Friday, 29 October 2010

BTO Challenge Update

As you may well know Blashford is entered into the BTO business challenge competition this year. One of the main parts of this competition is the recording of as many bird species as possible during the year. Luckily the competition is divided into size classes and Blashford is in the second level, so we are not in direct head to head competition with Rutland Water, which would be an impossible hill to climb. After two quarters Blashford is just in front in our category, ahead of Top Hill Low nature reserve, a Yorkshire Water site.

The list of species recorded so far in 2010 below. If you have any species to add I would be delighted to hear from you. There are a couple of species that I know have been recorded but I do not have the details to hand, they are knot and grey plover, I have a suspicion I even saw the plover but cannot find it in my notes. I also suspect there may have been a golden plover but I have not got any record of one.

There are also one or two species that I have heard have been seen but I have been unable to obtain any details, so if you can shed any light on any of these I would be very keen to hear, amongst these are turtle dove and firecrest.

Then there are the species that might be out there but that we still have not recorded this year, like rock and water pipit, kittiwake, firecrest (if we cannot track down a record), yellowhammer and jack snipe.

There are some species that are on the "wish list", like goshawk, red-necked grebe, slavonian grebe, hawfinch and perhaps this year only lapland bunting. The last is a bit of a wildcard but with an invasion going on there is probably as good a chance this winter than there will ever be, I fancy one of on the bare ground near the Tern hide. It would also be good to get a record of another owl species, I have always thought a barn owl or short-eared owl would look good hunting along the eastern side of Iblsey Water.

The BTO Challenge List:

mute swan
Bewick's swan
white-fronted goose
pink-footed goose
greylag goose
Canada goose
barnacle goose
Egyptian goose
red-crested pochard
tufted duck
ruddy duck
red-legged partridge
little grebe
great crested grebe
black-necked grebe
little egret
great white egret
grey heron
glossy ibis
honey buzzard
red kite
marsh harrier
hen harrier
water rail
little ringed plover
ringed plover
little stint
curlew sandpiper
black-tailed godwit
bar-tailed godwit
green sandpiper
common sandpiper
long-tailed skua
Mediterranean gull
little gull
black-tailed gull
common gull
lesser black-backed gull
herring gull
great black-backed gull
yellow-legged gull
Caspian gull
common tern
arctic tern
black tern
feral pigeon
stock dove
collared dove
tawny owl
green woodpecker
great spotted woodpecker
lesser spotted woodpecker
sand martin
house martin
tree pipit
meadow pipit
yellow wagtail
grey wagtail
pied wagtail
ring ouzel
song thrush
mistle thrush
Cetti's warbler
sedge warbler
reed warbler
lesser whitethroat
garden warbler
willow warbler
spotted flycatcher
pied flycatcher
bearded tit
long-tailed tit
marsh tit
coal tit
blue tit
great tit
carrion crow
house sparrow
lesser redpoll
common crossbill
reed bunting

ESCAPEES: (these do not count against the total)

ringed teal
bar-headed goose
black swan

The long-tailed skua and gannet may not be allowed on the total, as "fly-overs" are not included, although both did drop down over the water so these are a question of interpretation, we await the judges decision.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Polecat's Tale

On 17th September I reported the find of a dead polecat on the reserve, found near the entrance to the sailing club on Ivy Lane. This was the first record for the reserve, although I knew them to be present in the general area. A sad, but all too typical tale of a roadkill, a rather regular occurrence for polecats. However it turned out the story was not nearly so simple as it seemed.

When the New Forest West group of the Wildlife Trust had their monthly meeting at Blashford earlier this month I overheard Paul Toynton say he had lost a polecat. In fact he had lost a dead polecat, it rapidly became obvious that the polecat lost and the one found on Ivy Lane were one and the same. It turned out the animal had actually been found at Tidpit and taken to the sailing club to be picked up by someone who wanted the corpse. However before it could be picked up by the intended recipient it was "found" and brought up to the Centre and became, for a time, the first reserve record.

It seems a polecat may move further in death than it did on life. The moral of this tale is to be careful where you leave that dead polecat, a lesson for us all.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Reports Received

I have not been at work for a few days, but I have been trying to keep up with reports from Blashford and there have been a few very notable sightings and one local "Mega".

At the weekend a pink-footed goose was reported, the bird was thought to have been a juvenile, if so it is not the bird seen about three weeks or so before as I think that was an adult. If it was a juvenile it is probably more likely to stay around having found the greylag flock. Unlike an adult which will be trying to go to a place it knows, a juvenile would have been relying on parental knowledge to get it to the wintering grounds. Thus a displaced adult will be able to reorientate, a juvenile will not have so many resources and may stay lost all winter.

Yesterday confirmation came of the starling roost on Ivy Lake once again. They make a great sight, especially from the northern screen on the east side of the lake beside the Rockford path. From there the wheeling flock can be seen against the setting sun. The flock was being attacked by both sparrowhawk and peregrine, adding to the drama. In addition there seem to be more water rail this winter and they call particularly at dusk, adding to the experience.

However none of these constitute a "Mega", that came in the form of a bearded tit, heard and briefly seen at dusk over the reeds near the Ivy North hide. This is certainly the first record for many years and a great addition to our BTO Birds in Business Challenge total.

I am putting together the species lists for the challenge by month at the moment, I will post them soon. If anyone can add any species or records for any months I would be delighted to hear. Hopefully they will also act as a guide to the species that can be seen month by month at Balshford.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Smoke on the Water

Properly cold this morning, in fact so cold that I could not really see anything from the Tern hide when I opened up. The lake was smoking a reflection of the sharp difference in temperature between the cold air and still warm water. There were a fair number of meadow pipit and pied wagtail feeding around the shore and a steady flight northwards of starling indicate that they are roosting somewhere to the south, perhaps in Ringwood town, I don't think they are in the Ivy Lake reedbed, but I would need to check at dusk proper to be sure.

When I crossed to Ivy Lake the air was already warming in the sunshine, still the frost was still thick on the reeds and reedmace in front of the Ivy North hide.
Beside the paths the brambles were heavily frosted as flocks of small birds moved through them. The number so goldcrest around is especially striking, especially as last winter seemed to knock back number so much. I did hear one or two chiffchaff, although they will be moving on soon. Although they do winter at Blashford, the wintering birds do not seem to be the autumn ones staying on. Usually few if any can be found in November until the last days when the bird that stay the winter turn up.
At Ivy South I took another view, the last this year to have the tern rafts in, as the volunteer task today was to get them in, cleaned off and ashore for the winter. I was intending to get some shots of the work but I was in the boat all morning and never got the chance.
There was no sign of the garganey today, although there were many fewer teal today on Ivy Lake as well. I heard of no other birds of note and saw none myself. I did hear some redwing near the Centre, but the trees blocked them from view. There was also a calling Cetti's warbler by the pond next to the path leading to the Ivy South hide, my first there this winter.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Never Give Up

A brilliant sunny day, although with quite a frost early on, so it was a good day to be doing a waterfowl count. I started at the Lapwing hide at about 07:50. On the way up to the hide a Cetti's warbler was singing in the reeds and there were several chiffchaff in a mixed flock of blue, great and long-tailed tit with a few reed buntings. Numbers of ducks on Ibsley Water are rather few this year, I think due to poor weed growth, only 183 shoveler were really notable. The 2 goldeneye, 118 tufted duck and 45 pochard suggest that conditions for diving duck are perhaps better than usual, possibly because of the poorer weed growth. In addition 52 little grebe was a good count, especially since it is never possible to count them all, I suspect there are well over sixty in reality. Two green sandpiper were the only waders apart from a few lapwing.

After counting Ibsley Water I opened up the Centre and checked the moth trap. Cold nights are never good for moths but 15 "November" moth and 2 green-brindled crescent were good. The picture shows a very smart green brindled crescent, an impressive moth and one of the typical species of late autumn.
Back out on the count, Ivy Lake was next, no sign of any mandarin today but there were a good number of teal (106). Most were asleep and as I looked at them one caught my eye as not quite right, flanks a bit too plain and just a hint of stronger head markings, a garganey. This was a real bonus as I had given up on seeing one at Blashford this year. The bird in question is the one asleep in the middle of the shot below.
It was also good to see the great crested grebe family still growing well, all three chicks are almost as large as their parents now and getting some real feathers. This is probably why they all seemed to be preening for most of the time I was watching.
From the same spot at the screen on the Rockford path I also got a shot of a grey heron warming itself in the sunshine.
I have not yet worked out the totals for all the species, but it looks as though coot numbers are somewhat down on last year, but this is what I would expect with the lack of weed in Ibsley Water.
Other birds of note were a fly-over lesser redpoll and the great white egret, which was on Mockbeggar Lake in the morning and had moved to Ibsley Water by the end of the day. It had not been around for a few days, I understand it had gone off to Dorset, but if so the attractions of Blashford were obviously too strong to resist.
There were still quite a few red admiral flying today as well as several migrant hawker, although a few more frosts may do for them over the next few days.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Brief Update

A fair bit of running about today meant that I did not have much of a chance to see any wildlife on the reserve. Following on from yesterday, when I was off site for almost the whole day looking at the management of another reserve, so I have to confess to having not a lot of idea what has been about.

Yesterday I saw two of the mandarin on Ivy Lake as I opened up, about 100 siskin in the alders near the Ivy silt pond were also a fine sight. Today out on Ibsley Water shore there was a wheatear, probably the last we will see this year and on the lake itself the goldeneye had increased to two birds, I think an immature drake and a duck.

One task I did do in the day was to check out the ponies on Mockbeggar Lake, when I had checked quickly the other day all I saw were fresh dropping so seeing some animals today was reassuring. I also saw at least 12 little egret with the grey heron on the islands in the lake, the most I have seen for a long time, although it would not have been at all remarkable a couple of years ago.

I was back at the reserve in the evening, in fact I am still there (here) now, so I had a chance to have a quick look at the gull roost on Ibsley Water. I estimated about 9000 large gulls, roughly 8000 lesser black-backed gull, 1000 herring gull and about 1400 black-headed gull. There were also 5 common gull and a few great black-backed gull. This last species has been up to the trick of attacking the smaller gulls to get them to disgorge their last meal. To do this they grab a bird by a wing in flight and shake it, unfortunately this often damages or breaks the wing and is why there are often a few wandering gulls each with a drooping wing wandering the shore of the lake in the daytime. In time most die, or are killed and end up being eaten by either fox or buzzard.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Winter In Summer Out

Although quite a quiet day there were several notable sightings. It was very much a day that marked the last gasp of the ended summer and ushered in the first hints of the coming winter. It was the first morning that we have had a frost, not sharp but widespread on the grass, the day itself was crisp and blue. There were siskin passing over in small numbers for most of the day and skylarks drifting west in small groups. Meadow pipits were mostly grounded with something over twenty around the lichen heath, from time to time they flew up onto the fence around the water treatment works where I got the picture.
Quite early in the day two visitors came and told me they had seen and heard a ring ouzel in the trees near the Ivy South hide, yet another new bird for the year. Unfortunately it avoided me so I still have not seen one this year. Later in the day I had a lesser redpoll fly over and then a brambling with a small group of chaffinch. Near the Lapwing hide I saw three or four chiffchaff and a couple of Cetti's warbler were reported. From the hide the first goldeneye of the season was a immature drake.

Walking round I went to look at the pollard willows, these have grown well, some putting on nearly three metres, so they should be good for basket makers next winter.
Other birds today included a single swallow, flying north, a raven which flew over east calling loudly. On Ibsley Water 5 goosander were loafing on the spit between the Goosander and Tern hides. On Ivy Lake the two pairs of mandarin were still present and the drakes are starting to look quite smart now. Also on Iblsey Water a green sandpiper, a report of a common sandpiper and a mystery wader flying with lapwing when they were flushed by peregrine.
Other signs of the mixed seasons were several migrant hawker and common darter dragonflies, there were also singing wood crickets and several meadow grasshoppers. Red admiral and speckled wood were the only butterflies I saw but there were several of each.
At the end of the day I found the beetle larva below walking across the concrete near the Tern hide. I don't know what species it is but it had a fierce set of jaws and must be a predator of some kind.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Island Life

More cutting along the shores of Ibsley Water today, making things better for grazing wildfowl and breeding waders. As well as cutting the shore two of the volunteer team went out to the island to give it a trim. This island is sometimes used by the big flock of black-tailed godwit that use the Avon Valley in the winter. Sometimes this flock can be as large as 3500 birds, a sizable part of the Icelandic population. The pictures show the island just after work started.
and what it looked like by the end of the morning.
Since I spent much of the morning using a strimmer and the afternoon various other machinery, bird sightings were few. The ruff was still on the islands in Ibsley Water first thing in the morning and I flushed a green sandpiper as I was transporting equipment up the shore of the lake later. I could see no sign of the scaup today, but it could still be around as I did not have a very good look. At the end of the day 2 wheatear were of note, both on the long shingle spit to the east of the Tern hide.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Ruff Day

Two days in one and two busy ones at that, which is why there was no post last night. On Wednesday the Testwood volunteer team were cutting the nettles and low willows off the western shore of Ibsley Water to make the are better for grazing wildfowl and next spring for breeding lapwing. Among the nettles there were a few giant puff-balls, well past their best now but still quite impressive.
Mothing over the last couple of nights has been quite good but without any of the rarities that I cannot help hoping for at this time of year. There have been a couple of merveille du jour, the usual few sallows and today a chestnut, which is another one of the species that emerges now then hibernates and flies again in the spring when it mates and the eggs are a laid.
The moths may have been unremarkable but there have been a number of interesting, if not rare, birds. On Wednesday a curlew sandpiper, a wheatear, the first redwing of the autumn and the continued stay of the black tern and great white egret made for a varied day. I got a shot of the wheatear in the low evening light at the end of the day.
I stayed late as I was going to give a talk in the evening which gave me the chance to watch the gull roost as it gathered. There were at least 8000 lesser black-backed gull, about 1000 herring gull, about 1800 black-headed gull. At one point I could see over a thousand large gull coming towards the roost from the west, which I found interesting as the main arrival is usually from the north. There were a few great black-backed gull, at least 6 common gull, at least 7 yellow-legged gull and the same second winter Caspian gull as I saw the day before.
Today was also busy with the volunteers in doing a variety of jobs, we also had two meeting on site today. Despite all the activity I did have a quick look from the Tern hide at lunchtime and I was pleased I did as I found two new species for the year and the BTO challenge. The first was a juvenile ruff, not that unusual, but I had more or less given up hope of seeing one on the reserve this year. The second was a scaup, a young drake, this was actually the first I have seen at Blashford and a species I would perhaps have expected sooner. I post this with a slight word of warning, the bird was along way off and it can be tricky to be certain that they are not hybrids. That said nothing about the bird looked wrong, size, shape of head and bill were all right so I am pretty confident it was the real thing.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Make Mine a Mocha

More overnight easterly winds promised more migrant moths, despite a rather cold night. The trap did not disappoint with a rush veneer and much rarer a Blair's mocha. Both species are pretty small and look as though they would be weak fliers, but they make long distance flights all the same. The Blair's mocha is below, not a spectacular species, although this one shows little signs of wear despite presumably having flown a long way.
Also in the trap was a scarce umber, the first of the season. In all species males tend to be more common at light than females, but in this case it is only ever males that come as the females are flightless.
The black tern that was first seen on Sunday was again present over Ibsley Water and the great white egret was also about again today. On Ivy Lake a mandarin drake was of interest partly because it was not one of the four that were around last week. At the end of the day a dunlin, a green sandpiper and a variety of gulls were on Ibsley Water. These gulls included at least 4 common gull, 4 yellow-legged gull and most interesting of all a second winter Caspian gull. I did get a poor, long-range picture of the last. It is just about possible to make out the rather small, round, white head, long bill and overall different shape of the bird.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Martins, Mandarins and a Marvel

I had hoped for some migrant moths in the trap this morning, although the catch was quite good, it lacked migrants. There was one of my favourite species though, the first Merveille du Jour of the year.
I was collating the records for the last quarter for the BTO challenge and this lead me to keep a tally for the day. All in all I saw seventy-three species on the reserve today, including the great white egret next to the Goosander hide, where there was also a goosander.
Also at the Goosander hide there was a brief gathering of cormorant, but they never started fishing.
Other birds today included a few sand martin first thing, perhaps up to forty, a good number for this late in the year, also a few swallows. The 4 mandarin duck were still on Ivy Lake, a total of 10 goosander flew out of the roost, there was also a report of a pair of speckled teal. On Ibsley Water a green sandpiper, a common sandpiper, 3 dunlin, a juvenile female peregrine, an adult common gull, a total of 4 yellow-legged gull and 15 Egyptian geese.
A raven flew over making regular rolls and an adult male kestrel hovering near the Goosander hide was an unusual sight, they are rarely around the reserve these days.
Conditions continue to be good for fungi a couple of pictures below, although I have no idea what the species are.
The upper one was beside the path to the Lapwing hide, the one below on the edge of the lichen heath.
The sun did eventually come out, although it was never less than warm, it was very dull. There were good numbers of migrant hawker flying. Other insects were a red admiral near the Centre and a male vapourer moth flying near the Lapwing hide.

Friday, 8 October 2010

A Blashford "Tick"

It is always good to see an new bird and today I saw a new species for the Blashford reserve, at least the first record that I am aware of since the reserve really opened up. Sadly it was not some rarity from distant parts, but a red-legged partridge, probably a refugee from a nearby shoot. On the plus side I did manage to get a picture of it. The bird was running around the car park when I arrived this morning and when it got to the back of the hide it flew up onto the screen and then off to the east.
I saw nothing else of note from the Tern hide, although I know the great white egret was seen on Iblsey Water later in the day. On Ivy Lake the 4 mandarin duck were still around, they were feeding on insects that they were picking off the surface of the lake, making rapid dashes here and there to grab them. I was not aware they fed on insects and certainly not in this way.

The moth trap included a couple of migrants, a silver Y and a rush veneer, but not much else of note.

During the afternoon I continued cutting the sight line outside the Ivy North hide, it was very warm in the sunshine and I was being buzzed by migrant hawkers all the time. As I cut I disturbed several large wainscot moths, these feed on reed mace, so it was not surprising that there were there.

As I headed back to the Centre I flushed a small butterfly, it was a small copper, rather worn this late in the season but still bright.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Busy and a Big Blue Hint of Things to Come?

No pictures and not a lot to report, there may have been things around but it was a very busy day. Volunteers in working during the morning, trimming willows and collecting plants for the rafts. All afternoon both Jim and I were busy with a Water Company conference group visit and of course we had to help eat some of the food provided for lunch, the trials of working at Blashford.

During lunch the sun had brought out a grass snake which was swimming in the pond behind the Centre, it could be the last one of the year, although with the temperatures predicted for the next few days I am sure they will be out and about for a while yet. During the afternoon we took the delegates on a guided walk, at the Goosander hide the great white egret was putting on a good show, there were also some goosander, appropriately enough.

Otherwise all I have to report is a couple of black-tailed godwit on Ibsley Water and 3 goosander flying out from the roost when I opened up first thing.

The next few days promise warm winds from the south, at this time of year that may not mean birds, but it could well produce migrant moths. Some of the most spectacular southern species can turn up at this time of year. By way of proof, when I got home and opened up my moth trap there was a Clifden nonpareil in it, this is a huge "underwing" moth, similar to, but larger than, a red underwing, but with black and blue hind wings. Perhaps it was a foretaste of things to come.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

All Fours

A morning of fours, at the Tern hide first thing 4 Egyptian geese and 4 goosander flying out after roosting on the lake, than at the Ivy North, 4 mandarin duck.

A reasonable catch of moths included a satellite, new for the season. This is one of the species that emerges from a pupa in the autumn, flies for a while then hibernates and flies again in the spring. This means that they might survive as adult moths for well over six months. It gets the name from the small white dot that lies beside the larger orange spot on the wing, this larger spot is also sometimes white.
As well as moths there were several other insects including another species of burying beetle, this time an all black species called Necrodes littoralis. Actually this is not really a burying beetle in that it does not feed on buried carcases, or indeed bury them as many other species do.
There was also a spectacular parasitic wasp, Netelia testaceus, it is an ectoparasite of moth larvae. I was not able to coax it off the egg boxes in the trap, but this did mean that I got a rather good shadow as well as the wasp.
A cancelled meeting in the afternoon was actually an opportunity, I managed to make a start on cutting the sight lines through the reeds, well actually reedmace and reed sweet-grass. I actually got Jim and Michelle out of the office as well and they cut some of the willows that obscured the view and cleaned the outside of the windows. We are almost ready for the bitterns now, although today all we managed was to hear water rail calling.

There were not a lot of reports from around the reserve today, although the great white egret was again watched near the Goosander hide.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Shakin' Fox, an Obvious Admiral and the Mandarins

Ibsley Water was pretty sparse first thing, a couple of little egret, a reasonable count of 131 shoveler and a common sandpiper was all I could find. A few swallow and a single sand martin flying over southward were the only hirundines.

The conditions are still good for fungi and I got pictures of a couple of unidentified groups in the area of the Woodland hide. One lot rather egg-like.
The other group more conventional, in fact these might be honey fungus, although they seemed rather small.
Returning to the Centre something caught my eye on a spurge plant, a closer look showed it to be a caterpillar preparing to pupate. I looked later in the day to see it it had progressed, but it had gone, I suspect taken by a predator, since if I saw it easily, presumably other sets of eyes would also. It was a red admiral caterpillar, so it would probably not have survived anyway as they only overwinter as adults in this country as far as I know.
The moth trap was pretty unremarkable, although a fresh large wainscot was only the second I have seen this autumn.
During the afternoon I looked out of the office window and there was a fox walking about in the car park. I called Jim and we watched it as it wandered about. It quickly became obvious that it was the "head-shaking" cub from the earth by the store. Watching it moving about, head rolling about it was hard to believe it had survived. When I walked out of the door it stopped and looked at us, head temporarily still, so it can hold still if it really needs to. Walking to the Ivy South hide to lock up we saw a fox was sitting in the sun on the far side of the silt pond, it was then joined by a second and it was immediately obvious the first was an adult and the second the head-shaking cub. If this cub is still with mum it might explain how it has survived.
From the Ivy North hide we saw 4 mandarin duck, two drakes and two ducks, so it looks like yesterday's group of three have found a friend. I had bit more time than usual at the end of the day and I was going to count the gull roost, however I did not get far before being interrupted by the sight of someone wandering along the northern shore of Iblsey Water and flushing the wildfowl. So I settled for a single adult yellow-legged gull and went to have a word.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A Day to Savour

A great day to be out and about, it started a bit grey and drizzly, but then became quiet brilliant, possibly the more so for the poor start. Days like this are the more to be savoured as you just know there can be few left this year, each one might be the last for perhaps six months. A really good day in October is somehow worth a week's worth in high summer, at least to me.

The day actually started on a high as I pulled in to the main car park to be greeted by the sight of a male stonechat on the car park bank, a rare bird indeed at Blashford and only my second record and the first for the BTO Challenge. A second notable sighting was of 3 mandarin duck on Ivy Lake, one of which was a drake just acquiring his finery.

The night was mild and there was a good range of moths, although no new species for the year, although the caddisfly in the picture was a rather fine creature, it is a shame I cannot identify them.
When I picked up the trap there were two beetles under it, one a ground beetle with fine sculptured back and fused elytra. I looked it up later and it seems to be Cychrus caraboides a species that feeds on snails and has a rather elongated head the better to prize them out of their shells.
The second beetle was also not a typical species as it did not have long elytra covering the abdomen. Like the ground beetle it had the large jaws of a predator, it also objected to me taking a picture of it and adopted a threat posture with tail raised and jaws open. It is a common species of rove beetle called a devil's coach horse.
At lunchtime I went to the Tern hide and was rewarded with great views of a common sandpiper, it was a juvenile, as can be told from the pale edges to the coverts producing bars along the closed wing.
The really keen might notice that this bird's tail is rather short for a common sandpiper and it is, but do not jump to any hasty conclusions, it had lost the central feather somehow, as was clear when I saw it preening. It also did a rather fine wing raise, which I managed to capture, it shows the underwing rather well.
As I was watching the sandpiper someone else in the hide spotted a fine sparrowhawk fly onto one of the posts near the hide. I was a little concerned as the sandpiper did not seem to have noticed it.
I decided to try and get a couple of the new rafts onto the water during the afternoon, although I was a little worried I would not get them down the path alongside Rockford Lake, in fact Jim seemed sure I would not. Actually it was fine and I managed to plant up two, mainly with Glyceria maxima or reed sweet-grass. Not my favourite plant as it has viciously serrated leaves from which I have got some fiendish cuts in the past. It does have the advantage of seeming to need a lot of phosphate and this is a key attribute for this project which is aimed at finding ways of reducing phosphate in the lake water.
It was a fabulous afternoon to be working on the lake shore and the whole time there was a reed warbler hopping about noisily in the reeds next to me. The view up the lake was so fine that I took a panorama view of it, you will need to click on it to enlarge in order to really see it though.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Rain Fails to Stop Work or Cricket

This morning's rain stopped play at the Ryder Cup but it was not nearly enough to stop Blashford's volunteers. In fact we used the opportunity of the rain soaked tree branches to identify those that were most likely to bend down and reduce the headroom or the width of the paths. More or less as soon as we finished work the rain stopped, shortly after the sun came out, albeit briefly.

A wet night meant a cloudy night and that equals a warm night and a warm night means moths. Last night's catch included a beaded chestnut one of many "autumn only" species.
Another, although rather more common autumn species is the very variable lunar underwing, if you wonder why it has this name, it is because it has a crescent shaped mark on the hind-wing, although this is covered by the fore-wing when the moth is resting so you never really see it.
A lot of the autumn moths are orange or yellow, no doubt this camouflages them amongst autumn leaves, one such species is the sallow.
Some autumn flying moths have two broods a year. The setaceous Hebrew character is one of these, with a brood that fly in the mid-summer period and a second flying in the autumn.
Last of the moth picture from last night is a feathered thorn, it really doe shave feathery antennae, although this one refused to show them for the camera.
The early rain resulted in large numbers of swallows and martins feeding low over the lakes, today most were swallows, with perhaps 800 over Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake first thing. Numbers of martins were lower, but there were still about 50 sand martin and 200 house martin. Many of the house martin were not low over the water though, they seemed to prefer feeding around and just above the trees.
At lunchtime most of the swallows had dispersed as the weather improved. A visit to Tern hide to eat my sandwiches was largely quiet apart from 2 Egyptian geese and a little stint. The range was such that the stint was identified by probability, I suppose it could have been a semi-palmated sandpiper, well I can dream can't I?
I will end with another insect, one that I hear quite regularly during the summer but rarely see, despite searching. I have found the recent damp, mild mornings are just right for finding them, they are wood crickets. These are true crickets and chirrup softly in the leaf-litter, but the calls are hard to locate accurately and they stop if you get too close. However it seems they forage out on the shingle around the Centre on damp mornings and head back to shelter just about when I am covering the moth trap. Now that I had found where they were hiding I was able to find one and get a picture of it.
These are called "true-crickets" to distinguish them from bush-crickets. This species is quite common around the New Forest and was probably introduced into this country. We do have a native species in the field cricket, but this is so rare that it is the subject of special work to try and save it. The wood cricket may, or may not, be a native species, it was hardly noted before about a hundred and fifty years ago, perhaps it was much rarer for some reason or perhaps it was newly arrived with plants from the continent as gardening became more popular. The one in the picture is engaged in a little antennae cleaning.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Raining Swallows

There are days when it rains and then there are days when it RAINS, today was one of the later, it rained all day and often hard as well. As a result it was one of the quietest days for visitors that we have ever had, not that you could blame anyone for staying in. For once I was actually glad to be stuck inside attending a meeting.

Sometimes rain does bring down birds that were flying over, apart from swallows there was little build up of birds during the course of the day. On Ibsley Water there were 2 dunlin and the great white egret was reported. The cormorants were involved in mass fishing, with upwards of two hundred in pack to the west of the Tern hide in the early morning. A single common tern was almost certainly the same juvenile as yesterday.

At first there were perhaps 60 swallow and 20 sand martin over Ibsley Water, with a few more along with a handful of house martin over Ivy Lake. By the end of the day the swallows over Ibsley Water numbered about six hundred, although sand martins were only about fifty or so and there were very few house martin. All these were skimming low over the water in search of the few insects that hatch out whatever the weather.

On the positive side the rain will be filling my new garden pond well it also lead to the first Dockens Water flood of the autumn. Hopefully this flood will not be large enough to spill into Ivy Lake, if it does it will bring our works clearing willows to an early end.

I am in again on Sunday, it would be good to think the weather will be better, but the forecast is not good.