Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dormouse Mania and a Fatal Mistake

Yet another cold one, in fact I think the coldest so far, ice cover has increased everywhere. The reserve looked splendid in the sunshine with ice and frost covering reeds, trees and lichen heath. At the Ivy North hide I could hear a Cetti's warbler calling vigorously, although looking at the frost coated vegetation it is hard to imagine how and insect eating warbler survives. Needless to say there is only a small, coot covered patch of water left on Ivy Lake, right in the north-east corner.
The scene at Ivy South hide was brighter, just smooth ice and a clear sky.
I was interested to see how much water remained, so I looked at Ellingham Lake, which was ice free yesterday, it still had quite large areas of open water, but still not many birds, no more than fifty in all and mainly tufted duck and mallard. Then over to Rockford Lake, the sheer number of birds must have kept water open there. It had but the birds were now almost all either coot or mute swan, the thousand wigeon there at the start of the week had moved on.
The main event today was dormouse training, or more accurately training about dormice their habits and habitats. There is an old record of dormouse from Blashford Lakes and we are keen to see if they are still present. To do this we will put up nest-boxes and tubes and see if they are occupied next summer. Dormice are legally protected so there are rules to be followed if we find any, hence the training session. After an indoor introduction to the world of the dormouse we all and there were a lot of us, twenty-three volunteers and a number of Wildlife Trust staff, went out to put up some boxes. If enthusiasm is any predictor of success this could be our biggest hit project yet.
At the end of the day there were 4 white-fronted goose, all adults with the greylag on Ibsley Water, these were seen briefly yesterday when there was also a brent goose, a really good inland record and yet another species for the BTO Challenge total. The pair of bearded tit were also seen again yesterday and today from the Ivy North hide.
While we were in the Tern Hide a little grebe flew in and landed on the ice in front of the hide, obviously mistaking it for open water. A serious mistake as it has real difficulty walking on the ice and even more taking off. It pretty soon attracted a carrion crow and I thought it was as good as dead. It tried to run off, skittering over the ice, but the crow just flew after it and grabbed if, this happened a few times and they disappeared off to the left of the hide with a second crow joining in, surely this was the end. Then, amazingly it reappeared having pecked at the crows and escaped, possibly helped by coming close to the hide where the crows did not want to follow. It was hard not to feel that this plucky grebe deserved to survive. It now set off over the ice towards the nearest open water, at first heading towards a group of herring and lesser black-backed gull, perhaps a mistake, then it swerved away, but still towards the water, a good move. now well over half way to the water and a buzzard flew low over, took a look and landed on a post on the bank, perhaps it is not really interested after all. The grebe still progressing in short bursts, interspersed with brief rests on the ice, was now just twenty or so metres from the water and safety. It was then that the buzzard swooped in low, plucked the grebe from the ice and took it up onto the bank. Landing on the ice was a fatal error, the uncertainty turned out to be just what would deal the final blow.

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