Sunday, 13 June 2010

Snakes and Skimmers

A much better day than I had expected today, mostly sunny, especially in the afternoon. At the start of the day when I opened up the Ivy South hide there were two Grass Snakes on a log in front of the hide, both were a good size, the picture shows the larger one.
During the morning there was a group in taking pictures of the moths and other wildlife. In the afternoon the local New Forest west group of the Wildlife Trust had a pond-dipping event.
As usual the pond produced a wealth of pond life including a lot of newts. Most of the newts we get are Smooth Newts, but some are the scarcer Palmate Newt, but the differences are not that great. The male Palmates have a smaller crest, less colourful underbelly, narrow hind toes with slight webbing at the base. The spots along the tail are also arranged in lines rather than more scattered as they are on Smooth Newts.
Also caught were damselfly larvae, water-beetles, water boatmen, pond skaters, freshwater shrimps, leeches and of course, pond snails. The snail below was drifting just under the water's surface, to em there is a bit of the elephant about, or perhaps hippopotamus.
The sunshine certainly brought out a good few insects, out on the lichen heath there are now quite a lot of adult Field Grasshoppers, always the first species we see they will chirrup away until autumn. The picture is of a male, they are easy to identify as they have hairy chests!
At the pond there were also several dragonflies, including a new species for the reserve, the twenty-sixth species of Odonata recorded. It was a Keeled Skimmer, a species that is quite common on the New Forest and one I had been expecting to turn up sooner or later.
More frequent and probably hatched out from the pond behind the Centre was a male Emperor Dragonfly, this is Britain's biggest dragonfly and one of the commoner species. This male was catching and eating damselflies in between sitting in the sun.
There were also single Four-spotted Chaser and two Scarce Chaser, a male and a female. The male disappeared quickly but the female was around for much of the afternoon. I did not exactly get a good picture of it, but the shot does show the diagnostic darkened wing-tips especially well.
The Little Ringed Plover are still sitting near the Tern hide, but should hatch this week, although another nearby pair seem to have lost their clutch. The Lapwing pair with two chicks are still surviving and there was also a second brood today, with four small chicks. So far the Common Terns are still going well with the adults bringing in fish regularly.

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