Thursday, 30 September 2010

A few Birds and a Stink Horn

I could not see Iblsey Water when I opened up the Tern hide so there was nothing to report. A little later, when the fog had lifted I could just make out a juvenile common tern, a dunlin and a ringed plover around the islands. The shore near the hide had a fair few pied wagtail, perhaps 20 with similar numbers of meadow pipit and at least one grey wagtail.

It turned out the great white egret was seen from the Goosander hide for a good part of the morning. I also heard that there have been a couple of sightings of lesser spotted woodpecker from there recently, on one occasion a pair of birds. Other recent reports have included 9 goosander and 2 little ringed plover, the last very late for Blashford.

The volunteers were working clearing the willows that have invaded the shore of Ivy Lake, they also collected plants for planting up the vegetated rafts. We have chosen to use mostly reed sweet grass, as this seems to be the species with the greatest phosphate demand and it is hoped the rafts will help in the reduction of levels of this nutrient in the lake.

At this point there was to have been a picture of an especially fine and smelly stink horn fungus complete with a host of flies. We found it as we walked back form the volunteer task, I was going to go back and get a picture but never made it.

At the end of the day a quick look at Ibsley Water, this time in sunshine and I saw a little stint, no doubt yesterday's bird and 3 dunlin. There were still fair numbers of all three common hirundines today and several chiffchaff are still around in the willows.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A Stint on Ibsley Water

Mist, followed by drizzle soon turning to rain, which lasted all day. It is rare for whole day to be wet, but today managed it.

Looking through the mist from the Tern hide at the start of the day I saw 7 dunlin and a ringed plover, almost what was there yesterday but not quite, were these mostly the same birds or an entirely different group? There were also 13 Egyptian geese, a juvenile common tern, the great white egret, 2 little egret, a sparrowhawk, 30 wigeon and 4 pintail. These were the first pintail I have seen on the lake this season.

At Ivy North a calling water rail was the only thing of note. On the silt pond by the path to the Ivy South hide there was a good selection of wildfowl including wigeon, gadwall, teal and mallard. From the Ivy South hide 63 tufted duck were more than recently and there were also 2 drake pochard.

Later in the day a little stint had joined the dunlin on Ibsley Water, the first of the year and a useful extra bird for our BTO Challenge total.

The greatest sighting of the day was made in the lobby of the Centre, I was walking between the offices when I glanced at the big screen, which was relaying pictures form the pond, when I saw a grass snake, evidently using the camera as a route out of the pond so the whole length of the body passed up the screen, like some huge monster, an amazing sight.

Perhaps surprisingly as I locked up the Ivy North hide, in the continuing rain, there was a migrant hawker dragonfly hunting flies outside the hide.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A Sexton Flies In

A mild drizzly night produced a good catch of moths, but not only moths, there were two small dung beetles and one black and orange burying beetle. It was carrying a number of small mites, one or two of which can be seen below the thorax. The red spot is a club end on the tip of the antennae. These beetles are also known as sexton beetles after their habit of burying small carcases on which they and their larvae feed. They will probably also feed on the larvae of other carrion feeders and in some the female beetle stays with her off-spring even feeding them when they are very small.
The great white egret was around for much of the day on Ibsley Water as were yesterday's group of 5 dunlin and 2 ringed plover. There were still good numbers of hirundines about over the lakes, especially early on when the drizzle was still falling. House martins were most numerous, but there were over 50 sand martin over Ivy Lake, a good number for so late in the season.

A flock of small birds near the Ivy North hide in the morning was made up mainly of chiffchaff, with at least twenty, but also included 2 blackcap and a small number of blue tit, great tit and long-tailed tit. However the real surprise was when I realised there was a kingfisher sitting in one of the bushes, these were not bushes on the lake shore, but on the raised bank to the north.

At the end of the day 2 juvenile common tern had turned up on Ibsley Water and the great white egret was still present.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Shades of Black

A much cloudier night meant that the temperature did not drop so far and so there were rather more moths, last night's catch, in no particular order, was: sallow 8, large yellow underwing 8, light emerald 2, pink-barred sallow 8, Acleris emargana 1, black rustic 1, lunar underwing 6, frosted orange 1, setaceous hebrew character 2 and snout 4. The black rustic was the first of the autumn, when they are fresh, which they rarely seem to be, they are very dark, with a distinctly gothic look. The thorax especially is very black and the wings have a velvety look with patches matt and others with a slightly coloured sheen.
Both Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake had good flocks of hirundines feeding over them, however the roughly 400 birds over Ibsley Water were mostly swallow c250, sand martin c100 and house martin c50, whilst those over Ivy Lake were overwhelmingly house martin c300, with just about 30 swallow and 10 sand martin. There were also more wigeon about today, I don't know how many, probably only tens, but certainly noticeably more than yesterday.

The pink-footed goose was on Ibsley Water again as were 15 Egyptian geese, at least for a time. The great white egret was also present for a good part of the day. Yesterday's dunlin was still on the shore by the Tern hide, but a party of 3 dunlin and 2 ringed plover at lunchtime were new, the dunlin group had increased to five by the end of the day and I suspect these did not include the juvenile from the Tern hide shore.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Pink-footed Goose and a Feeding Frenzy

A bit of a photofest today, not that I set out with that in mind. The day started with a flock of 60 or so shoveler flying across onto Ibsley Water from Mockbeggar Lake, a sure sign of there being people on the bank. I went round for a quick look and there was a car parked up, no sign of anyone and no tracks in the dew so probably anglers, so they would keep whilst I opened up the hides. From the Ivy North the roe deer were just top the west of the hide and a quick look in the hide book showed a report of long-eared owl seen yesterday, no details, just written in with "coot" and "egret", if there really was one it would be a reserve "first".

Then it was time to go over to Mockbeggar and track down the anglers, there were five of them and they had evidently spent the night fishing. There were no birds on the lake but as I walked back I flushed a woodlark from a small patch of grass, the first I have seen on the reserve this year.

A look round other parts of the reserve proved most productive. From the screen along the Rockford path I had a good view of the three young great crested grebe, now quite well grown. I saw one adult feeding a small pike to one of the young.
Back to the Centre via the Tern hide and the greylag geese out on the lake included a smaller bird, a pink-footed goose. Now this might be an escaped bird, but over the last two days there have been several reported at various unusual places, my guess is they have been displaced in the prevailing northerly winds just as lots have been arriving from the north. So my bet would be that it is a real wild bird. The best picture I got was not great but with wings raised you can tell, if you are in the know, that it really is a pink-footed goose.
There was also a remarkable number of fish eating birds around the lake today. A peregrine landed on the favourite cormorant island displacing the birds, allowing me to count them, there were an amazing 260! Added to this disturbance on neighbouring lakes had resulted in most if not all of the grey herons in the area having collected on Ibsley Water, I could not count them quite so well, but there were at least 120. Lots of fish eaters on a lake with lots of fish, well you can guess what might happen next.
The cormorants started to fly into the small bay just east of the Tern hide, they were driving a shoal of fish into the narrow inlet. The herons noticed and began to gather on the shore, a feeding frenzy had begun. In the next ten minutes or so about 100 cormorant, at least 24 grey heron, a little egret and the great white egret were involved. When it finished the cormorants all came out onto the shore to dry off. The three pictures below show things just after the start, during the feeding and the last as things ended.
Several of the cormorants have got fish in the above shot.
Above we have both egrets, a grey heron, cormorants and attendant gulls. As the cormorants drive the fish into the bay they come within range of the herons, avoiding the herons meant going back into deeper water and the cormorants.
Nothing better than a spot of sun to round off a good meal, the heron had just landed, it was not drying out.
At lunchtime I emptied the moth trap, it was a very thin catch, the only species were: sallow, pink-barred sallow, lunar underwing, brindled green and frosted orange. One of the frosted orange was especially fine and I got a fair picture of it.
Although there was a cold wind it was quite warm in the sunshine and there was a red admiral and several common darter about. The darters were perching on the picnic tables and I got a close up shot of one of them.
I had noticed that despite our several volunteer days pulling Himalayan balsam there were still a scatter of plants along the Dockens Water, so I took a walk along the stream and pulled what I could find. Most were either very small plants or ones that were bitten off by deer and "pollarded" easily missed when pulling plants in July, but now reaching flowering. If we get an early frost they might never set seed, but an Indian summer and they will so I was not taking any chances. It is an attractive plant but a real menace, spreading and taking over from native species. It is the fact that it is attractive that is the secret of much of the spread, people like it and so plant it in their gardens, it then escapes and colonises new ground.
At the end of the day there was a dunlin right in front of the Tern hide, a juvenile and a long-billed one at that. The few new grey winter plumage feathers can be seen dotted about amongst the pale fringed juveline ones. A second dunlin was also out on one of the islands well up the lake.
Other birds today included at least one white wagtail, a hobby, 4 pochard, an adult yellow-legged gull and 3 Egyptian goose. A further Egyptian goose and 2 pochard were on Rockford Lake.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Skuas and Sallows

The day got off to a monsoon start with torrential rain, in fact we had 14mm of rain fall in only about half an hour and even in this time there were short spells when it stopped. So when it rained it really rained and rain like this can bring down birds flying overhead that would normally never be seen. I went into the Tern hide with thoughts of possible black terns or waders, but there were none to be seen.

The heavy rain kept my in the hide for a little longer than usual, the black-headed gulls were all standing still heads angled up to minimise the area being impacted by the heavy rain drops. Looking about I noticed three birds high above Ibsley church dropping down towards the lake, at first I thought they were waders, perhaps whimbrel, but they were not right, wings too long and well just not waders. As they dropped down I got the telescope onto them, they were skuas! But still they were very slight, not displaying a powerful hawk-like look at all, long loose wings and almost tern-like flight, they were long-tailed skuas. All were more or less plain brown, slightly paler below obviously they were juveniles. They came low across the lake to the south end, they rose up and went off south-west gaining height as the rain eased. Heavy rain really can bring in the unexpected. These might be the first inland long-tailed skuas recorded in Hampshire, although they are known to migrate overland quite regularly they rarely get seen, probably because they are too high.

Nine brave volunteers came in today and by the time we started work the rain had stopped completely and we did a good bit of work. Two stayed on into the afternoon and in between we had lunch and emptied the moth trap. This was the first night the trap had been run since I finally managed to repair it. The haul included a three pink-barred sallow, these are really bright moths presumably it is only the autumn leaf colour that could possibly give them any chance of hiding from predators.
Other birds today included the great white egret for a time this morning on Ibsley Water where there was also a dunlin and a common sandpiper, probably both the same as yesterday's birds. Around the middle of the day a scatter of sand martin and swallow were over Ibsley Water and a few house martin passed over the Centre. A hobby hunting over the trees by the Ivy North hide as I locked up was a good sight. Lastly locking up the Tern hide, a quick look out and there were 2 common tern, both juveniles, but nothing else new that I could see.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Dewy Start and Late Arrivals

A cool, dewy autumn morning, the damp allows the slugs to get out and about in numbers, most are the large brown form of Arion ater a slug of very variable appearance and one of the commonest species. In very open habitats and in uplands they are usually black, in more sheltered habitats brown or reddish, in very sheltered yellow or even pale cream. The one in the picture is typical of the Blashford specimens and was by the path near the Ivy North hide as I opened up.
The dew also picks out the cobwebs and the many different types of web can easily be seen. The gorse bushes were covered with flat fine webs and between more open twigs there were lots of orb webs of the classic type with a radial design.
My first look round the hides turned up nothing of note, a calling water rail by the Ivy north being perhaps the most notable. The lack of hirundines was noticeable, the first morning I have seen none as I opened up since the early spring. The few people about reported very little for most of the day, a colour-ringed peregrine beside Ibsley Water and a couple of common sandpiper being the best. Then a visitor at the Centre pointed out there were 2 spotted flycatcher in the large oak next to the car park, always nice birds to see.
Whilst having lunch I at first thought there was a ruddy darter beside the pond, but the picture shows it to just be a very bright common darter, although it was a rather small one.
When I closed up the Tern hide I was not expecting much, the great white egret had been reported from Mockbeggar Lake, but nothing of note had really been seen on Ibsley Water. However when I looked out I saw a tern, an adult common tern, the first for a while, then I noticed more until there were twenty. They were a mix of adults and juveniles and were flying about, often quite high and calling a lot. I would guess they were a group of migrants, possibly pushed south by the approaching weather. I then saw a dunlin and as I followed that a redshank. Although not rare birds these would all seem to be migrants on the move that had arrived during the afternoon. With rain promised overnight there could be more in the morning.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Perch for a Gull

I did not arrive on site until lunchtime today as I had to attend a meeting in the morning. I had a quick look from the Tern hide when I arrived and The great white egret was standing on the north shore of the lake. In addition there were probably over 30 grey heron and at least 2 little egret. Later I was briefly in the Goosander hide where 3 goosander were the first for some time, probably locally bred birds from the valley and all juveniles as far as I could see. Other birds on Ibsley Water today included a bar-headed goose with the hundreds of greylag, 7 Egyptian geese and a peregrine.

Elsewhere on the reserve Jim and Michelle found yet another goat moth larva and a southern hawker dragonfly flew into the Centre lobby, I eventually caught it in the kitchen! When I went to lock up the Ivy North hide the roe deer were just to the east of the hide in the late afternoon sunshine and I managed to get one passable picture, although there was a little vegetation in the way.
Finally I went to lock up the Tern hide, the only extra bird I saw was a common sandpiper, but there was a cormorant struggling with a fish. A closer look showed it was a good sized perch, in fact so large was it that although it tried for something over ten minutes the bird could not swallow it, eventually the fish was abandoned and an adult great black-backed gull pulled it out of the water and eat a good part of it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Goat's Day Out

A fine, sunny, warm day and it really brought out the insects, there were butterflies and dragonflies and even quite a few damselflies. Rather more remarkably there were also goat moth caterpillars. Michelle found one during the morning, it seemed injured around the head, probably attacked by a predator, but why such a large and juicy food item would have been left was unclear. As it was not very active it did make an easy picture though.
They really are very large, probably 80mm (or three inches plus) long, these are full grown and wandering about looking for a place to make their cocoon. They feed on wood in the trunks of live trees and take several years to grow. They leave the tree and make a cocoon in which they spend the winter, only pupating in the late spring of the following year. During the afternoon Michelle found another caterpillar, this one dead and missing the head, then she found a very lively one marching over the ground. I went to have a look at this and found another predated one. So, all in all, four that we found all around the same group of willows. The curious thing about the predated ones was that none had been eaten despite looking like a good meal, it made me wonder if they are unpalatable in some way. I looked up this possibility but there seems to be no mention of it anywhere, so the mystery of why they should have been attacked but not eaten remains.

It was not a great day for birds, in that there were no new migrants about. The great white egret spent the afternoon on Iblsey Water along with 3 little egrets, 4 Egyptian geese and a common sandpiper. There was also a hobby hunting dragonflies and a peregrine perched on the long shingle spit.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

I Miss Ibis

I took the day off today, did a bit of birdwatching, very relaxing. Then, this evening I hear there has been a glossy ibis on the reserve this afternoon, wandering around the shore of Ibsley Water. It just so happens this is a species I have never seen in Britain, although some would say this has been laziness on my part, but still it remains the case. I am obviously not a twitcher, if I was I would have seen an ibis by now, but I do like to see a new species from time to time and to miss one in such circumstances, well you can imagine.

Mind you it is a great record for the reserve and especially valuable as we have been short of a few species this year and we need to add a some unexpected extras if we are to win our category in the BTO Birds and Business Challenge. I just wish that they were ones I had seen before if they are going to turn up on days when I am not on site!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Death, Damage and a Sparrow

A very fine day and a great one to be out and about in, luckily I was doing a count today so I got to have a really good look around in the process. Despite this it was a day punctuated by a death, in the shape of a very fresh and seemingly unmarked polecat picked up at the entrance to the sailing club at Blashford Lake. Close inspection suggests it probably was a genuine polecat rather than a ferret, although you can never be 100% certain, the markings and colour were right and the size also looked good. This is this first record for the reserve area, although I have seen corpses from just to the north and just south of Ringwood.
The bird count went well, this was the first of the season and the intention is to count all the wildfowl and other waterbirds on all the lakes. On the whole numbers are still low although 431 greylag was a very high number on Ibsley Water as was a count of 189 cormorant at the end of the day. With the greylag was a single bar-headed goose and 4 Egyptian geese, these last were on Rockford Lake earlier in the morning and I got a shot of one with wings open showing the white fore-wings.
On Ivy Lake the great white egret was showing well for much of the first half of the day, I got a picture of it with a little egret, not a good shot but a nice size comparison.
Other birds today included a first winter Mediterranean gull on Rockford Lake, at least one yellow wagtail, possibly mixed up with a general drift of moving meadow pipits, today was the first day I have noted groups of pipits going over. A sure sign of autumn when the hirundines start to be replaced with pipits, that said there were still hundreds of house martins early on and some sand martin, with a steady movement of swallows as well. However for all these birds the title of "Bird of the day" went, without doubt, to a house sparrow outside the Tern hide, the first I have ever seen in the main part of the reserve.
There are still good numbers of fungi around and I found an almost un-nibbled fly agaric near Snails Lake. Nearby there was an egg-laying holly blue butterfly, it is getting quite late for this species to still be flying.
All in all a good day, or nearly, sadly right at the end I discovered the donations box in the main car park had been levered open, damaged and any donations taken.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Volunteer Effect

It was Thursday, so it was volunteer day. With the lake levels still quite low we took the chance to cut some more willows from the shore of Ivy Lake. The area we are cutting is one of the very few shallow flooded areas on the reserve, at least at winter water levels, so a rare habitat on the reserve. The willows have invaded and are drying the area out, so we are clearing them to restore a marsh/fen type habitat. The picture below shows the team a little while after we started work, when the lowest growth had already been removed.
And the effect of seventeen volunteers working for about an hour and a half was.....
The volunteers really do make a huge difference to the reserve, on my own I would hardly scratch the surface of large tasks like today's. Another example of their handiwork was the layering of the spindly willows between the Goosander and Lapwing hides. The upper picture shows them working on a cold January day last winter.
The same area just eight months on and there is now a low dense thicket of willow, great cover for small birds and well sheltered for insects. Layering the trees keeps the mass of the timber and the maturity but produces the low thicket that makes such good cover.
In other news, there were something over a thousand house martin gathered over Ibsley Water early on this morning, I had a look for potential red-rumped swallow, I have always hoped to pick one out, but failed again. Later in the day I gather one flew over Sway, not too far away, so my hope may not have been so fanciful. There were a few sand martin and a very few swallow as well. Rather more surprising was a group of 8 dunlin which flew over heading north, a couple of common sandpiper completed the picture.
At the Ivy North hide a juvenile sedge warbler was a nice sighting, other migrants seemed to be restricted to a few chiffchaff. I am due to do the first wildfowl count of the "winter" tomorrow so perhaps there will be more to report.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Tern Returns?

A very quiet day birdwise, but not without interest for all that. As I opened up the Tern hide it was noticeable that the hirundines today were mostly sand martin, with just a few swallow and house martin, in all probably no more than two hundred. A single common sandpiper was the only wader I could see and the few wildfowl included 3 Egyptian geese.

The Ivy Lake side of the reserve was not much more interesting, although a single lesser whitethoat in the coppiced willows was the first I have seen in this area, there were also one or two blackcap and several chiffchaff. A flock of perhaps 50 house martin calling as they flew high south over the lake looked as though they were on the move.

Prior to heading off the the office at Beechcroft I dropped into the Tern hide for one last look and I was pleased I did. A single common tern was perched on the posts outside the hide, not rare, although it is a few days since there has been one on the reserve. This tern was more interesting though, it was not an adult and yet not one of this year's juveniles, it was just over a year old, mostly with adult feathers but retaining dark wing-coverts and a short tail with dark grey outer feathers. Most common terns in their first year stay at or near the wintering areas off West Africa. Birds this age were though very rare in British waters at one time and perhaps they were, nowadays they are not rare, but always worthy of note. This is the first such bird I have seen at Blashford, it is just possibly it is one of last year's youngsters from the rafts on Ivy Lake popping back for a quick check on the old homeplace, more likely just a passing migrant, but you never know.
The different ages of the feathers show quite clearly in the picture with the newest feathers being the palest grey ones and those with unworn white edging. The white edged of feather wear off quite quickly as dark pigments are more hard-wearing than pale ones, it is no accident that many seabirds have black wing-tips.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Confused Willows

I know hazel can be contorted, but just now Blashford seems to have confused willows. Several of the small willows growing in the bank around the main car park have started to produce catkins, something they should do in the early spring. They also seem to have produced a new flush of leaves. I think the cause is the drought, or rather the rain that has followed. In the dry spell several of them lost most of their leaves and with the rain they have greened up again, perhaps this leaf loss followed by fresh growth has fooled them into a false Spring.
Apart from eccentric willows it was a very quiet day. Early in the day there were something like 400 house martin over Ibsley Water, as they tend to they were in a tight group and gradually flying higher and higher before moving off south. By contrast the swallows on the move were in scattered groups moving at about twice tree top height into the wind. I saw only one sand martin today and no swifts, although the day felt right for one somewhere. Waders were very few, in fact I saw only a single common sandpiper. Disturbance in the valley resulted in an influx of greylag, with the single bar-headed goose and also of grey herons with one little egret, but no sign of the great white egret. The adult grey heron in the picture was beside the Goosander hide in the late morning.
The cormorant continue to feed on Ibsley Water in great flocks, in between feeding they rest on the islands and I counted 182 at one point around lunchtime. The majority are young birds, one of today's had a colour ring engraved with, well I don't know what, it was just too far away. The only one I have managed to read was ringed as a nestling in the Bristol Channel.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Yesterday may have brought surprises, but if there were any gems today they were too well hidden for me. Opening the Tern hide, 10 of the Egyptian geese were on the shore just outside the hide, they took to the water allowing me my best shot so far of them. I later realised the other six were on the western shore of the lake. Otherwise 2 common sandpiper were about as interesting as it got, there was no sign of either the black-necked grebe or curlew sandpiper of yesterday. Hirundines numbers have dropped right off, with just a few sand martins over the lake and small numbers of swallows flying over moving southwards.
The Ivy Lake area was also much less exciting than yesterday, although a hobby sitting on the Wessex Water Treatment Works was a good sight. My picture is not very good but about the best I have.
The volunteer task today was on the south shore of Ivy Lake where we were once again tackling patches of Himalayan balsam that were either missed or have grown again since earlier clearance. An old dog run and various junk was also collected for disposal and the trees that have been increasingly obscuring the view from the south screen were cut back. Apart form a good range of fungi there was little of interest. Several of the fly agaric fungi had been eaten away, evidently not everything finds them poisonous.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A Day of Surprises

I would have bet today would have been as dull as yesterday, in fact probably worse, there was no wind and it was grey with a light drizzle, but good visibility, no reason for there to be any birds of note. However, it just shows how wrong you can be. I opened up the Tern hide, all looked quiet, 3 Egyptian geese on the western shore and a common sandpiper, but nothing to get excited about. Still I decided to have a quick scan with the 'scope and found a black-necked grebe towards the north shore. A real bonus, perhaps and early return for the winter or maybe more likely a passage bird, I will have to see if I can find it tomorrow.

Somewhat buoyed up, but still not looking forward to opening up the remaining hides in the rain, I set off for the Ivy North hide. On opening the door I could see the great white egret fishing just below the hide beyond the nearest reeds, the first time I have seen it since it returned. A sound to the right made me look over and there were the roe deer doe and her two youngsters walking towards the hide. They came right up to the hide and started eating bramble leaves below the window, less than a metre from me. Up close the two young ones still have feint shadows of their spots. They are evidently a young doe and a buck and the buck is already a good bit larger than his sister. There is always something really special about being at this kind of "touching distance" to wildlife, especially when they have not registered you are there. In this case I had the window open as they approached but luckily I saw them first and remained completely still and they just walked below the window.

The Woodland hide had no obvious treats, a sallow tree just beside the hide had cracked and a large piece fallen off, luckily to the side of the hide. I would guess this happened in yesterday's torrential downpour. The tree still looks healthy enough so I expect it will go on growing.

What would the Ivy South hide hold? At first just the 7 wigeon and the regular wildfowl of recent days. Then the great crested grebe pair came swimming rapidly across towards the hide. I could tell by the raised wing feathers that there was still at least one chick hitching a ride. As they got nearer two heads popped out, great two chicks still alive a week after hatching, then a third head and one chick dropped of into the water. All three chicks are still surviving, their toughest week of life is now behind them, a long way to go but still an achievement. They had grown a lot in a week so there must be a good food supply. With luck we will be able to follow their progress right through to fledging.

Nothing further of note until the very end of the day, when a quick scan of Ibsley Water revealed a large white bird with the cormorant, the great white egret again. I had a quick look with the telescope and realised there was a wader there as well, a dunlin? Not quite right, a curlew sandpiper! a first for the year and another species for our BTO Birds and Business Challenge tally. Incidentally after the end of the first two quarters Blashford is heading up our category in this competition, so if any of you visit the reserve and see any birds of interest please let me know we need all the species we can get if we are to keep our lead.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Chiffchaffs in the Sunshine

When I opened up the Tern hide Ibsley Water was glass calm and the sky clear. In the sunshine the low brambles and dead hedge around the main car park were well stocked with small birds, including several chiffchaff and a blackcap. The open area of the car park had a number of pied wagtail chasing flies over the concrete. I managed to get one quick shot of a chiffchaff as it hunted spiders in the dead hedge, not a great shot but they never seem to stay still and so are especially difficult to digiscope.
The osprey was seen again today, it caught a fish and flew off west, as it seems to do regularly.
In late morning the heavens opened and we had a short period of torrential rain, with little wind I wondered how long it might last but it stopped as quickly as it had started and the sun came out enough for red admirals and migrant hawkers to be flying by lunchtime.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Meeting of Mushrooms

After a damp morning spent pulling Himalayan balsam with the volunteers along the Dockens Water the weather improved, apart from the occasional shower and after sorting a little paperwork I headed out onto the reserve. The recent rain has produced a good few fungi and under the trees along the Dockens Water I came across a group of parasol mushrooms including these two that had grown together as virtual mirror images.
I only made it as far as the Goosander hide, so it was not a wide ranging excursion, but it was productive. The bushes around the hide lived up to their reputation for small birds with several chiffchaff and at least one whitethroat, unusually it stayed still for long enough to allow me to get a picture as it paused between blackberries.
The shore below the hide is a regular spot for grey wagtail and there were two birds there, both spent a lot of time preening, showing off their bright rumps and under-tail coverts which contrast so much with the otherwise monochrome plumage. They almost look as though the tail end has been borrowed from another species and stuck on to brighten them up.
It is a good thing I got some picture of birds today as my usual stand-by, the moths, have let me down, or rather the moth trap has. First the plastic collar broke, so I made a new one, that went fine, but now the bulb holder has broken, so we will not be able to run it until I can get a replacement.

Having had some success with taking a few birds I decided to take the camera with me when I locked up and got some more form the Ivy South hide. It is interesting that since we replaced the hide the wildfowl seem to be much closer and less likely to be scared off when people enter, despite the larger windows. I think the trees felled into the water have helped giving loafing places for ducks, especially mallard and these decoy other birds in close to the hide. There always seem to be a few mallard perched on the tree trunks. The duck in the picture was clearly looking at me, but was not concerned enough to move away and maintained a casual one-legged stance showing just a flash of the blue speculum.
There are also regularly coot close to the hide, the adults, like the one in the picture have a large white shield above the bill, the juveniles, of which there seem to be a lot this year have much smaller ones which are also usually rather off-white. There is a huge growth of water weed in the lake this year and this is already attracting lots of wildfowl, as well as good numbers of coot there were 7 wigeon today, about 50 gadwall and a few teal.
A few shoveler have also been using the lake, I find them very difficult to get pictures of as they are either asleep or feeding frantically, often with their heads underwater. However today I did manage one shot of one with bill above water, although the spray of water shows it was not exactly still. It does show the huge bill it uses to sieve the water to obtain the minute items of food it seeks.
Other birds today included the osprey seen a couple of times by others early in the day, finally heading off west with a fish. Smaller birds include both sedge warbler and reed warbler in the reeds in the Ivy silt pond. The sedge warbler was a juvenile but it was singing quite loudly, although not very well, I assume it was practicing and sounded like a cross between a sedge warbler and a whitethroat. Possibly "Bird of the day" was a late swift, hunting insects over Ibsley Water with the hirundines. A fly-over yellow wagtail and a few blackcap rounded off the small birds. The only waders were single common sandpiper and green sandpiper. Buzzards were very much in evidence all day, with lots of noisy calling and chasing about.