Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Icing on the Lake

A cold, foggy start, I could not see a thing from the Tern hide when I opened up. There was a little ice here and there in the car park and the padlocks were all solid, meaning I had to thaw them in my hand to get them open. After opening the Centre and other hides I popped back to see if there was any sign of the avocet reported from Ibsley Water yesterday, there was not, although the fog was still preventing a real look. It had actually got much colder and the puddles that had been open an hour earlier were now frozen over, the temperature had obviously dropped a good bit after sunrise.

As it was the first Sunday of the month there was a volunteer task and we decided to have a go at clearing up some more of the cut rhododendron, there was a bit of a problem getting the wet frozen twigs to burn, but once started we got a good bit cleared away.

When we had finished we returned to the Centre and there we were told that there were a pair of bearded tit in the reed mace below the Ivy North hide. Going over there I saw the male almost immediately, although I never got a view of the female. These are always very fine birds and to see one at Blashford was especially gratifying, the views were really rather good too. When I opened up the hide I had a momentary thought that I heard a bearded tit call, but then definitely heard Cetti's warbler calling and decided that this was perhaps the source, perhaps I was wrong. I went to the Tern hide to eat lunch and there saw a water pipit and 4 dunlin, but still no sign of any avocet.

In the afternoon I had a look around the reserve, along the Rockford path the number of wildfowl on Rockford Lake was immediately impressive. I estimated at least 1500 wigeon and good number of coot, gadwall and other species including a pair of goldeneye, which are not often on there. There were well over two and a half thousand birds on the lake. A group of wigeon and gadwall were feeding on the shore of the lake, this was of particular interest as they were eating Crassula helmsii a problem alien plant, I had not seen them eating it before.
I then went up to the Goosander hide where there were already about 60 goosander and looking at them I realised there was a single red-breasted merganser, it was a redhead and is the smaller bird just right of the centre of the picture between the drake goosander, coot and lesser black-backed gull.
I went on up to the Lapwing hide and on the way flushed a jack snipe from beside the path, another new bird for the BTO challenge total. By the time I left the hide at about 3:30pm there were already at least one hundred goosander arrived to roost. There were also 8 yellow-legged gull, but no sign of Caspian gull that I could see.
As it got dark I went to the Tern hide, there were moderate numbers of gulls arriving to roost, although numbers are well down as many have left for warmer climes. The ice on the water was around the shore a few metres out from the bank but in about twenty minutes it spread out across the water joining up until the whole of the southern end of the lake was frozen over, it was extraordinary to be able to just watch the lake freezing over in such a small period of time. A group of swans caught my eye as they flew north up the valley, they were a pair of adult Bewick's swan with three juveniles, it seems they had been on the water meadows near Ibsley bridge but were flushed off by a quad-bike. As it got darker we could hear Bewick's swan calling and then saw six on the lake, this time a pair with two juveniles and a pair of adults, making eleven in all.


  1. It sounds wonderful - can't wait to get there. Can you post a photo of the bearded tit please?!

  2. We made our annual visit to the reserve on Sunday and were lucky enough to see male and female bearded tits - a real treat. Every time we come there's something special, perhaps we should visit more often than once a year ;-)