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!

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