up quite noticeably.
Later in the morning I was at the store when I heard crossbill calls, there were two or three birds but try as I might I could not find them, they were circling about somewhere by the pines near the water treatment works. They did eventually fly overhead but still I could not pick them out in the murk.
I was working in the main car park in the afternoon building up the dead hedges. A look from the Tern hide revealed little apart from at least 2 white-fronted goose with the greylag flock. As the mist became fog the greenfinch gathered to roost, at one stage all collected in a tall poplar with a male kestrel. I estimated at least 250 finches, my largest count so far this winter.
We hope to do a wildfowl count tomorrow, although we will need to be able to at least see the water if we are to succeed.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
I have taken to walking back along the Ellingham path if I have time after opening the Ivy South hide, both Ellingham Lake and the Pound do not tend to ice up so have the potential to pick up birds seeking open water. There were a few more ducks than a couple of days ago, but most significantly there was a redhead smew on the Pound, it remained there all day. I got one reasonable picture, but I was concerned not to disturb it so I did not get too close. Redhead is a term for female or juvenile of sawbill ducks and goldeneye. It means a bird that is definitely not an adult drake, first winter birds and females look very similar and quite unlike the adult drakes.
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Despite the icy start, Friday was a day of change. I became aware of the trees dripping, the frost was melting from the twigs and pretty soon elsewhere too, although the cold ground kept icy patches chilled. The birds will benefit form a thaw, but for now they are still hungry. I took the picture of a group of long-tailed tit at the fat feeder outside my office window from my desk, I know it is poor, but the chance of getting the right exposure was more or less zero and this is one bird with an instantly identifiable silhouette.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
The scene at Ivy South hide was brighter, just smooth ice and a clear sky.
Monday, 6 December 2010
As I opened up I topped up the bird feeders, the number of birds visiting has really picked up in the last week and they are getting through the food at quite a rate. The biggest increase has been in the birds coming to the nyger feeders, suddenly every perch is occupied, mainly by siskin, with a few goldfinch and at least one lesser redpoll today.
The main task this morning was to count the lakes nearest the Centre, for Wessex Water. Most of Ibsley Water, Ivy Lake and over half of Rockford Lake are now frozen, however Ellingham Lake has no ice at all, neither has the Pound, not even a little at the edges. It seems extraordinary that there should be so much difference in the ice cover in neighbouring lakes. The count of Ellingham was easy though as there were few birds, the lake is too deep to grow weed so there is little food for most species, there was a drake mandarin duck making their strange little squeaking call.
The birds on Ibsley Water, Ivy Lake and Rockford were very concentrated into the open patches, with Rockford really packed out, making counting difficult. The picture gives some idea of the task of counting the birds, you can click on it for a larger version.
I did have some help as we have a work experience student working with us this week, although I am not sure if standing out in a light, if cutting, north-easterly for nearly an hour in a temperature only just above freezing was the best start to the week she could have had.
I had hoped there might have been one or two extra species brought in by the cold, but if there were I could not find them , mind you I counted 2383 wildfowl on Rockford and I know there were a few more hidden by the island.
At the end of the day as I locked up the Tern hide the gulls were mostly roosting on the ice directly north of the hide, ideal for checking through them, but sadly I had little time so just from noted six or seven yellow-legged gull and at least 200 common gull. The goosander all seemed to be going to the ice free patch in front of the Lapwing hide, ideal for counting them if I had time to stay until dusk. One positive result of the increased wind today was that some of the ice around the open water had broken up, making each a little larger, so hopefully we will keep at least some ice free water.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
As it was the first Sunday of the month there was a volunteer task and we decided to have a go at clearing up some more of the cut rhododendron, there was a bit of a problem getting the wet frozen twigs to burn, but once started we got a good bit cleared away.
When we had finished we returned to the Centre and there we were told that there were a pair of bearded tit in the reed mace below the Ivy North hide. Going over there I saw the male almost immediately, although I never got a view of the female. These are always very fine birds and to see one at Blashford was especially gratifying, the views were really rather good too. When I opened up the hide I had a momentary thought that I heard a bearded tit call, but then definitely heard Cetti's warbler calling and decided that this was perhaps the source, perhaps I was wrong. I went to the Tern hide to eat lunch and there saw a water pipit and 4 dunlin, but still no sign of any avocet.
In the afternoon I had a look around the reserve, along the Rockford path the number of wildfowl on Rockford Lake was immediately impressive. I estimated at least 1500 wigeon and good number of coot, gadwall and other species including a pair of goldeneye, which are not often on there. There were well over two and a half thousand birds on the lake. A group of wigeon and gadwall were feeding on the shore of the lake, this was of particular interest as they were eating Crassula helmsii a problem alien plant, I had not seen them eating it before.
I then went up to the Goosander hide where there were already about 60 goosander and looking at them I realised there was a single red-breasted merganser, it was a redhead and is the smaller bird just right of the centre of the picture between the drake goosander, coot and lesser black-backed gull.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
Thursday, 2 December 2010
The upshot is that I have not ventured out from home, the roads from here to Blashford seem in a poor state so the reserve will not be opened up today. We were supposed to have been doing a volunteer task today, but it would have been impossible anyway.
I will post further news, if there is any later. On a not very related note, I got an email from a former Trust staff member who has moved to Nova Scotia, where he reports no snow and that he was still wearing shorts in late November.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Elsewhere a calling Cetti's warbler at the Ivy North hide was the most interesting. Later in the day the feeders were busy but apart from a few brambling there was nothing out of the ordinary.
I got over to the Goosander hide later in the day and watched the goosander arriving, by the time I had to leave at 16:05 there were at least 138 birds, although there were more around by the Lapwing hide and as they usually arrive right up to dark there should have been a good few still to come. If it were possible to organise a count there could be as many as 180 or even 200. fine though the goosander were the highlight was a group of 4 Bewick's swan which flew in calling. There were three adults in the valley, but these seemed to be new birds as they were 3 adults and a juvenile, as far as I know the first juvenile seen in the valley this winter.
The gull roost continues to decline, or at least the lesser black-backed gull do, common gull numbers are still on the rise with a few hundred.
We have no snow as yet, but that may change tonight, hopefully I will still be able to get into the reserve tomorrow. To judge by the observations on the coast today there are starting to be significant movements of birds so some may fetch up at Blashford.
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Despite this there is a bit to report. First thing there were 2 dunlin on Ibsley Water, although not a lot else. The greenfinch roost in the laurel bushes at the car park entrance was still dispersing, there must be 200 or so coming in there now. At the Ivy North hide a water rail was calling and a group of 20 or so shoveler were feeding along the reed edge, I looked for bittern in the ice free areas in the reeds, but with no luck.
Then off to Fareham to talk waders, disturbance and how to fit lots of people into the same space as lots of birds without either losing out. These issues actually go to the heart of how successful we might be with the Living Landscapes approach which aims to maximise the opportunities for wildlife everywhere, not just on special sites. Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust does a lot of work on planning, responding to proposals and seeking a better outcome for wildlife. Although it may not seem obviously the case, influencing planning and development proposals may well achieve more for nature conservation than running nature reserves.
Then onto the birdseed cake, or at least what is left of it, a lot has already been handed out. The cake was made last Friday and pending the agreement the appropriate adjudicators should be accepted as the largest ever made at over 1.3 tonnes. Some will be featuring at the Woodland hide from tomorrow morning, so we will see it the birds are impressed.
I got back too late to see much but there were a couple of reports from the day, 2 Bewick's swan on Ibsley Water were presumably newly arrived and a green sandpiper on Rockford Lake was probably the one on Ivy Lake yesterday.
Lastly there was yet another wood mouse in the trap in the loft this morning, making five so far, I liberated it on the reserve, hopefully far enough away that it will not return.
Monday, 29 November 2010
Other signs of cold weather movement were 255 teal on Ivy Lake today and this evening at least 300 common gull coming into roost on Iblsey Water. At the same time the reduction in numbers of lesser black-backed gull coming to roost probably indicates that some have moved on.
Activity at the feeders has picked up with siskin and goldfinch regular on the nyger feeders and good numbers of chaffinch and a few brambling at the ground food.
Other birds today included a dunlin on Ibsley Water and a green sandpiper on Ivy Lake. The greylag were grazing the western shore of Ibsley Water and were joined by about 200 wigeon. This was especially pleasing to see as we spent a couple of days cutting this area to make it more suitable for grazing wildfowl back in the autumn.
Friday, 26 November 2010
There was a bit of late news from yesterday, a report of a great grey shrike on the path between Rockford and Ivy Lakes, it sounds as though it might have been on the reserve proper, but I cannot be sure. If it had been on the reserve it would have been another species for the BTO Challenge. Still towards the end of the day I popped into the Tern hide and there was a water pipit on the shore right in front of the hide, I should have got a reasonable picture of it, but just as I was about to take it a pied wagtail chased it off. Water pipit is an extra species for the challenge. Most water pipits winter along the coast where it is a bit milder, this one obviously likes things a bit cooler. As things continue to get colder over the next few days perhaps we will pick up one or two more extra species.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
This was not the only task we did though, one of the signs at the entrance that had been bent by over exuberant driving on someone's part was replaced and two trailer loads of willow were added to the dead hedge around the main car park.
The cold wind following the overnight frost made looking out from the Tern hide less than pleasant first thing, in the quick look that I had I saw a green sandpiper and 3 black-tailed godwit. At the Ivy North hide the sheltered shallow water at the edge of the lake was frozen for the first time this winter, a calling Cetti's warbler was the only bird of note. Around the Centre feeders a brambling and a few lesser redpoll in the trees were about it.
Rather impressively, considering the overnight temperature, there were two moths in the trap, a December moth and a sprawler, unfortunately it was late in the day when I checked the trap so the picture of the sprawler below was taken in rather low light.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Rockford Lake is the main wildfowl venue at present, it just seems to grow in importance as it matures, it is a much younger lake than the other large ones in the valley. The Rockford count highlights were 826 wigeon, 667 coot and 215 gadwall, there was no sign of the long-tailed duck though. A total of 170 pochard, although not huge was quite good for Blashford Lakes these days and we may get a few more if the weather gets colder.
Away from the water three brambling were feeding beside the Centre car park, including one quite fine male.
At dusk I went over to the Goosander hide to count the goosander coming into roost. Before the main arrival I also checked through the gulls, I saw about 15 yellow-legged gull but no sign of either Iceland gull or Caspian gull. I actually started at the Lapwing hide, but the goosander were flying into the bay by the Goosander hide so I relocated there. The arrival was steady and it became obvious that I was going to get a good few more than the 41 reported the other day. As numbers built some drifted round towards the Lapwing hide, as usual it was not possible to keep track of just how many. Eventually I counted eighty birds, plus the unknown few, a good count by any standards for November. A group of fallow deer does came out onto the shore, nine in all including a black one, a white one, a blonde one and six typical coloured. I checked the goosander again, now 86, including 18 adult drakes. Then a fox appeared on the shore walking from the north and that did the trick, the birds that had gone round the corner were doing the "Follow the fox" thing and there were ten of them. So the total was 96 goosander, including 20 adult drakes, an amazing count for November.
In other news a single adult Bewick's swan was by Ibsley bridge on the water meadows and I heard a chiffchaff near the Lapwing hide.
Monday, 22 November 2010
Now for today; from the Tern hide as I opened up there was a green sandpiper, a black-tailed godwit, 13 goosander (including 7 adult drakes) and 10 Egyptian goose. At the Ivy North hide a fine male bullfinch was in the willows beside the hide and a Cetti's warbler was singing loudly. Perhaps surprisingly there were also dunnock and song thrush singing as well as the usual robin and wren.
At the Centre 2 fallow deer does were a relatively unusual sight just behind the dipping pond, they do not often come south of Ellingham Drove. In the moth trap the catch was small but varied with brick, chestnut, scarce umber and red-line quaker.
Briefly by Rockford Lake, I could not see the long-tailed duck which seems to have left as it was not apparently seen over the weekend either. There were good numbers of wigeon, probably 300 or so and clearly more than a few days ago, I will be counting tomorrow so should have some figures to report then.
I spent a time this morning looking at the potential for making new ponds as part of the Million Pond Project. Our ponds will be of the ephemeral or semi-permanent kind, but then many of the rare species in the Avon Valley and New Forest live in just such places. One of the joys of working on a site that is mostly recently abandoned industrial land are the opportunities it offers for creating habitat features and experimenting a bit. Luckily much of the area that has become the reserve was not "over restored", we did not get deep layers of rich topsoil that promote the growth of rank grassland. A poor soil produces a much more diverse flora and so offers opportunities for more other wildlife, it will have some areas that are richer and some very poor, just what you need, variety. On the negative side we did inherit a lot of planted trees, often of dubious origin, but these can be thinned or converted to standing dead wood, more opportunities for wildlife.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
We have been using Longworth traps to catch our mice, they are humane traps which cause minimal discomfort to the animal. The trap consists of 2 parts; a nesting chamber filled with bedding and food (on the right of the photos) and a hinged door operated by a trip wire (on the left). These types of traps are used to survey for small mammals.
If you are interested in monitoring mammals then why not join the Trust's Mammal Group. There are also Species groups for amphibians, reptiles and plants. Find out more here. Membership is free to Wildlife Trust members. Join today!
Friday, 19 November 2010
The moth trap contained 14 December moth and single red-line quaker, yellow-line quaker and feathered thorn.
Between showers I blew the leaves off the paths and boardwalks, it is a bit of a never ending task but it pays to get them of before they are turned to mush by getting walked on. The tree that fell last week also got some attention, although it took a chainsaw rather than a blower to make an impact. We hope to keep the main body of the trunk as a feature beside the path, it really is a monster. The trimmed branches will make good mini-beasting logs and I also cut a couple of big sections as seats.
At the end of the day I locked up and put food out for the badgers. This has not always been necessary recently as on the frosty nights they have not been coming to take the food, I suspect they have not been venturing out at all.
The starlings were going to roost in the reeds beside Ivy Lake and in the laurel bushes at the main car park entrance the greenfinch roost now numbers well over a hundred birds.
Reports today included the long-tailed duck again on Rockford Lake and the adult Caspian gull on Ibsley Water, with the usual ten or so yellow-legged gull.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
The cloudy night did yield a few moths including a December moth, not actually the first of the year but the first that I have been able to get a picture of. They really are fabulously woolly looking for moths, but if you are a nocturnal insect that is going to fly in mid-winter it pays to try and keep warm.
The volunteers were working near the Goosander hide today, we finally managed to get the screen by the hide repaired, this is a task that needed a minimum of three people and so had to wait until today. The open area near the hide was also cleared of invading birch seedlings and we cut and pushed over a number of sallows on the approach path. The stems are cut about two-thirds of the way through so they will continue to grow. The objective here is to retain the bulk of the tree but get them to thicken up, in effect we were mimicking a line of wind-thrown trees. This should produce habitat for breeding birds while retaining the mix of branch sizes, so it should be better for a wider range of wildlife than coppicing. In the sunshine as we worked, we had a red admiral butterfly sunning itself beside the path, the first I have seen for some while.
In between times today I had my first group of redpoll, admittedly only four, but they were feeding in the birch trees and might get onto the feeders before too long. I have heard mistle thrush singing a few times this week, but today I also heard a song thrush, not for long, just a couple of minutes, but in full voice none the less.
The first chiffchaff of the winter was reported today, although it is often said that some of our birds stay for the winter there always seems to be a period of at least three to four weeks when we have none around. The autumn migrants are with us until mid to late October, then there are usually none until late November or even the start of December. The long-tailed duck was still on Rockford Lake today along with at least 64 mute swan.
I ate lunch in the Tern hide, birds were few but the first winter female peregrine flew over the lake and the bar-headed goose was with the greylag flock. I got a rather poor picture of it when I returned later in the day, the bird was closer but the light was almost gone.
Towards dusk the gull roost included at least 8 yellow-legged gull and the adult Caspian gull was seen near the Goosander hide, there were also 2 common gull, which are not at all common at Blashford.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Still I had to have a look and as I opened the Tern hide 3 shelduck were unexpected, although they promptly flew of high to the south. There were also 8 pintail, all ducks and very jumpy in the middle of the lake, behaving quite differently from the two drakes and a duck near the western shore, so I guess newly arrived. Otherwise 3 dunlin were the only things of note.
After this the rain really set in and I hardly got out all day, on the plus(?) side I did catch up with some of my paperwork. The visitors were few, six all day, but I could not blame people for staying at home.
The moth trap did have a few moths as it was at least not cold overnight. It contained "November" moth 1, mottled umber 1, scarce umber 1, yellow-lined quaker 3, red-lined quaker 2 and chestnut 1. The mouse trap in the loft caught another mouse which was released, hopefully far enough away from the building that it will not come straight back.
As I locked up there were about 3000 starling gyrating over Ivy lake, although they flew off to the south so I am not sure if they roosted in the reeds there or not.
Let's hope for better tomorrow, surely it cannot be worse?
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
At Blashford all the padlocks were frozen and I had to warm them up before they would open. The fog meant that I could see only 2 mallard from the Tern hide. Not much more from the others either, although I had good views of a water rail at the Ivy North and there was a calling Cetti's warbler there as well. Another Cetti's this time singing was at the Ivy silt pond, later I had yet another calling on the northern shore of Mockbeggar Lake.
The day brightened up and I blew the leaves from the paths, including the Rockford path, which gave me the chance to see if the long-tailed duck was still there, it was and in almost the same place as yesterday.
We have had mice in the loft recently and this morning there was one in the trap, a live trap I should add, when released, I realised it was a yellow-necked mouse. It had been very noisy up there and I have noticed that yellow-necks tend to be noisier than wood mice.
After lunch a visitor came into the Centre to report a fallen tree, I went to look and saw it was the massive fissured oak along the Ellingham path. I had been along there at the weekend but not since so I am not sure when it fell. It is often assumed that we walk all the paths everyday, sadly not the case, in fact I often don't get to the Lapwing hide every week. Jim and I went and cleared what we could, at least enough to allow people to walk past safely. Although the wood was not at all rotten the roots on one side of the tree had rotted right through. The top had several dead branches, but that it far from unusual in an old oak, they often just wear away as they get old, so it was quite a surprise that it had fallen.
At the end of the day the adult Caspian gull was with the roost on Ibsley Water, but all the gulls were outside up near the Lapwing hide so I could not see it from the Tern hide.
Monday, 15 November 2010
Whilst I was immersed in counting I heard what was probably a calling lesser spotted woodpecker, but I was not able to follow it up and I did not hear it again.
I did not get many other reports today, 28 goosander first thing as they were leaving the roost and about 10 yellow-legged gull at dusk being about the pick.
Sunday, 14 November 2010
It was a bit of a day for mammals, a party of fallow deer beside Ibsley Water included one quite fine buck. The north shore of the lake had a fox, as it often does. The least seen, if not rarest, sighting was of a stoat crossing Ellingham Drove.
Towards dusk the gulls gathered as usual and included at least 9 yellow-legged gull, 2 common gull and a 2nd winter gull that probably must have been a Caspian gull. It was the right shape, with the right plumage features, bill etc, but looked a little dark on the mantle. I think this was just because the light was fading, as all the other features looked right for Caspian and wrong for other species. It was not the bird of the same age seen by me the other day, as the bill pattern was certainly a little different. Oh, the joys of trying to identify gulls at the end of a dull day.
As it was getting really dark I was locking up the Ivy Lake hides, a Cetti's warbler was singing by the north hide and a water rail was calling. The reeds in the north-west part of the lake held a mass of chattering starling gone to roost.
A bit of late news from Friday was of a great northern diver on Ibsley Water in the morning.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Not a lot of wildlife to report today. A drake goldeneye on Ibsley Water was a new bird, I think, I am now certain that the group on Monday were migrants as there has been no sign of them since. At dusk the gulls were good an close to the Tern hide, but despite good views the most unusual birds were 3 common gull and 5 or 6 yellow-legged gull.
Tonight Blashford was on Autumnwatch, note I now have the name of the show right, it is all one "word", I'm afraid my posting of the time was also wrong as it actually started at 20:30, but you probably knew that if you watch the show. It concentrated on garden birds on the feeders, in fact there was one other sighting of note today, the first siskin on a feeder that I have seen this autumn.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
I set off for home and as I drove towards the bridge over the Dockens Water near Moyles Court there was an animal by the road, I am pretty sure it was an otter, but it disappeared into the bramble before I could really get a look. Even that was not quite the end of the day's wildlife, despite it being dark. Just south of Ringwood a barn owl flew low over the road, now that is a bird I could do with for Blashford.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
There are also all kinds of event planned for the fiftieth year, more on these can be found here. Some will be happening at Blashford and others may well be coming to a venue, perhaps quite and unexpected one, near you.