Friday, 25 March 2011

Signs of Nature

First look from the Tern hide this morning yielded 2 little gull, both adults in non-breeding plumage, probably yesterday's plus a new one, but then again, perhaps both new birds, who can say at this time of year with so much on the move.

Going through the woodland it was clear that lots of the brambling and redpoll had left, yesterday the trees were full of the sounds of these birds, today hardly one to be heard. I did see a few brambling, but no redpoll at all. The highlight was another slime mould encounter, this time both on the same alder log, I think different species, but perhaps just different stages of the same one. The first was most like a lump of expanding sealant foam, although rather whiter than they usually are.
The second was smaller and with a frogspawn-like surface, very like the one I posted the other day, but not as white, which may or may not be significant.
Continuing on from the "spring-clean" theme of yesterday I decided the various signs could do with a wash down, lots of them go green with algae and general dirt discolours them, so I was off with bucket and brush. The main entrance signs on the south side of Ellingham Drove were algae covered, but on the north side they were speckled with lichens.
Up close it was clear there was more than one species, the signs seem an unlikely surface for lichens, they are not made of wood, a very synthetic substrate, but one they seem to like.
I had not expected to encounter much interesting natural history cleaning the signs, well it doe snot seem very likely, but the lichen was not the end of it. On the main sign near the Tern hide I remembered there had been a small moth yesterday and it was still there. This might seem unlikely, but not quite as much as you might think. The moth was a female of a "micro" called Diumea fagella, it had not flown away because females of this species are flightless. It has wings, just too short to fly with, they actually look like the wings that have failed to inflate properly one emergence from the pupa. The effect is to make it look rather like a beetle or a bug, certainly not very moth-like.
The shore outside the Tern hide is very good for watching wader behaviours at present. At lunchtime there were displaying redshank, both males having territory disputes and a pair displaying and eventually mating. There are also five pairs of lapwing and one was engaged in elaborate nest scraping. The male often adopting a very tail-up pose with the tail fanned to display the coloured under-tail coverts.
Although the little gulls had gone there scaup form last weekend had reappeared, although way up at the north end of the lake. A Mediterranean gull was also reported and the little ringed plover was displaying over the water. When it landed it could be seen to have a ring on the right leg. Last year's male was ringed, it was seven years old then and apparently very close to being the oldest British ringed bird of this species. If this bird is the same one it would now easily break the record. Despite looking hard only a few letters and numbers could be made out, it seems it is the same bird but we cannot be sure. It would be good to get some pictures to confirm the ring number, a challenge for all those visitors who come armed with all that serious camera gear.
With all these nesting preliminaries I decided I had better get the stick rafts out on Ivy Lake so that is what I did in the afternoon. There are several pairs of great crested grebe on the lake so it will be interesting to see if any of them choose to use the rafts. These are the rafts based on a discarded lifebelt with a broken paving slab for ballast and topped with bundles of sticks. They have proved popular with nesting coot and grebe in the past and have the advantage of being able to cope with the sudden fall and rise in water level that can come with the lake being used for water supply.
With a maximum temperature of 18 it was not surprising that butterflies were a feature of the day. I saw at least 2 red admiral, several peacock and even more brimstone and comma and another single small white. I also caught one new moth for the year, a pine beauty, I would have posted a picture, but this is a species which often flies by day in sunshine and I had made the mistake of opening the trap in the sunshine and it flew away.

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