Friday, 30 April 2010

Diamonds and Rings

Opened up the Tern hide to be greeted by a calling Little Ringed Plover just in front of the hide in the sunshine. This is the male that has replaced the ringed bird that was nesting there until the nest was predated. The two males have been competing for the space for some days and it seem the newcomer has triumphed, although it might be a hollow victory as he does not seem to have a mate. The only other bird of note was a single Arctic Tern flying about with the Common Terns.
The moth trap contained little that was new apart from the first migrants of the year in the form of 2 Diamond-backed Moths, these tiny moths are often one of the most abundant migrants, perhaps this is going to be a year for migrants, last year was one of the poorest for many years.
At the Ivy South hide I finally got a good look at the female Lesser Black-backed Gull, I could see it had a blue colour-ring but had not been able to read it. It turns out to have AP written on it in white, I think this is the same bird that was there in both of the last two years, but I will have to check the records to confirm this.
Woodpeckercam came back online today, I will get some captured images, but for now the picture below gives something of the flavour of what can been seen on the screen in the lobby of the Education Centre.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A Moth with an Identity Crisis?

The last couple of days have been pretty quiet for birds with almost no sign of any arrivals or birds passing through. There has been a good bit of activity though with the arrival of Compostcam and Woodpeckercam to add to Pondcam. I will post more about these later, hopefully with a link. For those that copied the address when I posted it earlier I have to apologise as it now seems to have failed following a power cut today.

Although quiet for birds another warm night was good for moths, highlights included a Herald, another species which has over-wintered as an adult, but this one looked amazingly fresh considering it is probably at least seven months old. The jagged outline of the wings no doubt helps to hide their outline from being recognised by predators during the long hibernation period. Another moth in the trap was a Small Engrailed, this moth is very like the Engrailed, in fact so alike are they that there are no really certain character for telling them apart and it has been suggested that they are not different species at all. You might ask why they could be thought separate species and the answer is in the time they fly. Engrailed moths have two broods, one in late winter and one in late summer, the Small Engrailed flies in mid-late spring, between the two broods of the Engrailed. It has been suggested that the one is just a single brooded form of the other, but if they stick to their timing the two populations will never meet to inter-breed so would be reproductively isolated giving them a fair claim to species status. The picture shows the moth to be not the most exciting to look at but a source of interest and perhaps even controversy for all that.
Having said there were few birds a White Wagtail on the shore of Ibsley water at lunchtime with a group of, presumably migrant, Pied Wagtails was of note. The Common Terns are competing for raft space with Canada Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull, hopefully they will arrive in force soon and see off these competitors before they get settled. On Ibsley Water the 5 Wigeon remain and are possibly here to stay now, as I locked up there was a fine drake Goosander, no doubt one of the birds that have taken up residence in the Avon Valley in recent years.
Being Thursday, it was volunteer day and twelve people turned out to fill potholes, tidy up the yard and do a variety of other tasks. As usual loads of work got done and the rain held off as it almost always seems to.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

New Openings and Moth Mysteries

The Blashford Badgers are very active at the moment with lots of new holes being opened up and old ones cleaned out, hopefully this mean there are lots of cubs and perhaps they will get easier to watch. the hole in the picture is a new one opened to the north of the main sett and not connected directly to it, the silty ground makes for easy digging.
The moth trap contained a few more species new for the year. A Pale Prominent was newly hatched but the two others were actually species that hibernate as adults and the moths would be something like seven months old now. The species were a Pale Pinion looking very fresh and pictured below, a local species of woodland and a Dotted Chestnut, which flew away before I could get a picture. This last is quite scarce and the larvae have rarely been found in the wild, those that have been found often seem to favour apple trees and possibly have an association with ants but this is still to be confirmed. Who says there is nothing left to discover?
Birds today were rather unremarkable, or at least much as yesterday. The most interesting exception was a Yellow Wagtail which flew over the Centre when we were eating lunch, sadly a record that does not count towards our BTO Business Challenge total. A singing Sedge Warbler at the Ivy North hide was certainly of interest as they are usually only in the reeds near the Lapwing hide.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Micro-miners and Chocolate-tip

Another warm day following on from another warm night and so one that was good for moths. As well as the usual more recognisable species there was one tiny moth that I did not recognise, actually I can't recognise many of these tiny ones. This one looked quite distinctive so I took a picture in the hope of being able to identify it later. Skipping quickly to later I can report that it seems, if I have it right, to be a species without a common name called Ericrania chrysolepidella the larvae of which feed by mining the leaves of Hazel, it is apparently quite scarce in Hampshire, but it also says "possibly overlooked", given how small it is this comes as no surprise at all.
Some of the other of last night moths included two rather fine Purple Thorn, these rest with their slightly curled wings slightly open.
There were also Great Prominent and another Chocolate-tip, this time I got a picture, yesterday's one flew off before I could snap it.
On Ibsley Water today, two summer plumage Dunlin were looking very fine as I opened up the Tern hide, although they were just about the only sign of any "new" birds. The Little Ringed Plovers were displaying noisily, a second male seems to be trying to muscle into the territory by the hide and it is leading to a lot of competitive flying and calling. A quick call into the hide to eat lunch gave me a chance to get a picture of one of 2 Common Sandpiper, for a change it was standing still making focusing a little easier.
Probably the most notable sighting was of at least 345 Herring Gulls, almost all first summers, they flew in from the south in the late morning, when I noticed them flying over the Centre.
In the afternoon I went over to Shaves Green to look at some proposed drainage works, although unplanned the wet and I mean really wet, woodland that has grown up there is a rather fine bit of habitat. There were Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Green-veined White butterflies flying about, all species that hatch out in spring as well as several of the hibernating species such as Comma and Peacock. Hopefully the work will achieve the improvements needed without losing the interesting habitat that has developed.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Songs, Pongs and Fronds

Twenty five of us met at 5 o'clock this morning for a Dawn Chorus walk, conditions were almost perfect with no wind and quite warm thanks to the cloud. The first bird, as it almost always is, was Robin, followed by Blackbird and Song Thrush, we also heard a late Tawny Owl and gradually all the other birds joined in. Blackcap and Chiffchaff, Great and Blue Tits, Wren and eventually the whole woodland was full of song. The peak passed quickly though as the light increases and many of the birds started to feed, only then did the Chaffinch start to sing, like all finches they are late to rise and early to roost.

Following on from the early start I decided to see how many bird species I could find on the reserve in the course of the day, of which more later. The warm night meant it was the best so far for moths with by far the greatest number of species so far and many new for the year such as Chocolate-tip, Waved Umber and Pebble Prominent. There were also several Frosted Green, including the unusually pale one in the picture. There were also several, very smelly, Burying Beetles.
The Pebble Prominent is very distinctive with the oval "pebble" mark on the ends of the wings.
Back to the bird-listing, in the end I finished with 76 species, not bad, but it could have been much better if there had been a few more migrants about. I did see 10 Whimbrel, including one on the shore of Ibsley Water right in front of the Tern hide, also my first Hobby of the year, over 100 Swifts, 3 Cuckoo, several Garden Warblers and at least 15 Common Terns including up to eight on the rafts on Ivy Lake. I reckon 70 is a good "par" score for the day at Blashford, so today's list was not bad, but over 80 is quite possible on a day with migrants passing through. The Hobby was actually pointed out to me by a Pochard, itself quite a good bird to see at this time of year, I was at the Goosander hide and saw the Pochard when it suddenly started looking up, usually a sign of a bird of prey overhead, so I looked up also and there was the Hobby.
The Goosander hide is also home to the Sand Martins and they were excavating vigorously and then had to preen the sand off their feathers allowing me to get the shot below.
One thing that did flow from my listing was that I walked right round all of the paths for the first time in ages. The various planted cherry trees are in full bloom now and quite spectacular in their way and popular with bees and hoverflies.
The blue carpets of Ground Ivy flowers also attract lots of bees and some flies, but mainly those with long tongues to reach deep into the flowers, one such is the hoverfly Rhingia campestris which was another first for the year.
Around the Woodland hide to Ivy North hide path the Badgers are very active just now with several new holes being dug out. Also in that area I took this picture of what looks like some fantastical grasping paw emerging from the earth (well I thought so anyway), it is, of course, a fern with the fronds just starting to unfurl.
Nesting update: The Mute Swans sit on by the path to the Ivy South hide, but the Song Thrush there has failed, whatever took the eggs ate them in the nest as there were tiny fragments of shell left behind. The Mallard up a tree is still sitting and nearby a Mistle Thrush is feeding young in the nest. At the Ivy North hide the two Coots are still sitting and the Great Crested Grebe is now incubating as well.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Dragons and a bad finish to the day

He famously slew dragons and although it may have been St Georges Day yesterday, and it was yesterday when the first dragons of the year were spotted on the reserve, it is this weekend that a lot of people are celebrating the patron saint of England – and today that I saw my first “dragon” of the year on the reserve. However, don’t run to the hills just yet, it was a dragon of the diminutive kind – actually a Large-red damselfly. Always the first of the dragonflies to emerge in the spring, this year they are actually quite late, as they are regularly seen in early April and are not unknown in late March. This particular specimen was in the willow scrub between Lapwing and Goosander Hides and had clearly only very recently emerged from the water it had spent its larval stage in as it was still “vestigial”, that is to say, it’s wings were still very “milky” in colour rather than the clear wings that they will develop into over the course of a couple of days.

Sadly it had flown away before I had managed to get a picture of it, but I did manage to snap this large Grass snake I saw from Goosander Hide as it swam from one corner of the Sand martin bank to the other. I was a little surprised to see it, not so much because it was in the water (they specialise in preying upon amphibians and spend a lot of time in and around water, are excellent swimmers and are even known to be able to hold their breath for up to 30 minutes), but rather because of the time of the year and the fact that the water temperature must still be quite cold.

Elsewhere this morning, a Peregrine was flying over Ibsley Water when I opened up this morning, there was a pair of Dunlin seen from Tern Hide, the Sand martins were of course very much in evidence and as spectacular as ever, I heard my first Cuckoo of the year (one heard calling near Mockbeggar Lake, and another near Ivy Lake, so possibly there were two calling on the reserve) and both Reed and Sedge warblers could be heard singing from reed and scrub around Ibsley / Mockbeggar Lakes and Ivy Lake today.

Regretably a lovely day was finished on a bitter note as I was unable to leave work in time to set off for a couple of nights away with my family as I had planned. Having hunteded high and low for over an hour in a fruitless search for the owner of a car that remained in the car park after the 4.30pm closing time, I took the difficult decision to leave, locking the car in the car park behind me with an appologetic note tucked under the windscreen. On a number of occasions all of the staff have come very close to doing the same thing, but we have always had the flexibility to hang around and let visitors out when they eventually turn up. Unfortunately I was unable to on this occasion so I very much hope that they were able to get home without too much trouble. The gates aren't always closed at 4.30pm on the dot, but visitors should always ensure that they are in the vicinity of the car park by that time so that they are not inconvenienced in the way that the unfortunate visitor/s today were - if we know where you are we can let you know it is time to go, but as I discovered yet again today, finding someone in a 500 acre wildlife reserve is like trying to find a needle in a haystack otherwise.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Spring Firsts and Swift Wonders

Yet another "Butterfly day", or perhaps a Damselfly Day, as the first Large Red Damsels of the year were reported today, somewhat later than usual, but the winter was a good bit colder. Orange Tips were about in good numbers and a further "first" was a Speckled Wood. As I checked the moth trap a party of Swifts were screaming overhead, a real sound of summer, in about three months most of them will be off south again, so something to enjoy while you can. Swifts are one of the marvels of our world, they live almost totally aerial life, even sleeping and mating on the wing, to watch them for a prolonged time is one of the real transporting pleasures of summer.

To return to the moths, the trap contained the usual scatter of Common Quaker, Small Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab, along with two more new species for the year; Powdered Quaker and a Lesser Swallow Prominent, the last pictured below.
On Ibsley Water today there were: 2+ Common Sandpiper, a Dunlin, 3 Common Tern although I could not find yesterday's Goldeneye. The pair of Oystercatcher that have been hanging around the south end of the lake seem finally to have selected a nest site on the small shingle island to the east of the hide. A feature of the lakes just now is the really large number of Tufted Duck that are still around, it will be interesting to see if we have more breeding pairs than usual this year. The pairs in the picture were part of a noisy group outside the Tern hide this morning.
Most of the Black-headed Gulls are settled on the main island in Ibsley Water now, at this time of year they are really smart birds, so I make no apology for including yet another picture, I especially liked the reflections on the underside of this bird.
Nesting update: The Blackbird nest I was following is now empty, I am not sure what the culprit was but the nest was well inside a thick bramble so it was something quite small and agile. The Song Thrush sits on though as does the Mallard up a tree and the Mute Swan. The Great Crested Grebe nest outside the Ivy North hide now has a sitting birds as well. I also saw my first brood of Mallard today as well as a family of Greylag, although the last were a week or so old.
Another year careers along, I wonder will we get a "Black Tern Day" this year? If we do it could be in the next few days, perhaps even tomorrow. If it is tomorrow I will miss it, just like I did the Little Gull day, but then again I will be from dawn on Sunday and who knows what there might be then, a fine spring dawn is always a rare treat.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Out to Impress in the Sun

Another fine day and with the wind a bit more favourable a few migrants had arrived with a party of about 10 Swift noisily circling for much of the morning, at least 3 Common Sandpiper and 2 Common Tern on Iblsey Water and the first Garden Warbler. A Cuckoo was calling again around Ivy Lake and, as reminders of the winter there was still a duck Goldeneye, 3 Wigeon and a few Goosander all on Ibsley Water.

Most species are getting on with trying to breed now, many of the Black-headed Gulls are settled on their island on Ibsley Water but some are still out to impress potential mates, the male below was trying very hard with lots of tail fanning, wing-dropping and calling.
The potential partner he was attempting to impress was a first year bird and the picture below shows how much larger male gulls are than their mates.
Although the Little Ringed Plovers have lost their eggs the pair is still present and they too were displaying and will probably make another attempt soon. The picture shows the female, her throat is slightly puffed out as she was calling gently.
The Thursday volunteers were in today and gave the Centre a spring wash-down and filled in some of the potholes in the track, it is amazing what fourteen people can do in a couple of hours. It left me free to spend most of the afternoon answering the emails and phone calls that had stacked up as I had not been at Blashford for almost a week. Oh, the wonders of the outdoor life!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Nest Watch

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers are busy excavating a hole in one of the trees by the woodland hide. As you go into the hide, straight ahead there are 2 dead trees. Their hole is in the dead tree on the right and is situated on the left side of the trunk, a couple of metres above the nest box. You can't see the hole from the hide but you do get a good view when they stick their head out the tree! Alternatively the hole can be seen off the footpath between Ivy North hide and the Woodland hide. There is a lot of woodpecker activity in this area which earlier this morning included a standoff between 2 males whilst the female sat watching from the hole in the tree!
Nest update: The Song thrush is still sitting on 3 eggs.
The 'witches broom' birch tree, on the righthand side as you drive in on the entrance drive, continues to be one of my favourite places at the moment with the high level of activity occurring within and around it.
The Mallard continues to sit on her nest, it is quite easy to spot as it is in the witches broom covered in fluffy feathers! In the vicinity of the duck, on the right side of the tree round the back a bit, I have also spotted a pair of Goldcrests building a nest, they can be seen taking big mouthfuls of moss over to their nest. At the top of this tree a Great Spotted Woodpecker has been excavating a hole and is regularly heard drumming nearby.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Blashford Blues

Spring has well and truly sprung over the weekend with new blooms and tree leaf buds bursting through the reserve giving the wooded areas a fresh new look and Blackcap song is very prominent all around the woodland areas of the reserve around the centre. Early spring is very much a "yellow" time of the year, at Blashford - with Coltsfoot, Wild Daffodils, Celandines and Willow catkins all very prominent. Now, in mid April, the daffodils are pretty much over and we are starting to move into the "blue" season - although the Bluebells are not quite there yet the Dog Violets and Ground Ivy are now providing a beautiful carpet of colour besides the wooded paths, as well as a good supply of nectar for the butterflies, bees and other insects that are making the most of the warmer weather.

Flowering now, but easily over-looked, are the dimunitive and understated green flowers of Moschatel. Close inspection reveals the cube like arrangement of the flowers that gives it its alternate name of "Town Hall Clock".

Also enjoying the spring sunshine are the Grass snakes that can be seen throughout the reserve - you may see one by lifting one of the sheets of tin that have been left out with that in mind, but with the reserve so much busier now than a couple of years ago it is no longer a guarrantee. They do appreciate the "dead hedged" piles of cut wood that line the paths and provide them with shelter from the cooling wind as well as cover to retreat back into if disturbed. I saw a beautiful large (presumably female) Grass snake in the willow scrub between Goosander and Lapwing Hides this morning. As lovely as she was I was disapointed not to see the Adders that I was actually looking for and that we know are fairly common in that part of the reserve.

If Blackcap song dominates to the south of the reserve it is the descending song of Willow warbler that dominates throughout the willow/reed scrub to the north of the reserve, competing with Chiff-chaff, Reed-bunting and Reed warbler. Not even the Willow warbler could compete with the constant chatter of the Sand martins though and it is the swirling constant flight of the Sand martins around Goosander Hide and feeding over head that remains as probably Blashfords most spectacular sight at the moment.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Peregrine and Plovers

It's been another relatively busy, warm sunny day. The cuckoo was heard again today, the first of the year for many visitors. Butterflies seen fluttering around included peacock, comma and brimstone and a Green-veined white was seen along the path between Dockens Water and Ellingham Lake.

The peak of activity came today when a Peregrine falcon was seen hunting a pigeon over the silt pond, this dramatic event was seen by a couple who were by the lake at the time on the look out for kingfishers. Sadly the falcon was disturbed and so has abandoned its kill on the path between the Woodland hide and Ivy South Hide. Unfortuantely the bird was a racing pigeon and the owners have been informed.

Nest update: Unfortunately it looks like the Little Ringed Plovers have lost their eggs. Yesturday the Little Ringed Plover was sitting in the scrape and visitors were able to count 4 eggs, but today the Little Ringed Plover is back down by the water's edge with no sign of the eggs.

Underwater Architects

On my way round to unlock Ivy South hide this morning I spotted what looked like lots of sticks moving around in the water by the bridge (see photo below).
On closer inspection I realised they were Cased Caddisfly larva. They are well worth a look and there are so many you can't miss them! Cased Caddisfly larva make themselves fantastic homes to live in made out of materials they find in their habitat (leaves, sticks, sand and gravel) which they stick together using silk threads. Different species make different cases. The case acts as ballast, keeping the larvae on the bottom and it also acts as protection. Cased Cadisfly larva are herbivores and feed on algae - which there is a lot of on the concrete by the bridge! (see above photo).
This photo shows two caddisfly larvae facing each other and shows how unique each home is! You can see the top one's head and legs coming out the front of its case. Caddisflies spend the majority of their life living an aquatic life as a larva before emerging as a Caddisfly (a moth-like insect) to breed and then die.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Several "Firsts" and a Fish Hawk

More spring-like again today with a number of "new for the year" sightings. The Wild Daffodils are almost over, but the Moschatel is in full flower and the Bluebells will not be long now. As indication of the lateness of the season the Blackthorn is only just at peak of flowering, it is sometimes well over by this time. The picture is of a bush on the car park near the Centre.
Although the season is late the recent good weather is allowing some things to catch up, today saw our first Orange Tip and several of the spring hoverflies are now flying in good numbers. The Willow pollards are all sprouting and most of the catkins are falling. The picture shows one of the newly cut pollards near the Centre and it has lots of new shoots that should make ideal wands for weaving when cut next winter.
The rapid drying out that has happened recently has seen the lichens on the heath dry to a crisp. This is a remarkable bit of habitat, with great complexity and structure, just at a very small scale. The view below has tall fruiting mosses and thickets of lichen, none of it more than about 5cm high.
The day's birds were several and of some interest. A White Wagtail near the Tern hide as I opened up was followed later by the return, I assume it is the same bird, of the drake Scaup seen about a week ago to Ibsley Water. A group of 8 Common Terns were seen there in late morning and at lunchtime a single Whimbrel, the first this year. Another first was a Swift reported from one of the lakes to the south, a good early date. Finally as I went to lock up the Tern hide an Osprey was flying slowly east along the northern edge of Ibsley Water being mobbed by assorted Rooks and Jackdaws. For a day when I was mostly fencing and generally not looking at or for birds, I did rather well.
Nest update: The Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing are still sitting on eggs near the Tern hide. The "Duck up a tree" is till sitting as are all three Coots and the Mute Swan around Ivy Lake and the Song Thrush nest now has three eggs. So far all the nests I have been keeping an eye on are doing fine, but there is still a long way to go.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Martins, Morels and a Monster Larva

I was impressed with the number of Sand Martin coming into the bank at Goosander hide yesterday, so I thought I would go back and try to get a few pictures as the light was so good today. Impossible to get the full effect but I did get a few shots of groups coming into the bank, one of the best is below. Some have probably finished their tunnelling as some birds were arriving with nesting material. They might be "only" Sand Martins but it is a great spectacle, something to just sit back and take in, they are often passing within a metre or so of the windows, a really magical experience. It does seem to be best in the morning though, with much less activity after midday.
It was a day of few birds, the winter finches seem to have gone now and there were no new migrants around. It was not without interest though, one notable find was a False Morel fungus growing beside the path to the Ivy North hide, quite some way from where I have seen them before. The occurrence of this species on the reserve is something of a puzzle as they are usually found under pines, but all of ours are nowhere near any pines. It is a very strange fungus with a brain like fruiting body on a short white stem, although that cannot be seen in this picture.
One of the odd-jobs I did today was a sample of invertebrates in the Dockens Water, it had the usual mix that confirm good water quality, lots of freshwater shrimp, mayfly larvae and stonefly larvae. I did turn up one large larva that I failed to identify though, it was really big with anchor-like hooks on the rear end. Whatever it is the larva of it must be a pretty big insect.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The First Cuckoo (almost)

It seems the day to be at Blashford this weekend was Saturday, yesterday there were something like 20 Little Gull through Ibsley Water, also the first Cuckoo of the year. For all that today was not bad, the Cuckoo was again about as was the first Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler of the year. But in many ways it was the regular caste that were the stars.

The Sand Martins were great value, about a hundred were flying into the holes and collecting nesting material on the bank below the hide. In between bouts of nest digging they were resting and preening on the branches in the water.
Whilst at the Goosander hide watching the martins we had a distant view of the Great White Egret flying over Ibsley village, probably going to Ibsley North lake. Other birds on Ibsley Water today were at least 11 Goosander, at least 8 Goldeneye and 2 Common Sandpiper. The Little Ringed Plovers are now well settled by the Tern hide although I saw no sign of the Ringed Plover today.

Around the Centre a Brambling was calling as I arrived and I saw one or two Siskin, but no Redpoll, so it looks like the finches have largely gone. Good numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and a few Willow Warbler were much in evidence as were Collared Dove. Only a couple of years ago they were very irregular here, I expect it has been the feeders that have attracted them in and cause them to stay, it would be good if they would do the same for House Sparrow.
Other birds today included several small parties of Stock Dove flying over going north, several House Martin over Rockford Lake and a report of a Red Kite.
All the nests I am monitoring are still going strong and a Song Thrush was added to the list today with one egg having appeared in the nest I found newly lined with mud on Thursday.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A Day Afloat and a Flutter

A really fabulous day, warm, sunny and with very light winds, ideal for going out on the water. It was also Thursday and so volunteer day and early April, the perfect task then was to put out the tern rafts. We must be getting better at this because they all got into the water, covered with shells and chick-shelters and towed out and moored in just about two hours. In addition I had remembered to charge up the battery for the electric outboard and we did not forget any vital tools. All we need now are some terns and to hope that the rafts do not get occupied by either gulls or Canada Geese.

At the start of the day I saw the Grey Heron below on my way to the Ivy South hide, it was looking fine in the sunshine, but I particularly liked this picture in which it is showing off advanced balancing abilities, unlike a Little Egret that I once saw fall off a branch into a river.
On Ibsley Water today there were 3 Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper and at least 3 male White Wagtails. There are also still some Goosander and Goldeneye, including several drakes.
One of the Common Sandpipers, it was looking up at something, but I could not see what.
The real feature of the day was the warm sunshine, it brought out Grass Snakes and butterflies in numbers. I saw a Red Admiral even before 8 o'clock and later Peacock, Brimstone, Comma and several Small Tortoiseshell including the pair in the picture. Small Tortoiseshell sued to be one of the really common species that everybody knew, but not so in recent years when they have been decidedly scarce, perhaps they have turned the corner and will go back to their former status.
The Peacock and Comma below were taken basking on the track to the Ivy South hid eat the end of the day. Both were standing on "tip-toe" to catch the sun, hence the large shadows. The Peacock also shows evidence of something having attacked the eye-spot on the left hind-wing.
The Comma was actually my first of the year, but today was the first day that I have really seen butterflies in any numbers. I still have not seen any species that hatch from pupae in the spring, all the five species today were ones that hibernate, but I expect there will be Holly Blue out within a day or so now if the temperature stays as high as it was today.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Duck on High

A slightly better day than yesterday, although it took a long time for the sun to come out and the wind never let up. The wind was probably responsible for what was probably the best bird of the day, a first summer Little Gull on Ibsley Water. There have been several recently and all have come in during the day in brisk south-west winds. I think this one was a new one as it had only a couple of black tail feathers remaining unmoulted.

I spent a little time today looking for nests as part of the BTO's nest record scheme, nests I checked were 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Coot, a Mute Swan, a Blackbird and a Mallard. The Long-tailed Tits were both still building, the Coots and Mute Swan sitting on eggs and the Blackbird laid the first egg during the day, unusual this as they typically seem to lay in the early morning.
The Mallard above has been sitting since at least the middle of last week when I first saw the nest. It is a little unusual though, the nest is in a tree, not that unusual perhaps but this is in a "Witches Broom" on a side branch of a birch tree, in the picture below it is towards the top in the middle and is about 6m off the ground.
Other birds today were about 20 Black-tailed Godwit, up to 100 Sand Martin visiting the nest holes, several Willow Warbler singing in various places, a report of a Hobby, a White Wagtail, a couple of Lesser Redpoll and about 20 Brambling. At the end of the day I saw 8 Brambling at the Woodland hide and all were without rings, as some have been ringed on the reserve recently this might suggest that there are some new birds passing through on passage.

No updates from me for a couple of days as I am off to eat Easter eggs and paint the hallway as an alternative cold cure, paint fumes and chocolate, bound to have some effect.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A Roe on the Water (No boat needed)

Easter, but also the first Sunday of the month and so volunteer day, four people turned out and we had a significant job to do. A hole and I mean a hole, the kind you could drop down into, had opened up at the side of the path beside the Dockens Water. It took four trailer loads of stone to fill it and I am still not sure how it got there in the first place, although I suspect the river water has got in somewhere to scour out the earth, although it is not clear where.

During the afternoon I went over to the Tern hide, the usual Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Lapwing were there, but nothing unusual, until a Roe Deer came into view swimming from left to right in front of the hide. I suspect it had been spooked from near the roadside and jumped into the lake in panic. However they swim well and it quite quickly made it to the long shingle bank to the east of the hide and ran off.
Birds of note were generally few, a Red Kite and a Hen Harrier were reported and I finally caught up with a Willow Warbler. The Woodland still has some Brambling and Redpoll but numbers of birds at the feeders are dropping fast.

A number of flowers are out now, as well as the Wild Daffodils, Common Celandine and Moschatel are to be seen along the Dockens Water woodland. On the edge of the Lichen Heath the tiny white flowers of Common Whitlowgrass dot the ground
The minute white flowers of Common Whitlowgrass, the whole plant is only about 3cm high!

Moschatel, or Town hall Clock, the flower heads are four-sided with another on top.

The brilliant yellow flowers of Celandine open in bright sunshine.
I was hoping to be reporting on moths tomorrow, I put the trap out, but when I was travelling home I realised I had forgotten to put it on, so no moths. Serves me right for trying to make plans.