Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A New Arrival

I spent a warm morning cutting willows and rushes along the eastern shore of Ibsley Water between the Goosander and Lapwing hides. The idea is to improve the access for grazing wildfowl this winter and possibly the habitat for breeding Lapwing next spring. Before I set out along the shore I noticed a number of cormorant fishing in a tight group outside the Goosander hide, there were at least fifty birds and they were catching smallish silver fish, probably roach.
Whilst cutting the shore I saw a number of Roesell's bush-cricket and long-winged conehead, I managed a picture of just the latter species, a female with a long sword-like ovipositor.
After three hours cutting the vibrations of the mower got too much and I returned for lunch to the Centre. Just as we started to eat a wasp landed on the table carrying a hoverfly, I assume to stock a larder for its larvae. It is remarkable that it could fly when carrying this prey which is at least as large as it is.
During the day news arrived of the hatching of the first of the great crested grebe eggs on the nest outside the Ivy South hide. When I went to lock up I managed to get a few shots of the chick being fed feathers by the adults, grebes all eat feathers and it seems that the first meal the chick gets is an assortment of feathers. The bird on the water plucked a feather and passed it to the one on the nest, I assume the female, passed it on to the chick.
When the adult on the nest wanted to get off it just stood up and the chick just rolled off onto the nest, the other adult then took over nest duty.
The osprey was again seen today, although it did not perform as well as over the last couple of days. Once again the Goosander hide provided a good variety of small birds with a redstart, reed warbler, garden warbler and a late swift seen early on and 2 spotted flycatcher later. There were good numbers of willow warbler and chiffchaff about once again. It was also a day for wagtails with two yellow wagtail, 20+ pied wagtail and at least 4 grey wagtail. I also finally managed to prove that there really are 15 Egyptian geese as I suspected the other day, as all of them were grazing together on the west shore of Ibsley Water.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Something Neglected

A much finer day today, with good periods of sunshine but also a brisk wind. This made for a good insect day, they were concentrated on the south side of any hedge or bush, sunning themselves out of the wind and so easy to find. I start with a picture I neglected to post yesterday, it is of a neglected rustic, one of the dullest moths you are likely to see, perhaps why it gets neglected.
It was a good day for dragonflies, with migrant hawkers, like the male in the picture especially frequent. There were also a few southern hawkers, a report of a golden ringed dragonfly and a good few common darters.
The dragonflies are active hunters of smaller insects, but others also do this, I saw a number of robber-flies sunning themselves on rocks and leaves and got one more or less ok picture. Although unrelated to dragonflies they share the large eyes and elongated body shape.
Butterflies were also in evidence, with red admirals especially frequent, but also comma (picture below), peacock, small tortoiseshell, large white, small white, green-veined white, holly blue, silver-washed fritillary, meadow brown, speckled wood and brown argus.
The bird highlights were headlined by a pied flycatcher seen early on outside the Goosander hide, sadly this was seen by only one person, although a late report of one on Rockford Common could perhaps have been the same bird. For most the several appearances of the osprey topped the bill, although it was last seen heading off very high to the south, so it will be interesting to see if it is seen tomorrow. A single swift was again seen and the two turnstone and two ringed plover were doubtless those seen since Friday. Other birds included a peregrine, 9 Egyptian geese, 4+ common sandpiper and several hundred sand martin.
Whilst in tracking down a group of men with eight or nine dogs hunting rabbits at the end of the day I came across a young fox on the north shore of Ibsley Water, perhaps the one I saw curled up like a cat by a fireside on the lake edge there yesterday when looking across from the Lapwing hide. Such poaching a fairly regular nuisance, causing a good bit of disturbance, on this occasion I caught up with them just before they headed south between Ibsley Water and Mockbeggar Lake, so the effects were not too bad, just the north shore of Iblsey Water being disturbed.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Early Ducks and Late Swifts

A good chance to look around today and for the first time in many weeks I actually visited all six hides on the same day. There was nothing startling to report but I did see a good range of birds.

Signs of autumn came in the form of wildfowl with over 20 shoveler and at least 4 wigeon. The huge gathering of hirundines over Ibsley Water, dominated by at least a thousand house martin with something like 400 sand martin as support attracted a hunting hobby or two, the gathering also included at least 2 late swifts. Other notable birds on Ibsley Water included at least 48 great crested grebe, 11 Egyptian geese and 6 common sandpiper. Following a shower in the late morning a common tern and four waders appeared, after sometime I managed to establish the waders were 2 ringed plover and 2 turnstone.

The scrubby willows and brambles near the Lapwing hide proved good for small migrants with 20 or so chiffchaff and a few willow warbler and in the reeds several reed warbler and a juvenile sedge warbler. The other small bird hotspot, as ever, was next to the Goosander hide where there were more "willowchiffs", 3 whitethroat and a couple of blackcap. Four grey wagtail on the shore in front of the hide were more than usual and all sporting the incredibly acid yellow under-tails that is all that they retain of the bright summer plumage in winter.

In early afternoon the osprey apparently flew over and caught a fish in Mockbeggar Lake before heading off with it to the west, giving brilliant views for a few as it flew over the main car park.

The sun finally came out and several red admiral were on the flowers around the Centre, where there was also a humming-bird hawk-moth, which was photographed by a visitor. The same flowers were also being visited by a very large queen hornet, which was hunting the butterflies and hoverflies.

As I went to lock up a calling water rail at the Ivy North hide was the first I have heard there since last spring and it was good to see the great crested grebe still sitting on the nest near the Ivy South hide. By the end of the day I had seen seventy-one species of birds on the reserve during the day, not at all bad and I know of certainly four more that were seen by others.

Friday, 27 August 2010


On locking up the hides I had to have a double take as I saw a large noticebly white bird perched on the fallen trees in the silt pond on the way to Ivy South hide. Unfortunately it spotted me at exactly the same time and took to the air, flying south quite low over the lake. I have never seen an osprey so close and was in absolute awe! It was immense! Jim had failed to tell me about his earlier sighting of the Osprey so it took me completely by supprise and as time went on I started to doubt I had seen it as it was so surreal. But just reading his post now confirms it!

Doing the morning "rounds"...

... was very rewarding today. Despite an autumnal, cold and damp feeling to the air it was (and is, touch wood) dry at last. The wind coming from the north across Ibsley Water did not induce much more than a cursory glance from Tern Hide as I opened up (no ospreys there then), but I had my first sighting of the great white egret this season from Ivy North Hide when I opened up - and in fact one of the best views I have had since last year as it fished in the shallow lagoon immediately in front of the hide.

A very fine female roe deer was quietly browsing in the woodland near the Woodland Hide, where the feeders were supporting a flurry of activity from finches and tits - surprisingly when one considers the wealth of woodland and hedgerow fruit and seeds to be found at the moment the woodland birds have noticeably been munching there way through the bird seed over the last few days. Perhaps something to do with the inclement weather?

I was disappointed not to see one of the kingfishers that can be seen regularly from Ivy South Hide at the moment, but this was more than made up for by the sight of an osprey overhead heading south over Ivy Silt Pond as I left the hide. All in all, not a bad start to the day!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Calling confusion

I had a picture to add to this post but it has refused to load so you will have to imagine the fabulous shot of a gold spot moth that would have been here.

First day back after a break and straight into a mass of messages and a "Volunteer Thursday". We cleared small trees off the lichen heath area and also moved a section of fence to limit casual access to the lake shore. As we were working I heard a curlew call and looking up there it was a single curlew flying over going south. Almost immediately a disembodied voice from behind the trees could be heard calling to us that the great white egret was on Rockford Lake, although never seen I knew who it was, but one of the team thought it was another of the volunteers sloping off for a quick bit of birdwatching!

However the egret was far from being the bird of the day, this accolade went to a sub-adult gannet which flew south over Ibsley Water, I missed it but it was seen well by at least two people, a really good inland record. The same people also saw a colour-ringed juvenile peregrine and a ringed plover.

After lunch I went over to the Goosander hide to check out jobs that need doing, the reward was a good view of kingfisher and a hobby.

At the end of the day locking up Tern hide I heard a whimbrel calling, or at least I thought I did, then I heard a little grebe, so doubted, then whimbrel again and little grebe again. There was a whimbrel flying slowly southwards and each time it called the little grebe responded. The calls do sound similar but it seemed the grebe thought the whimbrel was another grebe. Finally, just as I was leaving I noticed a juvenile osprey flying along the north shore towards Mockbeggar where it dropped down. All in all not a bad day.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

House Martins

As I opened up Tern Hide this morning there were a fantastic number of house martins gathering over the car park and feeding over Ibsley Water. There were easily a few hundred and I could identify them by their conspicuous white rump. On migration the birds often congregate over freshwater to feed on the insects.

All the usual suspects were seen on the rest of the round opening up the hides. In the car park by the centre there were nuthatches calling in the trees. The feeders seem to be quite crowded at the moment with great tits, blue tits, chaffinches, green finches and goldfinches all jostling for a perch. Below the feeder on the left side of the woodland hide a grey squirrel was feeding and it was frequently joined by a very skittish bank vole darting in and out of the undergrowth collecting the fallen seeds.

On Ivy lake the great crested grebe is still sitting on the nest to the left of the Ivy south hide, and while I was there I had my first glimpse of the kingfisher flying past which has been spotted there by visitors on a regular basis with many being lucky enough to have views of the kingfisher perched on the branches in front of the hide. There are an increasing number of coot and gadwall on the lake. The tern rafts are now absent of terns, today they were occupied by two cormorants on one, gulls on another and ducks on the third.

Catherine, our volunteer warden, went out to investigate the north side of the reserve in the afternoon. From goosander hide the sand martins are still busy flying in and out of the bank and there was a brief glimpse of a fox that emerged from the trees on the left. The afternoon brightened up bringing out the butterflies which included speckled wood, small white, gatekeeper, common blue, red admiral and meadow brown. There are Egyptian geese on Rockford Lake.

In other wildlife news from the last couple of weeks:

Whilst pulling ragwort around Mockbeggar Lake the volunteer team counted a staggering 31 grey herons!

There was another sighting of an osprey on 9th August from Goosander hide, probably a different individual migrating through.

There has been a possible first sighting of the great white egret on 13th August, a bit earlier than expected.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Right place, right time...

...for once!

Unlike Bob, who manages to magic birds up out of thin air whenever he enters a hide, for the last eight years I have somehow managed to miss seeing an osprey, despite the Avon Valley in general and Blashford Lakes specifically being a regular stopping off and through route for ospreys on migration during the spring and autumn.

Today I am very pleased to say that I have at long last seen my first Blashford osprey! Spotted by a visitor mid afternoon resting and preening on the lowest, most easterly "island" on the western side of Ibsley Water, my only complaint now is that it wasn't doing a bit more! It may or may not be around for a while - sometimes they can hang around the Valley for a few days, if not weeks, at other times they are here one minute and gone the next.

Elsewhere on the reserve, Ivy South Hide is probably best for viewing wildfowl with a combination of lower water levels and a bumper growth of pond weed and associated invertebrates providing plenty of food for coot and gadwall in particular. The great crested grebes are still sitting on their nest and kingfisher have been very active there as well as on the old silt pond behind the hide. The grass snake(s) are still to be seen basking on the fallen tree outside the hide too, all be it now mostly obscured by the bramble growth.

Yesterday a young fox was spotted in the willow coppice area, so at least one of the three cubs that was reared behind the reserve compound this spring is doing well.