Monday, 28 February 2011

The Early, the Mealy and the Extraordinary

After a weekend of various interesting, or very interesting records, at least if any details come to light, today was quieter. There were reports of sand martin, which seems quite reasonable as there were a few in the country and the weather had been very suitable for early arrivals, still any February records will need a bit of supporting information. Slightly more from the outer reaches were swift, although no species was specified and pallid or alpine would probably be more likely than common and a common tern, equally unseasonal. Sadly none of these were around today, neither was a reported Slavonian grebe.

There are lots of birds at the feeders now and today 2 mealy redpoll were reported, I got a picture of a lesser redpoll when I opened up the hide, not a great one but I have not featured a bird in a while.
Along with the many siskin and a few lesser redpoll there were also a pair of goldfinch, the male is pictured below, the red on the face comes to behind the eye on males.
As well as the reported mealy redpoll a bittern and the 2 smew were again seen from the Ivy North hide. On Ibsley Water the 2 black-necked grebe were seen from the Lapwing hide and I saw the water pipit from the Tern hide, where there were also 10 linnet and something over 40 pied wagtail. The wagtails were mostly males and I suspect the first wave of migrants moving north, most of the pied wagtails from Scotland and the uplands move south for the winter. Later the females become the majority and a few white wagtails on their way to Iceland will also turn up.
The moths were few but included a few new species for the year. The catch included common Quaker, small Quaker, Hebrew character, dotted border and small brindled beauty.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Busy Day in the Sun

A day that makes you sure spring is just around the corner, no migrants yet but they cannot be far away. I never got a chance to get any pictures of birds today so it is more moths, but there were several fine ones, all the pictures below are of species that hatch in the spring, rather than over-wintering as adults. The first is oak beauty, a close relative of the peppered moth well known from biology textbooks, (it is the one that exhibits industrial melanism).
One that was new for the year and of which several were caught last night was the yellow horned, as the picture shows it does have yellowish antennae, the larvae eat birch leaves.
Lastly a picture of another small brindled beauty, but this time a paler one than the last I posted, it shows the marking much better than the dark individuals.
As it was Thursday the volunteers were out enjoying the weather, today we were weeding the shore of Ibsley Water in front of the Tern hide ready for the arrival of the little ringed plover, it also improves the sight lines from the hide.
Birds from today included a report of a bittern from the Ivy North hide, I did not see it but when I locked up I did see both smew fishing in the reedmace below the hide, not a habitat I am used to seeing them in. There must be lots of small fish in there as there were also two pairs of great crested grebe as well and all were catching fish. I also saw my first redshank of the year on Ibsley Water, although I see one was reported yesterday, presumably the first return of a bird to breed, either on the lake or in the fields in the valley.
A brimstone butterfly was reported, the second of the year, incidentally a peacock was also reported the other day. I saw a few bumble-bees and a single hoverfly, probably Eristalis pertinax, one of the drone-flies and one that hibernates as an adult.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Mysterious Wildlife

My first day in after a short break and we were doing a waterbird count of all the lakes this morning, all in all a bit grim in drizzle and then rain. The upshot was that lots of the wildfowl have left the lakes, which I had already guessed from the partial counts I had done earlier in the month, but you can never be certain that they have not moved to other lakes. Some will have gone into the Avon Valley onto floods, but many will have started back east and north now that the weather has got milder.

The mild conditions are good for moths though and last night saw a few more new for the year with a couple of small brindled beauty, both rather dark ones, the feathered antennae of the male is used to detect the female pheromones. This is another species with flightless females, like many of the winter flying species.
There was also a pale brindled beauty, 2 chestnut and a dotted chestnut. This last species is quite local and is one of a few species that have poorly understood life cycles. The larvae have rarely been found in the wild and there has been a long suggested association with ants, but this has not been confirmed with certainty. A number of species of insects have found ways to gain protection from ants, ranging from butterflies, especially blues, moths and hoverflies. It is interesting to know that there are species that, although uncommon, I see every year that are still not at all well known, proof that you do not need to travel to distant parts to find mysteries. This moth is at least well named as it does have lots of dots.
The wildfowl count did not result in any large numbers, but there were a few interesting birds. The 2 black-necked grebe were on Ibsley Water from the Goosander hide, the young drake smew was on Ivy Lake near the Ivy North hide, where I also saw a bittern, evidently one of two seen today. On the shore of Rockford Lake 2 green sandpiper were the first I had seen for a while, other waders were a single black-tailed godwit and the pair of oystercatcher.

Lastly, as I was leaving there was a splendid sunset, which actually got better after I took the shot below as I went to lock up the gate to the main car park.
A better day forecast for tomorrow, but as it is Thursday perhaps I should expect it. I plan to clear some of the debris on the shore of Ibsley Water to make it more suitable for the little ringed plover, which may well be with us by this time next week, as might the first sand martin.

Monday, 21 February 2011

There is a spring in my step

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day which seemed to bring everyone out to enjoy it. The bittern was seen in the usual location, to the left of Ivy North hide. On Saturday the smew was also seen once more on Ivy Lake from the North hide. The most exciting view I was informed of was a ring-billed gull on Ibsley water seen from the Tern hide.

I had a lovely view of a kingfisher while unlocking the hides in the morning. I often look out for kingfisher on the Ivy silt pond, the lake on the way between the woodland hide and Ivy south hide. Kingfisher can often be seen here first thing sitting up on the branches of the felled trees on the far side of the lake. It was sitting preening itself and then did a fantastic fly by over onto Ivy Lake.

From Ivy south hide another bird could be seen preening itself and drying out in the morning sun, but this one looked a lot more bizarre. It was a cormorant perched right at the very top of a tall silver birch tree!

When I went round to lock up the woodland hide I was most surprised to see three of the roe deer right in front of the hide. They were feeding on the bramble at the top of the bank by the feeders.

This morning I have been on a mission to take some photos with our brand new shiny camera, a W80 Pentax which has very generously been donated to the reserve by Castle Cameras (they have shops in both Bournemouth and Salisbury).

Firstly the snowdrops on the edge of the car park which were looking fantastic in the sunshine yesterday.

Spring is definitely in the air as the first of our wild daffodils is blooming on the approach to the woodland hide.

Everywhere you look in the woodland there are the new shoots of stinging nettles poking through and Arum, also known as lords and ladies or cuckoo pint, recognisable by its arrowhead shaped leaves.

Also on the approach to the woodland hide, if you look carefully amongst the leaf litter you will find it to be packed with scarlet elf cup.

And my last attempt of a macro shot is of the hazel flowers. The catkins are the male flower and if you look even closer you will see the tiny red star flowers which are the female flowers growing out of a bud like structure.

Many thanks to Castle Cameras for our new camera, it will certainly brighten up my blog entries in the future!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Tarin des aulnes

The ringers were in again this morning and had a pretty good session with fifty three birds caught including good numbers of lesser redpoll and siskin. One of the siskin was a control, which is to say a bird ringed somewhere else, however better than that it had been previously ringed in France, hence the title (it is French for siskin).

When I went to open the hides I had to clear the Woodland hide windows of condensation, a common problem at this time of year. However the windows are often also smeared and it is clear that a bird or bird has been beating their wings against the glass. I know the bird in question is a, or rather two carrion crows, as I have seen them doing it. I can understand that they might be doing it because they can see their reflections, however when the glass is covered in condensation this surely cannot be the case. Judge for yourself, the cleared areas are quite reflective but the misted areas certainly are not.
The moth trap caught quite well last night, both for moths as well as yet another minotaur beetle, this time a male with the "horns".
The moths included 3 spring usher, pale brindled beauty, dotted border, 2 chestnut and 4 March moth. Below are spring usher,
and a March moth.
It was another very fine day and of course a Thursday, so a return of form for the volunteers after last week's aberration. We finished the clearance of small willows for the Million Ponds Project pond creation. Later I continued with removing laurel bushes and thinning some of the planted trees west of Ellingham Pound. There is just a chance I can retrieve some of the hawthorns to make the basis of a hedge if I can get rid of the shading from the laurels.
There were a good few people about today and between them they reported all sorts of birds. The smew were on Ivy Lake but went fishing in the reeds so disappeared from view. There were 2 bittern seen from Ivy North hide and perhaps most remarkable of all the great grey shrike put in a brief appearance at the Woodland hide, not somewhere you would traditionally associate with this species. The 2 black-necked grebe were on Ibsley Water, again on the eastern side of the lake and an adult Mediterranean gull was also seen there. Finally Jim saw a male lesser spotted woodpecker in the trees just by the gate on the north side of Ellingham Drove on the path to the Tern hide, the fifth or sixth sighting in the last couple of months and the third in a fortnight.
Lastly I saw my first bumble-bee of the year today, rather later than usual, it was, as the first ones usually are, a Bombus terrestris and of course a queen.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Beetle Abroad

The moth trap hardly caught anything last night, just a couple of micro moths, both of the same species Tortricodes alternella.
There was also a single large beetle, a female minotaur beetle, this is one of the dung beetles and it specialises in rabbit dung. At this time of year there are lots of small piles of sand with a neat round hole in the top, these are where the beetle has emerge after a subterranean early life.
I spent the morning on paperwork, only getting out in the afternoon to continue clearing laurel bushes.
The reserve was quite busy for much of the day and birds reported to me included a bittern again at the Ivy North hide, where the two smew were also seen, along with two redhead goosander. A belated report from yesterday was of a possible mealy redpoll at the Woodand hide, the verbal description I got sounded encouraging, so something to look out for.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Fool's Gold?

Today I lead a walk entitled "Going for Gold" an attempt to see fifty species of birds on a two hour walk at Blashford Lakes. It was one of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust's Fiftieth Anniversary Events, hence the fifty bird target. I had thought it would be not too hard to achieve, but the weather at the start was awful, rain and very poor visibility. The conditions had reduced the original starting line up of sixteen to only nine hardy souls by the time we got going at the Tern hide at 10 o'clock. So how did we do? A list, in approximately the order we saw them is below.

At the Tern hide we got:
1. tufted duck
2. coot
3. great crested grebe
4. goldeneye
5. pintail
6. cormorant
7. great black-backed gull
8. herring gull
9. little grebe
10. lapwing
11. black-tailed godwit
12. jackdaw
We then walked across to the Woodland hide, and on the way saw:
13. song thrush
14. bullfinch
15. mallard
As soon as we entered the Woodland hide we were surrounded by birds and added:
16. chaffinch
17. brambling
18. goldfinch
19. greenfinch
20. lesser redpoll
21. siskin
22. blue tit
23. great tit
24. long-tailed tit
25. nuthatch
26. blackbird
27. coal tit
28. dunnock
29. collared dove
30. great spotted woodpecker
31. robin
32. reed bunting
33. pheasant
We then headed down to the to the Ivy South hide, the rain had finally stopped and on the silt pond beside the path we added:
34. mute swan
35. gadwall
36. wigeon
From the Ivy South hide:
37. pochard
38. black-headed gull
39. shoveler
40. goosander
41. jay
42. teal
So still nine short of our target we set off to the Ivy North hide, with a hope of adding bittern. En route we added:
43. woodpigeon
44. carrion crow
45. wren (this was actually only heard singing very loudly right beside us, but we could not see it).
We entered the Ivy North hide still six short, but there were one or two more easy additions:
46. moorhen
47. smew (a bonus this, both of them swam past just beyond the reeds)
48. bittern (on a roll now)
49. grey heron
With one to go we left the hide and started to walk back to the main car park and just behind the hide on the lichen heath saw two,
50. redwing.
So we had done it, now it got easy, we had great views of,
51. treecreeper
on a tree just in front of us near the gate just after we had crossed the road and finally just on the edge of the car park our last bird.
52. buzzard, sat in a tree.

Despite pretty grim conditions, especially at the start, we had reached the target and only slightly over time.

In the afternoon I was in Wimbourne doing a talk about the reserve, in the very warm and dry and there was tea and biscuits as well.

At the end of the day I was back at Blashford. The 2 black-necked grebe had been seen again on Ibsley Water, one each from the Goosander and Lapwing hides. When I locked up I once again saw the bittern at the Ivy North hide, where I also heard a Cetti's warbler.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Some Birds, Three Moths and some Laurels

A sunny morning as I opened up the hides, on Ibsley Water 71 black-tailed godwit were on Gull Island and a pair of oystercatcher. This pair of oystercatcher is probably the same one that nested there last year as they are long-lived birds. At the Ivy North hide a bittern was showing quite well, later two were reported, one large and one small, the smaller one flying off to the right of the hide.

Although the night was cold the moth trap did catch three moths once again, micro which flew off, a chestnut and a satellite, pictured below.
I spent most of the day either doing paperwork or clearing laurel bushes, as such I saw rather little wildlife myself. Others did report various sightings, including at least one black-necked grebe on Ibsley Water and a redhead smew on Ivy Lake.

The laurel clearing is part of the continuing program of works removing planted alien species. In this case planted as a screen at the time of the gravel extraction. No doubt it did the job well but it looks as though the original plan was to allow it to be replaced by a hawthorn hedge, but this never happened and the laurels have overwhelmed the thorns. As some of the thorns are still alive there is still some hope of retrieving things to a degree, so I am cutting out the laurel and a few other garden shrubs. I was also removing the tree guards that are still in place even though they are not protecting the trees now, rather they are often killing them. Sadly landscape plantings are all too often of this type, tended for the first few years then abandoned, so the intended result is never achieved. Considering the undoubted costs of these schemes it is very sad that they usually achieve so little. A combination of poor species selection and minimal aftercare following establishment, more or less ensures they have little or no landscape or wildlife value in the long term.

Friday, 11 February 2011

First Moths, a Shrike and the Rockford Two

After meaning to run the moth trap several times, I finally remembered yesterday and was rewarded with three moths. A single male pale brindled beauty, males of most species are far more frequent at moth traps than females. In the case of pale brindled beauty it is only males that ever come to the light as the females are flightless.
The other two moths were both chestnut, a common species that emerges as an adult in the autumn and over-winters, flying on mild nights and then more regularly in spring, surviving until April or May.
Most of the more sought after birds on the reserve seem to have collected on Ivy Lake. From the Ivy North hide a bittern was again present and the great white egret put in appearance again this afternoon. Out on the lake both of the smew, the "Rockford Two" were to be seen, although at times fishing under the over-hanging trees and so very difficult to locate. I had thought that the egret had gone, by usual standards it is staying very late this year and it was not reported at all yesterday.
After opening the hides I walked back along the path between the Dockens Water and Ellingham Lake, a good idea as it turned out as the great grey shrike was in the trees beside the Dockens just behind the Education Centre, it flew off south down the side of Ellingham Lake. It is usual to think of these shrikes being on open heath and perched in bushes or very small trees, but perhaps this is just where we can see them easily, this bird seems to be quite often in the tree tops and perhaps this is not as unusual as might be thought.
I went to the Woodland hide around the middle of the day and the brambling were very fine, at least sixty were feeding all around the hide. I have one of the feeders on camera in the lobby at the Centre and it is a great sight at times. We hope to have some clips from this camera for the website soon.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Getting Wet to Make a Pond

It might have been "Volunteer Thursday" but someone failed to tell the weather. We almost always have good conditions for our tasks, sometimes it starts to rain just as we finish or stops as we start, today it just rained. Although I got wet chainsawing, which was not that pleasant, we actually had a better turn out of volunteers than in last week's sunshine and so got more work done. We made really good inroads into the willow scrub we are cutting to make space for our Million Ponds Project ponds and we should be more or less done next week.

There were few people out and about on the reserve today but the bittern showed well for long periods and both smew were on Ivy Lake, so those that did visit were not disappointed. The great white egret was not seen all day though, which after being so regular for the last week or so makes me wonder if it has, at last, departed. I did hear Cetti's warbler and water rail calling at the Ivy North hide as I locked up, but I failed to see bittern today, it comes to something when I more or less expect to see one every day!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Early Morning Aigrettes

When I went to the Ivy North hide to open up I found the great white egret fishing in the channel just in front of the hide. Although the light was poor I decided to try and get a few pictures. It was just possible to angle the telescope to view through the side window, so I could see the bird, all I had to do then was set the camera so that the action of the bird was stilled and the contrast did not lead to the white plumage flaring. I took sixty odd shots and got three half decent ones, two of which are below. It is now in breeding plumage and has the long aigrettes, which are the long wispy plumes that grow down the back. Unlike little egret or grey heron they do not have head plumes.The aigrettes were much used in the Victorian and Edwardian fashion trade to adorn ladies hats. The head feathers of great crested grebe were also used as were many exotic species, especially humming-birds, the trade in which resulted in the import of hundreds of thousands of tiny corpses, sometimes used whole to "fly" around a hat. The excesses of this trade in feathers lead directly to the start of what in time became the RSPB. Before I left the hide I checked to the left in case the bittern was there and there it was, also fishing, although it slunk off into the vegetation, so even if the light had allowed there was no chance of a picture.

The 2 smew were reported from Rockford Lake again today, although the young drake flew over to Ivy Lake and was still there at the end of the day when I went over to lift a stranded mute swan over the fence on the Rockford path. The swans get stuck here because they land on Ivy Lake and get chased off by the very aggressive cob, if they do not have the wit to fly off they end up forced off the lake and so stuck on the path, unable to get through the fence onto Rockford Lake. There was also a report of 2 black-necked grebe on Ivy Lake this afternoon, but despite having a pretty good look I could not find them.

At the very end of the day I went to the Goosander hide to count the goosander roost, at least 155 came in, along with the female red-breasted merganser.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Creepers in the Sunshine

A cold and frosty start gave way to a brilliant day, evidently a lot of others agreed as the reserve was as busy as I think I have ever seen it on a weekday. The lack of wind made it ideal for the bird ringers who caught seventy five birds this morning, including a good number of lesser redpoll and siskin. A few of the siskin being caught this winter are birds that were first caught at Blashford last winter that have returned, showing site fidelity between years. Potentially at least as interesting was that one of this morning's lesser redpoll had been ringed elsewhere, it will be interesting to find out where it has come from. Although finches are the main targets of the ringing effort, one of the highlights today was the catching of three treecreeper. These are magical little birds, from their sickle bill for prizing food from bark crevices to their stiff pointed tail feathers. They really are small too, weighing about 8 grams, which is more than three to equal the weight of a standard packet of crisps!
I saw a bittern at the Ivy North hide as I opened up and one was seen on and off all day, the great white egret also performed well for lots of visitors. Also seen at the Ivy North hide were Cetti's warbler and water rail, there have also been quiet a variety of duck feeding in the reeds there including several wigeon, shoveler, mallard and gadwall. A lesser spotted woodpecker was reported from near the same hide today, probably the one seen last Thursday on the Dockens Water path, let's hope it stays around.

At the end of the day I took a look from the Tern hide, I could see no sign of yesterday's Caspian gull, but there were about 830 large gulls in the roost, almost all lesser black-backed gull but including one adult yellow-legged gull. There were also 14 black-tailed godwit and a few more little grebe than I have seen for a while.

In very late news, I forgot to record the first butterfly sighting of the year from last week, a brimstone seen on Thursday morning.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Centre for Birds

After a grey start the day turned out fine and sunny and quite bird filled. There were reports of 2 bittern and the great white egret was seen, although not as well or frequently as yesterday. The area around the Education Centre was particularly blessed, with a report of 3 waxwing flying over and all the usual birds at the feeders. A flock of long-tailed tit passed through and were typically hard to get a picture of, my best effort is below, presumably one of the birds ringed on the reserve recently.

However the highlight of the day was the great grey shrike that spent several minutes in the tops of trees just east of the Centre, although a bit distant, as I did not want to flush it, I am quite pleased with the picture I got of it.

Other reports today included 10 white-fronted geese flying over with a few greylag, although where they went is obscure as they were not on Ibsley Water as expected. A smew was again on Rockford Lake an adult Caspian gull was seen on Ibsley Water in the afternoon, although it was not obvious at the end of the day.

Although not rare the number of shoveler feeding near the Ivy South hide is impressive and they are giving a great opportunity to see them feeding cooperatively. Usually in pairs they feed by circling so that each is feeding in the water disturbed by the paddling feet of the other.

I put up a number of tit nesting boxes today, all near the dormouse boxes we put up earlier, the idea being to try and reduce the number of dormouse boxes that get nesting blue tit in instead. When in the area cleared of rhododendron this winter I came across a patch of snowdrops, now well in flower. These snowdrops may well have been planted during WW2, when several patches around the airfield, that used to occupy the space where Ibsley water is now, were tended as small gardens by off-duty RAF men.

A Grrrrrrrrrreat Day!

After a grey drizzly start to the day it just got better and better! First thing was the "Mini Beasts" toddler event learning about our feathered friends. Our young explorers first stop was the Woodland hide where the redpoll, siskin and brambling were looking very smart together with the great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch. The hide is a great place to take toddlers with the guaranteed close up views of a variety of birds feeding. Then it was off to Ivy South hide where we saw a grey heron flying over the silt pond and a large number of shoveler were feeding close up to the hide. A fantastic brightly coloured duck to see. We also met some visitors on the hunt for the Great White Egret which had been seen earlier in the morning in front of the Ivy North hide, although they were not having any luck with their search. Then we quacked our way back to the centre to make some bird puppets and fat balls to take home for the garden birds.

After the excitement of the morning I didn't expect much more. But I was wrong. An excited visitor ran up to the Centre to let us know of the great grey shrike which was just down the path in the willow coppice up in the tops of the trees. I thought I was too late but after they directed me to the right part of the tree I saw it. A ball of feathers sitting on the very tip of a branch with a black band over its eyes! It looked like a proper little villain!

And that wasn't all. On the way round to lock up the hides I stumbled upon the Great White Egret fishing in the channel to the left of Ivy North hide. It had returned, and I watch it catch and gobble up a fish. So it was definitely a day of Greats!

Elsewhere on the reserve, the smew was seen in the usual place on Rockford Lake and the bittern had been seen earlier in the day outside the Ivy north hide.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Green Footwear

The great white egret was feeding in front of the Ivy North hide first thing and remained there or thereabouts all day, giving good views for lots of visitors as they waited to see a bittern.

However the main event during the morning was a volunteer task, perhaps not the most obviously conservation task, but an important one none the less, we cleared up the storage yard and got rid of the rubbish into the skip. Along the way a trailer load of nest boxes were readied to go up and various unexpected items came to light. Way out in front in the unexpected category were the "Mossy shoes" quite how a pair of shoes had come to be in the back of the yard behind the timber stack was not clear. Having got abandoned there they were well on the way to becoming a part of the environment and had grown a generous covering of moss, seemingly of at least two species.
In the afternoon I had a look from the Woodland hide, I rarely get there during the mid part of the day and so don't often see the finches. The brambling were excellent, with perhaps up to fifty on and under the feeders, some of the males are starting to look very fine indeed. There were also the usual lesser redpoll, siskin, great spotted woodpecker and other regulars.

When I went to lock up the Ivy North hide the great white egret was still fishing in the channel left of the hide and I saw it catch two roach/rudd in a few minutes. In addition a bittern was preening in full view at the end of the middle channel, it was the bird with very black crown and hind neck. It seems at least one other was also seen today, so we still have two birds present.

At the end of the day from the Tern hide an adult Mediterranean gull was with something like 2400 black-headed gull and at least 41 common gull, however the large gull numbers have really slipped, I saw only about 110 lesser black-backed gull and a very few herring gull. A water pipit dropped in briefly on the shore below the hide before flying off north, probably the same bird that has been seen on and off all winter. To the north over Ibsley village a flock of something like 2500 starling was wheeling about before going to roost, not quite up to Somerset Levels standards, but a great sight all the same. As it got dark a displaying group of goldeneye included nine drakes and 13 redheads, although I expect there were others in the sheltered bay by the Goosander hide.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Too Good to Burn

A day which started misty with ice on the ground cleared to pleasantly warm sunshine. The "Volunteer Thursday" magic had worked again. Once again today we were clearing scrubby willow from the old silt pond where we plan to make a series of small ponds for the Million Ponds Project and refurbishing the sand martin bank. When we clear trees and with the dense growth of scrubby willows and extensive areas of unmanaged landscape plantings we have to clear quiet a bit, we never burn up the brash. This is not laziness it is because dead wood is a valuable resource.
The reserve has very little dead wood habitat, not surprising as most of the woodland is very young, one of the few areas with a lot is in the alder carr south of the Centre where many trees have succumbed to phytophora disease. Dead trees harbour lots of life, the larvae of beetles are often eaters of wood and in turn get eaten by birds such as woodpeckers. Dead wood in water is favoured by lots of fly larvae and there are specialists that eat certain types of tree or diameter of branch.
The tops of cut trees provide lots of small diameter twigs and branches, as well as being food, these can be used to create dead hedges, providing low dense cover, used by nesting birds and as cover to avoid predators. They are also popular with reptiles and amphibians.
A dead hedge does not last long, the small branches breakdown in a couple of years or so, but in this time they can provide support for brambles to grow through and so make a more permanent habitat, especially popular with nesting birds. A bramble hedge also makes a great barrier and is cheaper, more effective and longer lasting than a fence.
I saw rather little today, using a chainsaw and spending too long in the office does not make for good wildlife sightings. That said I did see a bittern as I opened the Ivy North hide. The reserve was very busy though and lots of other people did see all sorts of wildlife. The great white egret was on Ivy Lake for much of the day and bittern was seen on and off all day, both the egret and bittern were seen catching fish, in both cases they looked like rudd or roach. Over on Rockford Lake at least one smew was seen and best of all a lesser spotted woodpecker was found by the volunteers as they walked along the Dockens Water path to the worksite for the morning task.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Mealy Redpoll

Just a few reports today. There was a bittern preening in front of the Ivy North hide as I opened up and a Cetti's warbler calling. The main body of the lake was frozen as was much of Ibsley Water, although it was only thin and broke up quickly as soon as we had a breeze.

We now have the various cameras up and running again and I have one set up on the feeders at the Woodland hide, it is available on the web too via the Blashford page on the website. There were loads of brambling coming to the mixed seed feeder and good numbers of siskin and lesser redpoll to the niger and one mealy redpoll. Later the mealy redpoll was at the feeder by the Centre and I got within a cheery "hello" of getting a picture of it. It did come back later, but the light had deteriorated by then.

The last report was of the great white egret again on Ivy Lake today and that the bittern had been seen at various times during the day.

On a different note the scarlet elf cup fungi beside the path between the Centre and Woodland hide are now coming up in numbers, most are only just opening out but in a few days they will be looking splendid.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Ibsley Gives a Bow

It was fine when I arrived at Blashford this morning, the sky was largely clear and the sun was rising. So I was surprised to see a "rainbow" over Ibsley Water as I opened the gate to the car park. I got a picture of part of it and just in time as it lasted only a minute or two. It seems the low sun as it rose was being refracted by the moist air enough to produce a rainbow effect even though there was no rain. With the sun so low the bow was arches high into the sky forming an almost full semi-circle.
The bird feeders were low and when I went to the shed I found that I needed to get more of almost everything, a trip to the feed suppliers was called for. Three sacks of assorted birdfood cost over £100! It was the recent rise in the price of peanuts that really put up the bill, luckily we do not use too many of these so hopefully I will not need more before the end of the winter.

After a damp morning, the moisture in the air first thing portended drizzle for a good while later on, eventually out came the sun so I took the chance to count the birds on Rockford Lake. As well as the usual ducks there was a single black-tailed godwit feeding on the bank nearest the path and it peered warily at me as I passed.Although there are still good numbers of wildfowl on the lake the population has dropped markedly since last week. The 2 smew were still there as were several hundred gadwall and at least 8 goldeneye. The great white egret was fishing along the western shore throughout my count and I got a couple of pictures. It was using the little egret style foot shaking method to flush fish out of the weed, something I don't think I have ever seen a grey heron doing.
I was counting for about an hour and by the end the sun was quite low this resulted in a stark contrast between the white bird and the dark water made more interesting by the reflections off the water.
At the end of the day I went to the Goosander hide to count the goosander roost. I watched until it got dark and when I totalled up the count it came to exactly 200, which just sounds like an estimate! Once again I was helped out by a fox walking the shore of the lake. The birds that had been out of sight round the corner all followed it and so allowed themselves to be counted. I also saw 7 white-fronted goose that flew in with a flock of greylag which also included the bar-headed goose. As it got dark the 2 smew flew in, although they made several circuits before eventually landing near the long shingle spit to the west of the hide. The female red-breasted merganser is also still roosting with the goosander.
Although there were a good few gulls I could see no sign of the first winter ring-billed gull reported recently and last seen on Saturday. I understand the mealy redpoll was seen again yesterday and 2 bittern were seen again today.