Sunday, 30 May 2010

Badger Badger Badger

After reading Bob's entry to the blog I decided to tune in to badgercam to watch for some badger action! I was a little bit later and didn't tune in until 21:20 when the camera had gone to black and white. But sure enough after less than a minute I spotted a badger! It was backing out of the sett through the nettles, dragging soil/bedding out with it. The badger kept this activity up for about 5 minutes, disappearing for a while before re emerging bottom first. It then ran down the track towards the camera and into the nettles. The badger was then joined by 2 other badgers and they snuffled around in the mud. Sadly it got too dark to watch any further. I think I'm hooked now - will definitely be tuning in tomorrow evening! mms://


It was another lovely sunny day at Blashford Lakes. The clouds of damselflies continue to astound me and when I checked the pond behind the centre for dragonflies there were atleast 27 exuviae (dragonfly nymph skins) on the plants around the edge. There was also an Emperor Dragonfly still drying out by the side of the pond. Another noticeable insect was the fascinating Scorpion fly which could be seen along the path from the centre car park to Ivy North Hide.

The awww factor has to go to this chap who was spotted by some visitors sitting just a couple of metres of the path. The photo is taken from the path and you can really see how well camouflaged they are, I walked past it 2 times before finally spotting it!

I apologise my photo's do not do it justice! But if you have really good eyes you may have been able to pick out a very small Roe deer fawn in the centre of the photo.

The visitors who spotted this youngster had seen the mother leave it there, and she wasn't too far away. But I was very surprised to see just how close to the path she had left it. Definitely the highlight of the day!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Blashford Brocks

I was not at Blashford today, but the wonders of the internet still allowed me to see some Blashford wildlife. I decided to check out the webcam, it is now looking at the badger sett and I was interested to see what, if anything there was to see.

I turned on at 20:50 and just before 21:00, when it was still light I saw a Badger out in front of the camera sniffing the air for about a minute before it headed off into the nettles. A great view and still in more or less broad daylight. At about 21:15 the light came on and the camera switched to a more or less black and white view, after another ten minutes or so another badger, then a another and then yet another. Finally the picture got too dim around 21:40 and I gave up. In fact the image taken by the camera is fine if watched as it comes into the Centre but the internet connection cannot cope with the poorer quality.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Look to the Skies

A quiet morning, the only thing of note when I opened the Tern hide were 2 Dunlin, both quite long-billed birds in contrast to the one I posted a picture of the other day. I then spent some time trimming paths and in the process saw my first Dingy Skippers of the year in the grassier parts of the Lichen Heath north of the Ivy North hide.

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers on "Woodpeckercam" will probably be flying before I return to Blashford, in fact they may do so tomorrow. The young are being fed regularly, the female often bringing in beakfuls of damselflies, held almost puffin-fashion in the beak. Most seem to be newly emerged ones, an easy, if rather unusual food source for a woodpecker I would have thought.

I ate my lunch in the Tern hide, following yesterday's success with a kite I searched the skies, a single Hobby was all I could find. Then the gulls all flew up, clearly they had seen something I had not, then I saw it, a Red Kite, possibly the same bird as yesterday, drifted over, almost over the hide and away, I think to the east. I was uncertain as I was distracted by another large bird overhead, this time an Osprey. The local Buzzards got up and dive-bombed it repeatedly as it too drifted east. Below is another in my increasing collection of very poor pictures of rather good wildlife.
Once again the moth trap was quite interesting, or at least the contents were, the highlights were 2 Pale Oak Beauties, these are amongst the largest moths with the "looper" type caterpillars.

Better late than never!

The St Georges Mushroom pictured above has sprung up in it's usual place just off from the path between the Centre and Woodland Hide. It gets it's name from the fact that it usually fruits on or around St Georges Day - the unseasonably dry April clearly prevented this from happening and it has instead arrived a month "late" at the end of May. Conditions are still far from ideal, despite a drop of rain on Thursday morning, so rather than forming the usual ring formation at the moment there are just three to be seen - two pictured here.

I was also pleased to find this flowering Twayblade orchid (literally "two leaves", referring to the distinctive fleshy leaves) between the Ivy North Hide and Woodland Hide, again, just off the path. A quick search revealed another three plants nearby, without there flower spike, which, sadly, is all we often seem to manage in this particular spot at Blashford, as the flowers seem to be very vulnerable to grazing. I'm not sure if it is mammals or molluscs that does for them normally, and I'm non-the-wiser for finding this one (due to myxomatosis the rabbit population at Blashford is relatively low at the moment and due to the afore-mentioned dry weather slugs and snails are not going to be particularly active either). Not one of our most colourful flowering plants, but close inspection when the flowers have opened does reveal a certain beauty for all their green-ness!
Woodpecker-cam is nicely busy now with some very active chicks regularly poking their red-capped heads out of the holes and shouting at their poor harassed parents to bring them more food - there is now a working microphone in place piping their shouts (and apparently my voice when I'm out teaching in the adjacent woodland!) into the lobby. The camera has afforded some interesting glimpses of the food that the adults are bringing to their young, which seems to consist largely of damselflies - not surprising perhaps if you have visited the reserve this week and enjoyed the sight of hundreds of damselflies, largely Common Blue, rising up around you as you walk along the paths through the reserve. If you haven't found it already there is now a link straight to the web cam from the Blashford Lakes pages of the Trust web site - - when our technology is behaving itself!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Red Overhead

Once again Thursday rolls around and the volunteer "crew" were in doing various jobs around the reserve. The main task was getting things ready for putting up the new rabbit fencing around Millennium Meadow. This involves digging out a ditch at the base of the fence line to put a return of wire under ground to prevent the bunnies tunnelling in. There was such a good turn out that we were also able to get the paths trimmed where the overnight rain had bent branches down and put in two new badger feeding stations.

There was rather little to report on the wildlife front apart from a fly-over Red Kite around lunchtime which disappeared in the direction of the New Forest trailed by a Buzzard. At least 2 Hobby were catching insects over the trees, at times right above the Centre. At the Tern hide the Pied Wagtails newly fledged earlier are now making their own way, the creamy yellow of their faces making some question if they are really Pied Wagtails. Of course they are and this yellowish tint is typical of very young ones and slowly fades as the summer goes on. The picture shows one of the three preening on the perch outside the hide.
The moth trap was once again quite productive with the highlight being an Alder Moth, but with supporting caste including Vine's Rustic, Iron Prominent and Pale Oak Beauty.
In late news I heard today of 2 Sanderling seen on Tuesday and a Greenshank yesterday, so a few more migrant waders, although this has still been the worst spring in the four years I have been at Blashford for passage birds.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Black Day

The last few days of warmth have resulted in a big increase in moth catches. Over the last couple of nights we have caught Lime, Eyed and Poplar Hawk-moths, all new for the year as were Orange Footman, Maiden's Blush, Buff Tip and a number of others. Not all of the insects attracted to the trap are moths and last night's catch included several mayflies, including several like the one in the picture, with darkened wing-tips.
There was one notable bird sighting today, a Black Tern, just when I had given up all hope that we would see one this spring. It spent the day catching insects over Ibsley Water looking as splendid as they always do in breeding plumage, with the velvet black of the underbody contrasting with the white under-tail coverts. Other birds included Hobby and the drake Teal also on Ibsley Water. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers on "Woodpeckercam" are growing fast and now to be seen at the nest hole when the adults come in with food.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Goodbye Hobby

Arrived to open the Tern hide to find a Hobby sitting on the stony track east of the hide, no sooner had I got the scope on it than it was chased off by a Magpie. Two Jackdaws then joined the chase which headed off over the Lake. I got one of my "best" worst pictures of the start of events, it is just about possible to make out which bird is which, I hope.
More heat today brought out more dragon and damselflies, I saw Broad-bodied Chaser, several Downy Emerald and a Hairy Dragonfly and lots of damsels including quite a few Beautiful Demoiselle, most like the one in the picture not quite fully coloured yet. There are literally hundreds of Common Blue Damsels out now and with them a few Azure Damsels. At the Ivy South hide the reeds and branches near the shore are packed with masses of shed larval skins and dozens of Red-eyed Damsels are patrolling the lake.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Buzzing Blashford

With the temperature today reaching 24 or more degrees summer seems to arrived. Certainly a lot of birds are now at the point where their broods are leaving the nest, Great Tits especially are fledging all over the place. Our Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the screen in the lobby still have a little way to go, but the ones in the birch near the first car park are now almost ready to fly. The picture shows the female. The heat has also brought out the Grass Snakes, the one in the picture was crossing the track next to the woodpecker nest and I jumped out of the car and managed to snap it before it got over the bank.
The most obvious effect of the higher temperatures is on the insects, they need the warmth to get active and over the last few days they have certainly responded. Damselflies have been hatching in numbers, around the Ivy South hide there are exuvae all over the trees out in the lake and even on the sides of the hide, the picture is of one on the hide door.
Today I saw Common Blue Damsels in quantity, as well as a range of other species including Azure, Blue-tailed, Large Red-eyed, Large Red and Beautiful Demoiselle. I only saw two dragonfly species though, these being a single Hairy and a few Downy Emeralds.

A lot of other insects were also in evidence including my first Common Blue of the year and there are still quite a few Peacocks and Brimstones around, these are really getting on now, they might almost ten months old now. Hoverflies are also increasing after a dip in numbers with the unseasonal frosts we had a couple of weeks ago. the picture is of one of the larger species, Eristalis horticola, this is also one that will hibernate as an adult in a similar way to some of our butterflies.
Over many years I have tried to look at a different group of creatures each year, it certainly won't make me an expert but it does make for a passing idea of the commoner species. My one requirement has been that here is a good identification guide. I have long wanted to try some beetles and the arrival of a new edition of the Ground Beetles of Britain and Ireland in 2007 from Royal Entomological Society gave a chance to have a go at these often large and interesting beetles. On Friday I had a look for some species in an area of wet woodland and one of the species I found is in the picture below, I think it is Elaphrus riparius.
Birds were few today, the only "new" one being a drake Teal which appeared on Ibsley Water, where the duck Pintail and 5 Wigeon are still present. On Ivy Lake several of the Common Tern are now sitting and I think there are probably seventeen pairs using the rafts. The Mute Swan pair still have their three cygnets but I could not see the Little Grebe family today.
Best bird of the day was a singing Whitethroat, ok not a rarity and common enough generally, but this was my first ever singing one at Blashford and my first this year on the reserve, they usually only get seen in the autumn.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


Visitors at Blashford today had to trek their way through drifts of snow! Of course they weren't real snow drifts at all but drifts made from millions of tiny seeds from the Willow trees which had been released into the air. The seeds are supported by white fluff, helping them to catch the breeze and take flight. As it is so still the air has been filled with these seeds all day. They have been floating around before settling on mass to produce quite a spectacle.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ah and Bluebells

A bit short of time so just a quick update, the Little Grebes at the Ivy South hide have had chicks for a few days now, each parent takes one or more to look after. The picture below was specially selected for its "Ah" rating.
Other birds in the last couple of days included the duck Pintail and Wigeon still on Ibsley Water and 3 Goosander which flew in as I was after poaching anglers at dusk. Today two Dunlin and a Wheatear were the highlights. the Wheatear sounded like it was a male Greenland race, but I never actually saw it. The best I could do was a quick pic of one of the Dunlin.
Out in the woods the Bluebells are looking good and a bit of warmth today has brought out more damselflies and butterflies.
Hopefully a bit more tomorrow if I get time.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Some Moths, Some Bats and No Badgers

On Friday night we ran a (slightly early as it was really Saturday) National Moth Night event. The target was moths and bats, the latter have declined, probably because night-flying insects seem to have got scarcer, certainly many moth species have.

We started by trying to see the Badgers feeding at the Woodland hide, unfortunately the Badgers were true to form, at least when I try to see them and did not show up. As it got dark we set five moth traps running and tried a very speculative couple of goes at "sugaring". The bat detectors started clicking and slapping as the Pipistrelle bats came out to feed, they particularly liked feeding over the moth traps.

The night was calm which was good, but the sky cleared, so the temperature dropped, which was not so good. An ideal night for "mothing" is calm, moonless, cloudy and warm, perfect nights are those muggy ones when sleep is difficult, then the moths will fly for long periods and so are more likely to come within range of the trap.

As well as moths the lights attract caddis-flies, beetles, wasps (especially parasitic ones) and lots of tiny flies. The complete list of moths caught on the night, some of which were only found when we opened up the two traps run overnight, was as follows:
Clouded Border, Common Wave, Common White Wave, May Highflyer, Red-green Carpet, White Ermine, Muslin Moth, Clouded Drab, Nut-tree Tussock, Flame Shoulder, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Pebble Prominent, Pale Prominent, Lesser swallow Prominent, Least Black Arches and an unidentified Pug species.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Day of Displays and a Lump of Concrete

I opened the Tern hide on a near perfect scene, the lake calm and the sun shining. Close to the hide two pairs of Great Crested Grebe were having a dispute, with a lot of calling and heads held low over the water in threat display. Until I took the picture below I had not realised what a sharp angle they can get into their neck, the dip down behind the head looks like an angle that should not be possible.
In between each bout of threats between the pairs each pair engaged in short displays as pairs, neither had any weed to truly "danced" but they looked very fine in the sunshine and the whole effect was enhanced by the reflections.
Other birds on the lake were little changed from yesterday, the Pochard, Wigeon and Pintail are all still there. A single Common Sandpiper was the only non-breeding wader. During the afternoon the Little Ringed Plover were displaying vigorously right in front of the hide and only about half way to the shore, I cannot think I will ever see them better.
It was Thursday so the volunteers were in and as usual a load of work got done. Two new sign boards were put in and one was taken out. What I did not know when the job started, but was discovered soon enough, was that the sign taken out had a huge lump of concrete on the bottom of it.
A sure sign that summer is coming is that we started pulling Himalayan Balsam seedlings. This invader came here via gardens from India and has escaped and is often dominant along streams and in marshes, much to the detriment of many native species. The flooding we had in the winter managed to deposit seeds in places way above the usual levels and April's warmth seems to have resulted in good germination. The seedlings can grow from a few inches now to be six or eight feet high by late summer.We also all managed to see the Fox cubs near the store at the start of the day, one of them was constantly head shaking, for no obvious reason, but it did look very odd.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

New Life and a Black Ending

I had a surprise when I was walking to the Ivy north hide this morning, just after I had passed the store I noticed a movement just off the path and there were three Fox cubs sunning themselves, I then realised that the holes there must be the earth. I am not quite sure how I had failed to realise this earlier as they could hardly be more obvious. I did take a picture but it was so bad that even I will not post it.

Instead I post a picture of one of a pair of nest building Treecreeper high up in a dead Oak along the Dockens Water path, at first I had thought they were feeding young but then saw that what they were taking in was not food at all.
As today was the nearest thing to a decent May day that we have had so far I had a short search for some of the spring insects that should be out by now. Along the way I saw four species of damselflies including my first Azure Damsel and Blue-tailed Damsel this year. The picture is of the Blue-tailed.
In the same area as the damsel I came across the little jumping spider below, it had just caught a fly. The huge forward pointing eyes can be seen in the picture, these are important for the judging of distance crucial to making accurate jumps. It is a common species called Heliophanus flavipes and has distinctive pale legs and yellow palps.
Sweeping the vegetation I caught the small caterpillar below, I think it is the larva of the Engrailed, a common moth of the late winter period which has a second brood in late summer.
After a good start the sun went in and i was just about to give up when I found the hoverfly below resting on a frond of Royal Fern, it was evidently waiting for the sun to come out again as it was in basking mode. This is a particularly striking black and yellow species called Xanthogramma pedisequum.
From all this concentration on other wildlife you will have guessed that today was pretty light on birds. The Pintail, Wigeon and Pochard were all still on Ibsley Water, as were two Dunlin. The most notable bird event of the day was that the Great Spotted Woodpeckers featured on Woodpeckercam have obviously hatched as they adults are now bringing in food.
The day ended on a black note, in the shape of 2 Black Swans on Ibsley Water

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A Duck into Ibsley Water

After being off for a couple of days I opened up the Tern hide full of hope for something new, I was not entirely disappointed, but it was not so much something new as unexpected. The Wigeon and drake Pochard that have been around for a while were still out there, as was a duck Pintail. I have not seen a Pintail for something over a month so this was a real surprise. It was quite close to the hide, as it still was at the end of the day, so I got a rather distant picture.
As well as the ducks the Little Ringed Plovers are still performing and they were joined this morning by a single Ringed Plover. The Oystercatchers have lost their nest on the island half way up the lake and are now taking an interest in the small island just east of the hide.

Other sightings today included a Spotted Flycatcher near the Woodland hide, something of a rare bird these days, otherwise my first Broad-bodied Chaser of the year and good numbers of damselflies were also noteworthy.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ducklings Living the High Life

Finally after over a month of sitting on the eggs the mallard ducklings have hatched! I have no idea on how many there are but every now and then a duckling's head pops up next to the mother. It wont be long until they have to take their leap of faith from the nest and down to the river below!

Cuckoo, Roe Deer and Great Tits!

Once again our post box is home to a brood of Great Tits. As I pulled up to the front gate this morning I noticed a Great Tit dart down by the post box on the front gate, its beak stuffed full of food. After opening up the centre I went back to see and sure enough the Great Tits are busy coming and going with food, sneaking through a hole in the back of the post box.

Another supprise was instore when I went to open up the Ivy North Hide and I was treated to stunning views of two Roe Deer feeding by the side of Ivy Lake. Ofcourse I had forgotten the camera, so I took the gamble and raced back to get it. Luckily they were quite settled and were still there grazing when I returned.

As I carried on to open up the Woodland hide, I heard a Cuckoo calling close by the the woodlands. The Mute Swan family are still on the silt pond between the Woodland hide and Ivy South hide. They were out on the water first thing with the 3 remaining cygnets, one of which was hitching a ride on mum!

Careless Swans and Ill Thought Action

On Friday evening there were five cygnets with the Mute Swan pair on the Ivy Lake silt pond, by Saturday morning they were down to only three. The picture shows them on the path next to the Ivy South hide and I suspect this habit of sitting out on the path may have been their downfall as they can be easily surprised by a predator such as a fox. The defense of the cygnets is not helped by the cob spending a lot of time away on the main lake chasing Canada Geese.
In general Saturday was pretty dismal and birds were few, the only sign of passage was a single Bar-tailed Godwit on the western shore of Ibsley Water and even this might have been the same bird recorded last week. There was also a Common Sandpiper and a drake Pochard. The poor weather did produce a great display of aerial feeders, about 350 Swallows and a mix of martins and at times 300+ Swifts.

Scare of the day was caused by someone walking out onto the shingle in front of the Tern hide, I had just got to the Lapwing hide at the time and had to run all the way there whilst trying to contact the police on an iffy mobile connection. The concern is that this area has nesting Little Ringed Plovers and these are specially protected birds, it is an offense to disturb them when they are nesting added to which they are still a potential target for egg collectors - yes there are still some out there! It turned out that he had gone out because he was worried about an injured Lesser Black-backed Gull. He did not retrieve the gull so this was not helped in any way and would have put any eggs of plovers at risk of both being trod on by him or chilling, as it was raining at the time.

What it does highlight is that even the most well meaning and moderately informed, he was a birder, can put birds at risk. He was not meaning any harm but this would not have reduced the effect of what was done. Over the last four years I know we have lost several nests of Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and Common Tern chicks from the reserve and other nearby lakes as a result of non-malicious action by people intent on doing one thing without considering the unintended consequences of their actions. With long-lived species that rarely produce young a slight increase in nest failure can make a large difference over time to population size. We are seeing this most obviously with the populations of our coastal waders and terns, now so squeezed to few sites that they are very vulnerable to casual losses and all are in big trouble. It seems not unlikely that Little Terns will disappear from the south coast within a few decades and species such as Ringed Plover, Redshank and Oystercatcher are under great threat.

Let's hope the weather starts to warm up next week, I have had enough of this reprise of winter.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Swans large and small, big sticks and tiny Pike

The Mute Swan family was out and about this morning allowing me to get a group shot. Later they returned to the nest and were being brooded in the dry.
In the morning Wessex Water started the first phase of work on a trial of different methods to control blue-green algae. As part of this some sampling of aquatic beasties was being done, the chosen site was Ellingham Pound, seemingly rather unpromising with little visible vegetation, but there was a lots of life. As well as hundreds of damselfly larvae a couple there was also a Water Stick Insect, an insect which at about 6cm was a good bit longer than a tiny Pike also caught.
Below one of the two "pikelets" netted in Ellingham Pound.

I saw my first Common Blue Damselfly of the year today, a newly emerged male. Birds were few and pretty much as expected, 2 or perhaps 3 Common Sandpiper on Ibsley Water and also a Dunlin, or at least I think it was, I just caught the tail end of it going round the long spit to the east of Tern hide. There are still 5 Wigeon and today also a drake Shoveler also on Ibsley Water and whilst on ducks the "Mallard up a tree" is still sitting, it seems like she has been up there for an age, surely they will hatch soon.
Rain tomorrow, sounds bad but perhaps a change in the weather will bring in some different birds, we will see.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A Leopard, a Saint and Lordly Trappings

Thursday once again so the volunteers were active on the reserve again today, clearing small trees from the heath, installing seating for the education area, making homes for House Martins, resiting a water butt, pulling nettles, fixing a barrier and putting in a ramp to the store - and they were only in for two hours! I did take a couple of pictures but, as is often the case, it looks like not much is going on and this is so far from the truth I decided it would be a misrepresentation to include them.

In moving the logs for the seating I uncovered a rather fine Leopard Slug, this was actually quite a small one, they can get to about 15-20cm long, but it is very well marked.
The moth trap would have been good if it had not been for a raid by a Great Tit which had reduced some species to just a few wings, including the year's first Poplar Hawk-moth. Another first was the pictured White Ermine moth, this is one of the "tiger moths" and has a hairy caterpillar of the woolly-bear type.
One of the other moths was this tiny Tortrix moth Cochylis atricapitana this is one of a lot of similar small moths that are camouflaged to look like a bird-dropping, on the basis that this is one thing a bird is unlikely to try and eat.
Other firsts in the trap were several Common Cockchafers and a St Mark's Fly, the males of these flies fly slowly about with legs dangling searching for a mate. Their huge (and hairy) eyes no doubt help them in this search and it is obviously fairly successful as they are always an abundant species at this time of the year.
Birds today were rather few, or at least birds of note were. A Common Sandpiper on Ibsley Water and the first taking to the water of the five Mute Swan cygnets hatched yesterday on the pond by the path to the Ivy South hide being the highlights.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Stuff of Life and Death (and Ducklings)

I opened up the Tern hide to be greeted by a very chilly north wind blowing straight into the hide. The lake was swarming with Swallows, perhaps 400 or more and about 100 House Martins with 300 or more Swifts a little higher in the sky. There was also a brood of Mallard, eight ducklings in all and pictured below. A close look will show that one of the brood, the nearest to the duck, is larger than the rest, in fact it is clearly not from this brood at all. It has got adopted, probably having got lost. Normally Mallard ducks will chase off ducklings from other broods, but there can be advantages to adding to your brood.
It has been found that for some species "stealing" ducklings is common and seems to be advantageous, although the reasons for this are not entirely obvious. The duck's own offspring might be hidden in the crowd if a predator strikes, but then a larger brood might attract more attention, so the gain is perhaps debatable.

Various warblers were in good voice as I opened up the other hides. At Ivy North a Garden Warbler was singing strongly by the entrance and a pair of Reed Warblers were carefully picking off newly hatched damselflies from the reed stems. Towards the Ivy South hide a singing Sedge Warbler was a bonus and both Blackcap and another Garden Warbler singing and showing well.

The Common Terns were seem to be taking over the rafts now, six pairs were present and the one Black-headed Gull trying to tough if out was being given a very hard time.

I was off to the main office at Beechcroft in the afternoon for a meeting about the Wader and Brent Goose project, something I tried for years to get started and that once it did I promptly left almost all contact with waders and Brent behind. In essence it is attempting to identify what are the resource these birds use at present and how to maintain the necessary mix of habitat so that they might survive into an increasingly uncertain future. It is aimed at achieving a long-term future for species at real risk and for which this part of the world is truly globally important. We have very little wildlife that is in this category but our shorebirds are firmly there and changes going on along the coast mean that they are also just about our most threatened wildlife. This is real life an death stuff, what nature conservation is all about, it is not that we cannot do something to help these species survive it is just trying to get the right actions taken in a timely fashion. If we can understand what they need and there is the will, we can do things to help these species survive.

Blashford is a great project, but it is in a different category altogether. Blashford is about making the most of a site to provide the most for wildlife and people. Any environment can be managed to enhance the potential for wildlife and this is what we have aimed for at Blashford. On the coast we are going to lose some of our most wildlife rich habitats. If we are not to be one of the last generations to see the marvel of a mass of whirling waders we will need to apply the same potential maximising approach to the coast as we have been given the chance to do at Blashford.

Monday, 3 May 2010

A good start to the day...

...despite a very cold fresh wind and a distinct lack of the promised sunshine so far! Ibsley Water was looking cold, grey and not a little rough from Tern Hide this morning. The Little ringed plover were not in evidence at the time, but a nice pair of Redshank were patrolling the waters edge. More notable were the large numbers of Swifts that were literally screaming all over and around the lake. Yesterday evening about 80 were flying high above the car park while I locked up, but today significantly more have arrived and thanks to the weather were feeding uncharacteristically low, just above the surface of the water. I'm no expert at bird counts, particularly when they are swirling around as much as these swifts were but I guess that there must have been about 400 birds all told.

Greenfinch and Siskin were dominating the bird feeders at the Woodland Hide and Centre, the Coot that were sitting in the reed bed at Ivy North Hide have hatched 5 "cootlets" and the Great Crested Grebe were still busy building.

Meanwhile the old (grumpy!) Ivy Lake cob swan was up to his usual trick of seeing off "intruding" Greylag and Canada Geese from the far side of Ivy Lake about as far away as it is possible to be from the pen sitting in the reeds in Ivy Silt pond - surrounded by half-a-dozen Canada's! Many years, despite his aggressive nature, these swans fail to fledge young and it is no doubt because he is busy defending his "patch" and not the nest site!

A lovely Grey Wagtail was flitting between the branches of the felled alder over the water in front of Ivy South Hide, with a very large beak full of flies, presumably alder flies as they have been in evidence for the last few days, before flying south west into the Willow Carr where perhaps there is a nest?

The badgers continue to surprise us with the extent of their nocturnal excavations which seem to be spreading and increasing on a weekly, if not nightly basis. The cubs should be venturing above ground for the first time any time now. Badgers are well known for their fastidious attention to cleanliness - removing and replacing their bedding material and "pooing" in latrines (that also serve as territorial boundaries), but generally the Blashford badgers do not seem to pay such close attention to this toileting behaviour and their latrines are few and far between, so I was surprised to find one near the seasonal ponds adjacent to Ivy North Hide.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Bike, bloom and bird update

Yesterday turned out better weather wise than I had expected and found the Bluebells finally coming into flower along the Dockens Water and by the Woodland Hide. Butterflies were still flying in the sunny spells and I was pleased to find the tiny orange egg of the Orangetip butterfly on the underside of a "Hedge-garlic" leaf (one of those flowers with a multitude of names - you may know it better as "Jack-by-the-hedge" or "Garlic Mustard"). Typically I found it on the first plant I checked, and didn't find another, despite looking at several more plants. The resultant green caterpillar will be very well camouflaged being of very simmilar colour and also shaped very much like the seed pods that the flowers will evcentually form. It is rare to find more than one egg on a plant as the caterpillars are cannibalistic and therefore the eggs are laid quite sepparately! Another favoured foodplant of the caterpillars is "Cuckooflower", so called as its flowering is heralded by the arrival of Cuckoo - or vice versa (another of those plants; it is also known as Lady's Smock). Whatever you call it, it is now flowering well in the damper wetland margins of the reserve. At the end of the day I was even treated to a Cuckoo calling as I locked up the gate!

Staying with birds, I am not aware of anything of particular note yesterday, but Great Crested Grebes were busy nest building in a patch of open water amongst the reeds beneath Ivy North Hide and the Great Spotted Woodpeckers remain active around their chosen nest site outside the woodland hide - at the moment the "webcam" at mms:// is switching between "Woodpecker Cam" during the day and "Pond Cam" during the evening and at night. Common tern are still holding out for control of the rafts on Ivy Lake and could also be seen much closer to, perching on the posts outsied Tern Hide on Ibsley Water.

Today, having battled my way through the New Forest Race triathlon competitors and their spectators that were clogging Ellingham Drove and any available hard standing they could find, I was able to open up the reserve and gently nudge at least some of the spectators to one side of the access into the reserve carparks in order that todays visitors might enter. A quick look out of Tern Hide was rewarded with 3 Dunlin, a Common sandpiper and Little ringed plover and displaying Lapwing doing their best to try out for the best weird robot noises in the latest Dr. Who series. Great crested grebe and Coot were all busy nest building on Ivy Lake, there were some very smart looking Siskin feeding on the niger at the Woodland Hide and it has been raining lots!
Fortunately the rain held off long enough for us to plant up some of the bare earth around the new pond dipping platform with plants that had been saved from their before the work was done during the winter - while at the same time freeing up space in one of the "planters" at the front of the building for some potatoes! This morning the Sunday volunteer team also started work on sprucing up the overly-wild (read neglected!) wild area next to the new shelter at the back of the building, with the aim of creating a more aesthetically pleasing "model" wildlife garden area! So far we have started a "dead-hedge" around the back of the site (serving both as a natural boundary as well as habitat for invertebrates and small mammals) and a retaining log "bund" at the front which will be filled with earth to level out part of the slope and planted up in due course - it is a work in progress, but should provide an attractive backdrop to the shelter as well as being attractive to a range of wildlife when it is complete - the trick will be in finding the right mix of plants that will provide a food source to insects and birds without being browsed back too vigorously by the mammals, namely rabbits and roe deer!