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.

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