Saturday, 25 June 2011

Worrying Willows

The tits and finches were hungry when I opened up this morning! Over the last month or so we have taken to bringing the bird feeders in overnight to reduce our overheads - left out the rooks and jackdaws were emptying them completely and though we have nothing against them helping themselves to the odd morsel during the day, we can not afford them feeding on that scale! Stored overnight in the Woodland Hide a tell-tale trail of sunflower seed husks from the feeder to the door was evidence that they had not been completely safe in there, and that somewhere a rotund woodmouse was sleeping off a heavy meal! I think the birds know the drill by now as no sooner had the first feeder gone out, they descended heedless of the fact that I was still there putting out the second!

I had a wander over to Goosander and Lapwing Hides this morning and was very intrigued by these mysterious eggs that had obviously been carried their by an unknown predator and then been abandoned with only half having been eaten. These were on a log, but there were several more scattered about the base, some whole and others not. I haven't a clue what they are so any suggestions would be welcome! They were about an inch long and soft shelled with a tough membrane. My best guess is that something uncovered a grass snake "nest" and that these are grass snake eggs as they seem to be about the right size and in a similar cluster to the old hatched eggs that I have unearthed in compost bins before.

After crossing the road and rounding the "Clearwater Pond" the unhealthy state of the willows was immediately apparent - all of the leaves of the volunteer "hedge-laid" willows around the edge of the willow wood were apparently dead or dieing and I then realised that the same was true of most of the willow all around. Unless the peculiar weather conditions this spring/summer have had an adverse affect on them (which seems unlikely as, for now at least, it is only the willows on the southern and eastern shore of Ibsley Water and the old reedbeds that are affected), or some very virulent disease is causing the die back. What ever it is it has happened very quickly - and like the eggs, it is a bit of a mystery, so if you've any ideas let me know!

Other than that, the sand martins were spectacular as always, there was a lovely big female adder basking on a log pile, loads of meadow brown butterflies amongst the oxeye daisies and a couple of fallow does too.

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