Saturday, 31 July 2010

Six Spots and Three Chicks

A grey and drizzly start followed by an eventually sunny afternoon which allowed a good few insects to get out and about. These included my fist six-spot burnet moth of the year, these sluggish fliers are quite safe to fly about in daylight as they are distasteful to birds who avoid them.
The garden by the Centre attracted a small tortoiseshell, brimstone, silver-washed fritillary and several red admirals. Like the painted lady the underside of the red admiral's wings are intricately patterned and in many ways equally as attractive as the more obvious upper-side.
Another insect visitor to the garden, although less attractive is none the less interesting. The rather bristly fly Tachina fera is one of those that develops from a larva that lives as a parasite in the larvae of various butterflies and moths.
I was delighted to see that there are actually three common tern chicks growing well on the Ivy Lake raft, I suspected there were three the other day but could not confirm. I think almost every pair has reared their entire broods this year, which is to say they have laid three eggs and reared three young. I am pretty sure there were seventeen pairs in all and I know of at least forty flying young so far, with luck there will be at least forty three by the end of the week, but I suspect the true figure may well have been nearer to fifty.

The great crested grebes are still showing a lot of interest in their new nest, despite the season moving on. Other bird news was rather thin, a green sandpiper on Rockford Lake, a hobby over Ivy Lake and one oystercatcher that flew over going north.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Martins and Moths

Definite signs of late summer today, as I opened up the Tern hide a flock of sand martin were gathered on the twigs around the car park and on the open gravel of the lake shore. Many of them were juveniles, perhaps from the nesting bank at the Goosander hide. Sand martins arrive early in spring and start to head south from late June.
The moth trap did not contain any surprises, although there were several fine species. The brown china-mark is a common species with remarkable larval habits. The larvae of the china-marks are aquatic, living in a sort of envelope of water weed. They also include a good number of accidentally introduced species, arriving with the many alien pond weeds that have been introduced over the years. So far the moths have not shown the same invasive abilities of many of their plant hosts.
Another common, but very smart little moth caught this morning was Agapeta hamana, the head especially looks as though it belongs on s cuddly toy rather than a moth.
Otherwise little to report, on Ibsley Water a single dunlin and a yellow-legged gull were about all I saw.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Overwhelmed by Hats

If "Get ahead, get a hat" were true than Blashford would be "So far ahead, it's beautiful!". Today's volunteer task was pulling Himalayan balsam, or as it is also known, policeman's helmet. This invasive plant can dominate river banks to the exclusion of native species and so we are trying to remove it from along the Dockens Water to reduce the amount of seed that goes down stream and into the Avon. It was introduced as a garden plant and it is easy to grow and has large flowers coloured anything from almost white to purple and it could be regarded as beautiful, if it were not such a problem to native species. It is an annual and can grow over two metres high, after flowering the seeds explode from the pods and can be thrown two or three metres as well as floating well. Luckily it is easy to pull up and the seeds do not have long viability, so it should be controllable by pulling plants before they seed.

The balsam did not provide the only hat of the day though and the other was rather more welcome. In ploughing my way through the undergrowth after a clump of the alien I came across a large plant of skullcap, the first time I remember seeing it at Blashford. It also grows in marshy ground and has attractive blue flowers, although rather smaller than those of the balsam.
Birds that I saw were few, a common sandpiper and a black-tailed godwit on Ibsley Water were the best, although a mysterious report in the diary in the Tern hide referred to a goldeneye, summer records are few but not unprecedented, if there was one I could not find it.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Silver-washed and Yellow-legged

The warmth really brought out the insects today, with lots of butterflies and hoverflies around the garden behind the Centre. It has been an especially good year for silver-washed fritillary with several there most days and today was no exception.
There are also good numbers of hoverflies, especially if the Eristalis genus including the one int he picture, which is hairy and patterned like a bumble-bee to deter predators. It comes in several colour forms, roughly similar to the different species of bees. This last fact set me thinking about the likelihood of there being one similar to the tree bumble bee which is newly arrived in Britain, I must try and look it up. The species is Eristalis intricarius, a common enough species, here in typical white-tailed bumble-bee livery.
In the morning I had to go to a site meeting just off the reserve, on the way there I walked along the Ellingham Lake path passing the broad-leaved helleborines, the ones that have avoided being eaten are not in flower. Despite the deep shade I got a picture, although not brightly coloured each individual flower is has the classic orchid look.
A quick look at Ibsley Water as I locked up revealed a dunlin, my first returning greenshank of the autumn and a single adult yellow-legged gull.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A Quiet Day but So Much to See

I can't match Michelle's badger watching exploits, but that does not mean I have no wildlife to report. A couple of days ago a gem turned up in the moth trap, this is a migrant species that breeds all year round in the extreme south of Europe and travels north each year, usually a few reach Britain and in some years they will breed here. It is not a very robust species like a number of other migrant species and it always amazes me that they can cover such distances.
As I have mentioned before the moth trap does not only catch moths, one such bi-catch was a small picture-winged fly Anomoia purmunda, it is one with a very distinctive wing patterning, the larvae develop in the fruits of hawthorn and is a common species. However having a common food plant does not guarantee the species will be common, many related species feed in the seed-heads of ragwort, but some of these species are very rare.
Opening the Ivy South hide this morning I found the family of tufted duck pictured sitting on one of the small stick rafts outside the hide, proving they are not only useful as nest sites.
One of the species that will use these rafts as nest sites is great crested grebe, they did nest on Ivy Lake this year, although not on a raft, the single surviving chick is more or less independent now, but still sporting the "humbug" head-pattern.
It is perhaps a good thing that the chick is now going it alone as the parents now seem intent on having another nesting attempt. They have built another nest, this time on one of the rafts and this morning they were mating on the new nest platform.
Immediately after mating the male surged off splashing the water with his feet, looking very pleased with himself indeed.
The area around the Centre is particularly good for butterflies at present including silver-washed fritillary, peacock, red admiral, comma, gatekeeper, meadow brown, large and small white, brimstone and today a single painted lady. This last was very fresh and I would guess has emerged from a caterpillar raised in Britain following the small arrival that occurred in the spring. The best picture I got was of the under-side, which has a very particular beauty, in many ways quite a match for the upper-side.
I really have no birds of note to report today, the most interesting species I saw were two pochard, rather rare here at this time of year. If today proved anything it was that a quite day can still include a good bit of interest, one of the great things about being out is that you never know what you will see.
The most engaging sighting was a wren hunting moths along the edge of the Centre, these had been attracted over-night by the trap. At first the adult was catching small moths with ease, later the hunt seemed harder and the adult started to call loudly whilst searching. On the face of it this calling just drew attention to the bird, but I wondered if it helped in some way with the search, the call must be very loud up close and so might result in disturbance to resting insects. It is hard to explain why it would call so much if there was not some advantage to be gained, however I can find no evidence for the suggestion of using sound to disturb prey. The wrens did not stop entertaining us though, the chick being fed was occasionally sun bathing on the slabs by the compost bins, it would lie, wings out-stretched and feathers fluffed, soaking up some rays. All-in-all great lunchtime entertainment.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Gloaming Glimpses

Last night we had our first of a series of night walks scheduled in through August. I was very excited at the prospect of finally seeing our badgers and was trying desperately hard to hide it so I didn't raise expectations too high! As we gathered in the Centre's lobby there were at least 3 badgers on badgercam, 2 of the badgers were busy clearing out one of the holes giving us clear views of badger bottoms! Before badgercam we had always thought our badgers were late night badgers, so I was slightly concerned about how to get to the hide without disturbing them as they had already emerged from the sett and we weren't sure whether they might have already been to the woodland hide feeding bowls. The badger feeding bowls are bowls dug into the ground filled with peanuts with a heavy log over the top so only a badger can get at them. This stops the peanuts being eaten by other animals before the badgers are awake. We set off to the Woodland hide as quietly as we could and saw 2 '55' pipistrelle bats flying in a clearing amongst the alder. When we arrived at the hide the badger feeding bowls were undisturbed - great news as it meant we were not too late. So we sat ourselves down.......and waited!

There was a glimpse of a passing badger across the back of the woods near the sett...and then it was we went back to waiting....

Finally our patience was rewarded when a badger appeared out of the undergrowth and approached the feeding bowl on the right, on top of the bank. It was weary at first and flinched at every knock that it heard from within the hide, but as soon as it got its head in the bowl and started tucking into the peanuts it seemed a bit more at ease. It was digging around a bit and came up from the hole with the bowl in its mouth, tipping all the peanuts back into the hole! This badger continued to feed until suddenly another badger came bundling out of the bushes and jumped on it! The 2 badgers scuffled around a bit and then seemed to take it in turns to have their head in the bowl while the other snuffled around in the leaf litter. This continued for over 20 minutes until we could no longer make out their stripey faces in the dark. They were still eating the peanuts out of the first bowl when we left. I think I may have been a little over generous with the peanuts!

On the walk back our bat detectors picked up a couple of pipestrelles but they were best heard feeding over the moth traps at the back of the centre. I had also painted some of the trees with Bob's secret moth gloop (a super saturated sugary solution with a drop of rum!), a technique known as sugaring which can attract different moths to those you might find around a light trap. I have never had much success with this in the past but our evenings luck continued and each tree had at least 5 moths feeding on it, including copper underwings.

At the end of the walk we attempted to call to a tawny owl by imitating a male tawny owl call with a whistle. This was answered by a female hooting nearby. After a few more blows on the whistle a male could also be heard further off in the distance. Female tawny owls say 'twit' and the males say 'twoo'! The evening couldn't have finished any better!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Arrivals and Departures

Heavy rain first thing this morning promised the possibility of a wader or two on Ibsley Water and so it proved, well a wader anyway. Luckily the rain had stopped by the time I arrived and out on one of the islands in Ibsley Water there as a single turnstone, still largely in breeding plumage. Otherwise things were pretty quiet with just single common and green sandpipers. In fact it was not that quiet in a literal sense as there were several juvenile common terns noisily making their presence felt. The one pictured was preening on one of the posts outside the hide.
I had hoped for some good moths in the trap but was disappointed as, for some reason, the light had not worked, a quick check did not reveal anything obviously wrong, so let's hope it works tonight. Having not posted for a few days I include a picture of a female oak eggar from a couple of days ago, although not at all uncommon they do not often come to the trap.
There is a difinite whiff of autumn about now, with returning waders and the departure of many of the swifts, I have not seen one at all at Blashford for some days now. The adult cuckoos have gone and the juveniles will not be far behind. I try to record my last adult cuckoo each year, so much harder than the first in spring. Usually it is sometime in late June, as it was this year, rarely early July, although once and most remarkably, in mid August.
Generally departures go little recorded compared with the arrivals, partly because it is only in retrospect that we know that it was the last. The same is true for the loss of whole species, nobody knows, for instance, when the last dodo was seen, because at the time the observer did not know it was the last.
On the general subject of arrivals and departures, we are all becoming familiar with the idea that our spring migants are arriving earlier, but my observations suggest that many are also staying much later into the autumn. In fact in many cases my last dates for species have moved by more than the arrival dates. I am not sure how general this trend is, but there are certainly several species, such as spotted flycatcher, redstart and garden warbler that use to be quite notable in October that are now quite unremarkable even well into that month.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Major Cleans Up

In response to the clamour from up to all of the readers of this blog, I post a picture of the soldier-fly, Oxycera rara, mentioned in my last post. It is a male, you can tell because the head is almost entirely made up of the eyes, giving it the closest thing to all-round vision that it is possible to get. The picture is also of some interest for the behaviour it depicts, it is using the hind legs to clean the wings by applying opposing pressure, the wings outward and the legs inward, thus cleaning the wing surface.
OK, I confess, the "clamour" came from, well it did not come at all, but I rather liked the picture.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Plovers Last Hurrah and a First Rara

Not at Blashford yesterday but up in the far north of the county, a land of red kites and unreasonable amounts of that"strange beverage that falls down from the sky". I don't think I have been that wet since the last time I fell in!

The little ringed plover nest at the Tern hide is empty, the eggs gone and the same has happened to the nest to the east of the hide as well, they will not try again this year. So, as it was not going to cause any disturbance to nesting birds we went and cleared the fire site, associated rubbish and a good lot of the vegetation that had been threatening to block the view of the shore from the hide. Once again it was amazing what a group of a dozen or so can achieve in a relatively short time, we also cleared the ragwort for the car park area. Of course, as today was Thursday, the "we" referred to were the Blashford volunteers.

The shore being clear meant that I could get a picture of the one wader nesting success of the summer, the fledgling lapwing.
In other news, an adult Mediterranean gull was on Iblsey Water as were over 400 herring gulls, but no sign of any more interesting species that I could see.

Record of the day was a soldier-fly that came to the moth trap, Oxycera rara aka the four-barred major (although I don't think I will ever get used to using that name). I am pretty sure this will be a new record for Blashford, it is not a rare species but is never common.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A Goat and a Lucky Woodpecker

Blashford got the goat today, or at least we got a Goat Moth in the trap this morning, this was actually a "tick" for me, nearly thirty years of trapping and this is the first I have ever seen. I have processed around a small Irish town behind a large, very homemade, model goat; a real life "Father Ted" moment, well more or less whole day actually. I digress, the point is that despite various goat related experiences this was my first ever real live Goat Moth. They are really big beasts and have larvae that live for several years eating wood in the trunks of live willows, the larva reputedly smells of goat, hence the name. The picture does not really give a true impression of the size, but you can take it from me it was chunky.
The title of "Most fortunate creature of the day" was won with ease by a juvenile Green Woodpecker that I first heard screeching away and then saw why as it came into view in the talons of an immature Peregrine. As they passed at low level the Peregrine dropped the woodpecker which flew off still making a racket.

In other news the last few days have seen, or rather heard, a good number of Roesell's Bush Crickets calling near the Lapwing hide and several Wood Crickets near the Centre.

The "Compostcam" has been great for Grass Snakes, with up to four at times during the day, this camera is the one mainly being broadcast on the web at present with the badgers taking over later in the day.

A load of rubbish!

Yesturday the compostcam provided fantastic grass snake action with atleast 4 grass snakes seen at one time. One of the grass snakes appeared to be a female due to her large size; she was about the length of the compost bin. Hopefully she will be laying eggs in the compostbin which will then be incubated by the warmth created by the decomposing material and will hatch out in September.

Monday, 12 July 2010

New Bee is a Newby

Once more we were Ragwort pulling and cutting today, an end is in sight, but then I was using binoculars. Still even this task can deliver surprises and today's was a new species for the reserve, Bombus hypnorum also known as the Tree Bumble-bee. It is not entirely unexpected but I have not seen it before despite looking. It is similar to the familiar brown Common Carder Bee, but with a black head and a black abdomen, with a pure white tail, the white tail is just visible in the picture. This is a new species for the reserve, but it is also only recently arrived in Britain, first found in 2000 it arrived from the continent, just as the Small Red-eyed Damselfly did at about the same time. So as well as being new to the reserve it is also quite new to the country, if the predictions about climate change are correct we can probably expect a good few more new species in the years to come.
I know I have pictured horse-flies before, but below is another of Chrysops caecutiens this time of a female perched on a hide window, they are actually quite attractive flies, so long as you can ignore the desire to bite great holes in you.
Few birds to report today, 3 Egyptian Geese on Ibsley Water and at least one Yellow-legged Gull in the same place were moderately noteworthy. The numbers of large gulls are really picking up int he afternoons now and it would probably be worth looking for sub-adult Caspian Gulls which start to appear at this time of year. A few Swifts over the Centre were the first I have seen in a few days and they will not be around for very much longer now. I suspect they will go rather early this year as they should have bred well and fledged their young in good time with all the fine weather we have had.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Life Saving Pallets

Almost all the Common Terns have now fledged and are flying around, many of them now on Ibsley Water, using the shingle spit in front of the Lapwing hide as their base. I am pretty sure 38 have flown so far, with two large chicks still to go and one adult still "sitting" although I suspect this last is a vain hope. The addition of the pallets moored between the rafts as a refuge for chicks that get blown off the rafts when doing practice wing-flaps seems to have been a success and I don't think any chicks have been lost when swimming off after falling into the water. The pallets have also proved popular resting places for youngsters on early flights, it keeps them away from adults still feeding chicks on the nesting rafts, who can be rather aggressive.
The warm nights continue good for moths, a selection of the Thursday/Friday night catch is below. The first is Slender Brindle, a subtle, but rather pleasing patterned species.
To show that it is not just the big ones that are smart, the moth below is a "micro" with no common name, Catoptria pinella a species of heathy woodlands and boggy places, not all that common, but very fine in my opinion, it is about 13mm long.
Next a moth that has a name that does tell you something about what it looks like, this is a common species, the Snout, named for the long palps.
Lastly a fairly big one and rather beautiful, the Large Emerald, which is indeed relatively large and green.
I did not get out much on Friday as the plumber was in trying to find ways of reducing our water use and so the frequency of need to empty the septic tank, which cost us about £2000 last year.
We also had the first day of Compostcam in the new location and were rewarded with at least three Grass Snakes in the morning, I suspect it was just too warm for them in the afternoon.
Once again on Friday, as we had on Wednesday and Thursday, the volunteers were out removing Ragwort from the shores of Ibsley Water, almost all the open shore is done now, an amazing effort as this is nearly 3km of shore and it was very dense in places. The car park area is still to do and the shore near the Tern hide looks as though it will not get done as the Little Ringed Plovers are still sitting on their eggs so we cannot go out there.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Where Have All the Bears Gone?

The highlight of the moth trap on Tuesday was a Garden Tiger, a bit strange this, as they used to be so very common, one of those few moths that everyone knew. Now I see perhaps one or two a year and the abundant wandering "woolly bear" caterpillars of late summer are but a memory. I have not heard any explanation of this change, the caterpillars eat a wide range of common plants, so it cannot be lack of food plant, perhaps a parasite is involved.
Birds included a Common Sandpiper on Ibsley Water and a Green Sandpiper moving between Rockford and Ivy Lakes. Both Little Ringed Plover sitting in sight of the Tern hide are still doing so, the Common Tern chicks are getting more adventurous with more turning up on Ibsley Water each day. The single Great Crested Grebe chick on Ivy Lake is getting quite large now, I confess I had not realised it was still surviving until I saw it today, it has been at least two weeks since I had last seen it.

The increasing numbers of large gulls gathering in the afternoons on Ibsley Water usually include a Yellow-legged Gull or two, I have seen only adults or near adults but younger birds have also been seen recently.

Finally the log outside the Ivy South hide had a large Grass Snake on it as I locked up, the eyes were very milky looking, I assume because it is just about to moult.

A Bit of Colour Brightens the Day

Monday was a less than exciting day, cutting paths was enlivened by a Kingfisher beside the Ivy North hide when I opened up, not a great picture as it was a bit dark and distant, but prolonged views of these birds are always something special.
From the Ivy South hide I could see that there were at least 32 Common Tern chicks that either were or could fly. I had earlier seen three on Ibsley Water, probably the first brood to have flown and there are still two broods of smaller chicks and one sitting bird. We could see over forty Common Tern fledged! An extraordinary total from the sixteen or seventeen pairs that have nested. Normally a colony is regarded as having had a successful breeding season if it fledges an average of one chick per pair.

Otherwise highlights were few, a noisy mower and ear defenders make experiencing the environment difficult. A patch of Musk Mallow flowers on the Rockford path, although not rare always look as though their flowers are too big to be wild.
Also from the Rockford path I saw a Green Sandpiper and 2 Little Egret, I have seen very few Little Egret this year at Blashford, they have become much less common since I started here in 2006.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Eyes Have It

After the volunteer task this morning I had lunch at on of the picnic tables behind the Centre. Almost every one had a Horse-fly perched on it, they did not seem interested in me, just trying to bask in the occasional sunny spells. Looking closely I could see that most were males, which don't bite, although there was certainly one female and they definitely do bite. All were of a common species Tabanus bromius, characterised by a single dark line across the eye, the picture is of the female and you can see the fierce mouth parts used to bite through cow-hide or a pair of jeans. The heads are almost all eyes (and mouth parts) and they are amazing creatures. Some species can fly at over 50km per hour and making 180 degree turns in just a few metres.
There were not many birds about today, the flocks of moulting geese include the Bar-headed Goose and the two Little Ringed Plover are still sitting. I expect the Lapwing chick will be flying any day now and on Ivy Lake lots of the Common Terns are already doing so. About twenty chicks were flying and there are still nine small ones and one adult sitting. The picture has about eight of the chicks and a few adults stood about and one adult flying in with a fish.
A Green Sandpiper at the Ivy North hide at the end of the day was about the most notable sighting, although a particularly large Grass Snake at the Ivy South hide was also impressive.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Deer and Oh Dear

Had a lovely start to the day - the Little Ringed Plover are still sitting, despite the events that Bob described in the last posting and walking by "Badger Hill" on the way to opening up the Woodland Hide had a smashing view of a Roe Deer with two kids.

Making the most of a sunny day with no groups booked in and (most!) of the more pressing paperwork in hand, I extended my walk opening up the hides by continuing on to the south of Ellingham Lake, along Ivy Lane and then up to Lapwing and Goosander Hides via the Rockford/Ivy Lakes track. As usual on a glorious day in July, the reserve was quiet (we assume that people are in town or on the beach, but perhaps not?), allowing me to fully appreciate our tranquil setting and the scents, sights and sounds of insects feeding on the bramble and creeping thistle flowers (it may sound a little strange, but if you never have sniffed a creeping thistle, I urge you to give them a go, just beware the bees! They have a very strong honey like scent). Dragonflies were also on the wing aplenty, particularly along the warm sheltered paths by Rockford and up through the willow and reed to Lapwing. Very prominent today were red admiral, meadow brown, comma, small skipper, small tortoiseshell and common blue. Representing the dragonflies were plenty of emperor, scarce chaser, southern hawker, common blue and beautiful demoiselle.

The bee orchids are still flowering on the way up to Lapwing Hide and I also spotted what I took to be a southern marsh/common spotted orchid nearer the Goosander end of the path.

The reserve was a little busier this afternoon, mostly with people enjoying the wildlife and the reserve in the manner for which it is intended, but then, oh dear, a couple of misguided cyclists opted to take a stroll along the southern shore of Ibsley Water to look for a "nice spot for a rest and a picnic". Alerted to their presence by visitors in the Tern Hide (thank you) they were redirected onto the footpath. They were clearly not intending any harm (if they were they probably would not have been advertising their presence with fluorescent yellow hi-viz jackets!), but ignorance is no excuse. It always amazes me how people can manage to climb over locked gates without even realising they are doing so?!

Would have posted some lovely photos of assorted dragonflies, butterflies and flowers, but the camera isn't talking to the computer. Will edit them in later if I can get it sorted.

Hopefully it will be a quiet night tonight.

Hope Goes Up in Flames?

A delay in posting yesterday's news, in fact I would rather not post about it at all, but what happened, happened. I arrived to open the Tern hide and it was plain that the dead hedge beside the hide had been pulled apart. Entering the hide it had been obvious we had received unwanted visitors in the night. Just to the west of the hide on the shore there was a fire with cans and broken glass. The immediate thought was that if there had been people on the shore, the Little Ringed Plovers, so recently sitting on eggs just near the eastern end of the hide, would have left their nest. In fact both sitting birds visible from the hide were still there, although the nearest must have been disturbed from the nest while the people were there, the nest is not 15m away. There is a small chance the eggs will survive, the female had only started sitting hard the day before, so perhaps the eggs were not "set", only time will tell. I cannot go an clear up the mess because the birds are still sitting and so I would disturb them, so we have to look out at it for some time yet.

Information received, as they say, suggest some seven persons were involved and I have established where the cars were parked. The disturbance of a Little Ringed Plover at a nest is a criminal offence as there are "schedule 1 species" given special legal protection. However I don't expect we will ever bring anyone to book.We often think of predators as a risk to these birds but people are still one of the greatest direct risks. Indirectly, of course, we have completely modified just about every habitat in Britain thereby radically influencing the range of survival opportunities available. This includes the creation of the gravel pits, upon which Little Ringed Plovers depend.
In general Blashford has been a story of gains in opportunities, but there have been and will be set backs. When access is encouraged and it has been at the heart of the project from the start, it has to be expected that some of the access will be abusive. Still the plovers have not given up despite losing their brood and there is a lesson for us there, we will carry on and try to improve the chances for wildlife on the reserve and the opportunities for people to get close. The challenge is to do this without increasing the risks unacceptably and this evidently needs more work.
On a more positive note, another warm night produced a good range of moths in the trap, including a Kent Black Arches, I think new for the reserve (but I have not looked it up yet). Perhaps not the most accurately named moth as it does not have black arches nor is it in Kent, but it is related to the "Black Arches" moths and is presumably a moth of Kent. I particularly liked the small tufts of scales sticking up form the wings, these would indicate that it is a freshly emerged moth, as they are prone to wearing off with age.
There was also a Burnished Brass, or perhaps one of the "Burnished Brasses" as there is now a suggestion that there might be two or even three species lurking under this one name. Whichever it might be they are very smart moths and common as the caterpillars feed on nettles, although a common food plant does not always mean a common moth.
Another species that was new for the year was Beautiful Golden Y, again a very fresh individual.
For really good news on the breeding bird front we need go no further than the Common Terns, more young are flying every day now and I would expect there to be some twenty flying by the end of the weekend. So far we have had no repeat of the last two years incursions by canoes which have cost us several young each year, when they have jumped from the rafts and paddled away in panic.
Lastly a sign of approaching autumn, there were at least 3 Common Sandpiper about, a real indication that the southward wader passage is underway.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

More Eggs and a Red End to Headaches?

The Little Ringed Plover nests which had hatched last month all resulted in failure, with the chicks being lost to predators, although I don't know what. However two pairs are now sitting on eggs once again, at least one pair on a clutch of four eggs, impressive, as although four is typical for first clutches later ones tend to be fewer.
Thursday today, so the volunteers were in, the task was not one of our favourites, Ragwort control, but we are getting on top of it and the sward is improving for both grazing waterfowl and nesting Lapwing.

Michelle had returned to the Centre with a fairly large, bright red, beetle, like a giant, unspotted Ladybird. We looked it up and it proved to be a Red Poplar Leaf Beetle. Apparently the adults are distasteful because, when they are larvae, they sequester salicylic acid from the leaves of the willows and poplars they feed on. This compound is the original "Aspirin" so perhaps they would also be a cure for headache. I did not get a picture because it flew away.