Saturday, 30 July 2011

Oh, what a night!

"Never work with children or wildlife" I think the saying goes. Foolishly I do both and on the whole derive a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from doing so. Unfortunately last night was one of the rare occasions where things did not quite work out so well...

I'm talking about the "Gloaming Glimpses" evening event - "join us for a twilight walk in search of baths, moths and tawny owls, before settling into the woodland hide to watch out for mammals" the blurb says. Well, we searched!

And searched.

And searched!

Net result? A couple of people glimpsed a bat from the woodland hide, a couple of others a rabbit and there was a possible, distant, roe deer sighting!

While in the hide there seemed to be a lot of moths flying in the clearing and as I said a bat was also glimpsed - were they out during our walk?


We had two dark arches moths on Bobs moth gloop (along with a few harvestman spiders and a solitary ground beetle and earwig) and all we picked up on the bat detector was a bush cricket!

Back at the centre and around the moth light we had a brimstone, mother of pearl and ruby tiger moth. Now you might think that an absence of moths might have been due to a deluge of bats. Sadly this was not the case - even at the centre there was only 1 pipistrelle (maybe 2!) hunting over the trap. Fortunately this managed to save the evening somewhat and everyone enjoyed listening to it via the bat detector and watching it in the moth light.

Looking on the bright side everyones experiences of a night walk can only get better and next time they do go out on a night time excursion they will be thrilled by everything they do see!

Although warm and overcast, it was a very bright night, and I can only assume that this is what caused our low wildlife count.

Certainly when I opened up this morning the badgers had been out last night - peanuts that had been untouched for days were gone, leaving carefully badger-tongue polished plums left behind in the bowl:



Lots of apples had also been munched (judging by the teeth marks in those left, partly by rabbits and/or squirrels, mice and/or voles and partly by deer). And, of course, when I checked the moth trap there was loads - including what I am convinced is a dark crimson underwing, but might be light crimson, but either way is a great find, both being rare New Forest speciality moths. Hopefully Bob will be able to provide a definitive ID from a photo. Also pictured below this is a ruby tiger moth - a relatively small moth, but quite stunningly scarlet and obviously the moth of the moment as the trap both last night and the night before was full of them:

Following a comment from Bob yesterday about the number of cherry plums in "Plum Wood" this year I went to have a look this afternoon only to find what can only be described as an obscene amount of fruit! It's no wonder we didn't see anything from the Woodland Hide last night - everything from deer to fox to badgers must have been over there eating fruit:

With a rather unfortunate side effect on their tummies:

It's a bit of an in-house joke that Michelle always does better on evening wildlife walks than I do, so hopefully she will have more to report after the same event repeated on Thu 18th August, 8-9.30pm (still some places left, but please book on 01425 472760).

Elsewhere on the reserve today the sun finally did come out this afternoon and with it the butterflies: ringlet, speckled wood, silverwashed fritillary, gatekeeper, brimstone, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral (probably others I missed!) and to top it off a hummingbird hawkmoth was seen feeding briefly on the buddleia at the back of the centre- as far as I am aware the first of the year.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Plum Central

Bird News
The black-necked grebe is still on Ibsley Water, bout half way up and towards the western shore so looking up the lake and left from the Tern hide. There were also 19 Egyptian geese and a report of 2 greenshank to go with the single common sandpiper that I saw. The little ringed plover chick still survives and was on the shore below the Tern hide.
Moth News
A very packed trap with at least 83 species identified, dentated pug was about the pick though, it was new for the year, there were a lot of moths but nothing unusual.
Other News
Yesterday I collected a bucket of fallen cherry plums and put them out by the Woodland hide to see if the badgers would come and eat them. When I arrived this morning the plums were still there, or at least most were the roe doe and one of her fawns were busily tucking into them. I did get a picture but the very overcast conditions and taking it through the one way glass add to make for a rather poor result.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Water Rail Chick

Bird News
The black-necked grebe was still on Ibsley Water today as was the black swan and an indeterminate number of Egyptian geese. Right below the hide the single remaining little ringed plover chick was giving good views and at the end of the day a single greenshank was on the spit to the east of there. But bird sighting of the day once again went to a proved breeding for a rarely seen species, this time it was water rail. On opening the Ivy North hide I spotted a rail chick that did not look right for moorhen, then I realised there was an adult bird preening in a patch of reedmace, eventually I could see it was a water rail and the chick's identity was confirmed. The youngster was a week or so old and from the movement I don't think it was the
only one. That is two really high quality confirmed breeding records in consecutive days and both just dipping in to the end of the Breeding Birds Atlas, the four years of fieldwork end in three days.
Insect News
The most interesting moth in the trap was a probably willow ermine, they can be hard to identify with certainty, but I am pretty sure that is what it was. I also finally caught up with silver-washed fritillary today, at least two were in the garden behind the Centre at lunchtime.
Other News
We continued ragworting again today, although only eleven volunteers turned out so perhaps it is getting to them, I know it is getting to me.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Teal Ducklings

Bird News
The black-necked grebe was still on Ibsley Water as was the black swan. The little ringed plover pair now seems to have only one chick, although it is growing fast. The best bird news of the day came from Mockbeggar Lake where John Levell was waiting for the carp catchers to come ashore and had two notable sightings. The first was a flock of crossbill leaving Cherry Orchard and heading off west, July is the best month for crossbill and they pretty much always fl;y west. The second sighting was much more interesting though, a duck teal with a brood, this is one of the hardest species to prove breeding as they are so secretive. It seemed she was moving her ducklings away from the carp catchers and just happened to take them right past John on the bank.
Moth News
A good catch of over 70 species but nothing really exciting, a dark tussock was the first of the year and a particularly fresh one so it made a decent picture. Although not rare they are much less frequent than their close relative the pale tussock.
I was ragwort cutting again this afternoon, it was too hot and humid but I have only a few days before I am off for a bit so every hour counts. The long grass around Ibsley Water was again alive with Roesel's bush cricket and meadow grasshopper. There are good numbers of meadow brown and gatekeeper about now and on the flowers at the Centre peacock, comma, red admiral and so I'm told, as I still have not caught up with one, silver-washed fritillary.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

More Moths

Bird News
The black-necked grebe was again on Ibsley Water today and was about the only notable sighting I made. Reports received from there included 18 Egyptian geese, at least two common sandpiper, with two more on Rockford Lake.
Moth News
A lot of moths, sixty-eight species in fact, although the interesting ones were not showy. A twin-spotted wainscot was the first for the year and a small Pyralid moth Pyrausta nigrata seesm to be the first both for the reserve and the 10km square. It is not especially rare, but usually restricted to the chalk where the caterpillar feeds on wild marjoram. There is marjoram in the garden by the pond so perhaps that is why it was there. It is quite a smart little species, dark, almost black, with whitish cross lines.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Dotty Day, with Visiting Emperor

Bird News: On Ibsley Water the black-necked grebe first reported over the weekend was still present, it is in "winter" plumage, but looked like an adult as far as I could see, which seems a little odd. Also there were 2 common sandpiper, a black-tailed godwit, 200 mute swan (a count, not an estimate) and the little ringed plover still had their two chicks.
Moth News: A good selection including some interesting species. There were several small dotty moths, the best being one without a common name, Ethmia dodecae which seems to be the first record for this 10km square.
Even dottier was an orchard ermine and this bird cherry ermine.
A light crimson underwing was good to see, this is a real New Forest speciality being found in very few places away from there. This one would have been very fine if it had not rubbed the hair from the thorax. I did get it to show the crimson underwing though.
Perhaps more interesting than the underwing, although I would agree less spectacular, was a crescent, I think a first for the reserve.
Other Insect News: Despite the notable moths, the "Insect of the Day" title went to a dragonfly, a fine lesser emperor which was putting on a good show around Ellingham Pound. These used to be "megas", a bit less so nowadays, but still only the second reserve record. They are migrants, only surviving year round in North Africa and perhaps the extreme south of Europe.
Other Stuff: I spent the afternoon trying to clear up the really hard to reach Himalayan balsam plants lurking beside the Dockens Water. Some were really hard to get though and a few will need a boat as even the chest waders were not enough. I did see a few other plants along the way including a good few broad-leaved heleborine, although they grow in such deep shade that getting a picture was difficult. The plants look quite dull, but up close they individual flowers have all the exoticism of a tropical orchid

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Blashfords got the "ah" factor

Little ringed plover chicks still going well this morning and enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the odd excursion out from under the cover of mum.

Lots of dragonflies and butterflies on the wing in the warm sunshine, even first thing, when also enjoying the dappled sun at the woodland edge of the lake to the right of Ivy North Hide were a fox cub and two roe deer kids - the fox didn't stick around but the deer were quite content and allowed me this inferior picture!

At the end of the day I disturbed another roe deer (probably Mum) in the bridged over seasonal pond adjacent to the same hide (Ivy North) and upon entering the hide was rewarded with magnificent views of a kingfisher fishing from the reedmace heads immediately in front.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Who Would be a Sand Martin?

Bird News: Two common sandpiper, one adult and a juvenile were by the Tern hide first thing and an oystercatcher was on the long shingle spit, Just east of the hide the little ringed plover pair still have their two chicks. The chicks are like miniature cartoon versions of the adults. From Ivy South hide an adult hobby got the common terns in a lather. However this was nothing to what it did at the Goosander hide where it reportedly took a sand martin (I believe there may be pictures too).
Reports Received: 19 Egyptian geese were seen on Ibsley Water today and there are two more with their three goslings on Rockford Lake, so it looks like their numbers are picking up.
Other Wildlife: The grass snake was just below the window at the left hand end of the Ivy South hide again, it had a distinct bulge half way along so I suspect we are a common frog down. The moth trap contained a chocolate-tip a species I don't see that often. I also had a report of three or four silver-washed fritillary on the path to the Lapwing hide.
Other Stuff: The Lower Test volunteer team were in again and cleared the rest of the bank on the western shore of Ibsley Water. I got out in the boat to take some soundings off the long spit on the western shore with a view to reducing the height and increasing the width to make it more use to wildlife. We should be able to get some more shallows and improve the view.
The Bizarre: A couple of days ago a visitor popped in to say he had seen a mallard eating a sand martin that had fallen into the water at the Goosander hide, in fact it had eaten two. It was not clear if the martin was already dead or had been drowned by the duck. It is not uncommon for young martins to fall into the water when making early flights, especially if startled by a predator. However I have never heard of them being eaten by a duck. Today a sketch of the incident arrived along with a mobile phone picture of the event, sadly not very clear.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Return of the Ragwortistas

Bird News: Very quite today, or perhaps it was just that I was not where the birds were. 2 shoveler near Ivy North hide were the first I have seen this "autumn", there was a teal there the other day, although I have not seen it since. At the Goosander hide the sand martins are giving great value, with loads of juveniles and at times a hundred or more clinging to the wall.

Other Wildlife: At the gate this morning a grey squirrel was in the hazel bushes, wasting the crop before it is ripe, or at least chewing the green nuts and dropping lots to the ground. We may, or may not, have dormice on site, but it we did they would do a lot better if the nuts were allowed to ripen.
On the path near the Ivy north hide a small common toad was surveying the world, I moved it to one side in case someone trod on it.

Volunteers: The "Ragwortistas" were at work again today and what work they did. They got all the way up the eastern shore of Ibsley Water from just south of the Lapwing hide right round to the north-east corner. There is still the grassy spit to go, we could not get there earlier due to nesting lapwing, but they have finished now.

Above you can see the cleared foreground contrasting with the yellow background, it all looked the same when they started! Of course there is always the final plant to pull up.

Other Stuff: In the afternoon we checked some of the dormouse tubes put out in early spring, we found nine out of twelve, which was more than I expected, sadly there were no signs of dormice in any of them.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Kingfishers Galore

Bird News:
Ibsley Water - A juvenile common sandpiper near the Tern hide all day and a dunlin on one of the islands at the end of the day. There were at least 10 Egyptian geese and large numbers of greylag, mute swan and the single black swan. The little ringed plover pair still have their two chicks. A redstart was in low willows beside the southern end of the lake in the afternoon.
Ivy Lake - At the Ivy North hide reed warblers are frantically feeding young and as I locked up I had really good views of kingfisher perched and fishing from the reedmace stems. I also saw a kingfisher on the falled trees outside the Ivy South hide.
Other Wildlife:
Moths were few, but there was a good moth related find, Sam, who is doing work experience with us, found a goat moth pupal case in the same area as larvae were found last year.
Other Stuff:
The Lower Test volunteers were cutting the tall vegetation along the western shore of Ibsley Water and did really well, clearing about half the length, despite the persistent rain. The carp removal from Mockbeggar Lake continued with numbers depressed by the weather, something over 200lbs of fish were caught though, once again all between 8 and 14ibs in weight. I realigned the "Badgercam" today so it should give a better view, I will certainly give it a look tonight

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Breaking Eggs and Boiling Up

Bird News: The little ringed plovers have hatched! They have two chicks, first seen yesterday afternoon to the right of the Tern hide. Yesterday morning in the drizzle about 1200 sand martin were feeding over Ibsley Water. From the Ivy South hide the last common tern chick was in the water and looking unhappy yesterday morning and today it seems to have gone, a sad end to a generally good nesting season for the terns. Better news was of a Cetti's warbler just north of Ivy South hide this morning, presumably a dispersing young male, as he was having a few practice warbles.

Other Stuff:
Things were cooking at Blashford yesterday afternoon as I boiled up some "Moth gloop", this is a sugar mixture that attracts moths to feed. My recipe is about half a tin of black treacle, half a can of beer and a box of mollasses sugar, a drop of rum is added before use.
I heat the sugar and treacle and then thin with the beer, ending up with a kind of runny toffee that when brushed onto tree trunks, just slowly rolls down.

Care needs to had when adding the beer,or you can get a boil-over. You also need to check the flow from time to time by putting a little on a cold plate, if too runny add more sugar, if too stiff more beer.

Then put in a jar with a lid and leave to cool. It is great for attracting moths that rarely come to a light trap like copper underwing, red underwing and old lady. It will get a run out at the first of the "Gloaming Glimpses" events later this month.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Correction Frustration

It should say "strayed" not stayed in the first paragraph below, I would have edited the post, but that function, like the paragraph and several others, now seems unavailable in "Blogger". Functions seem to be "Slipping away like wet cake". Pretty soon I expect not to be able to post at all!

To Hop or to Fly, That is the Question

I was determined to get a few pictures today, if only to break up the text since "Blogger" does not seem to allow paragraphs anymore. After concern about the willows going brown expressed last month and possibly now explained, this morning I saw two more problems for these trees. I took a look at some of the coppice we did last winter, usually we get a few stools bitten down, but this year they are all browsed to almost nothing. The culprits are roe deer and they have really hit them hard, I suspect we will need to fence off new coppice areas from now on. There are probably more deer in England now than at anytime in a thousand or even more years. Deer were kept in parks and if they stayed they were likely to come to a rapid end, these were often hungry times. It is hard to over-estimate the impact of deer on the structure and species composition of our woods and the likely effect that today's deer numbers will have on the look of the woods we will bequeath to coming generations.
The second willow under attack was just along the path from the coppice, this one had leaves yellowing from the ends inward, I have no idea what the cause of this is, but clearly the green photosynthetic material is being lost, which cannot be good for growth.
In the sunnier sections along the path sides and in various clearings there is now a good show of marsh thistle. These have rather small flowers born on very tall stems, sometime two or three metres high. It is a very popular nectar plant and a particular favourite of silver-washed fritillary, unfortunately I could not find one of the those, although there have been some about on the reserve in the last few days, all I got was a common carder-bee.
Although there were no migrant moths in the trap this morning there were still migrant insects about, red admirals have got much more common in the last few days as have marmalade hoverflies, although both breed here, neither over-winter in large numbers so each year the populations are boosted by immigration. This is one of the most recognisable of all hoverflies, being the only one to have more than one band on each abdominal segment, usually like this one with one broad and one marrow band on each.
After opening up and checking the moth trap it was out a ragwortin' that I went. It was too warm for comfort and when I stopped to refuel I took a breather and the sound of Roesel's bush-crickets again filled the air. I failed to get a picture again, this time the one I found was a male of the macropterous form, that is to say long-winged and when it went off it flew a goodly distance. A feature of the range expansion was apparently a rise in the proportion of these long-winged forms and it was clear why these types would spread more rapidly than those limited to the more conventional jump as a means of getting around. I did get one picture of a hope though, a meadow grasshopper male.
Not many birds to report from today, I saw a common sandpiper on Ibsley Water and there were 4 pochard with a mixed flock of birds on the same lake, the main component of which was about 325 coot.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cricket Highs

A sunny, warm day saw the volunteers working out on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water, inevitably "ragworting". The grass was alive with grasshoppers, all meadow grasshopper as far as I could see. There were also lots of Roesel's bush-cricket, although this depended upon who you asked. A couple were seen, including one that would have made a good picture, if I had got the camera with me. So, there were two seen, but there were lots calling, but only some of us could hear them. To the youngest present the calls were really loud, but some of the older could not hear them at all. Interestingly those in the middle and most of the women present could hear them alright, although not all as very loud. The calls are in the range at the top of our frequency range for hearing, but more than this they seem to cover a range so that the young can hear a large amount of the call and the amount audible reduces as hearing deteriorates, until it is all outside our range altogether.
I am pleased to say I can still hear them, although nothing like as well as I used to be able to. I remember hearing them as I was driving around the M25 some twenty years ago and the calls were loud even above the traffic noise. At this time they were just breaking out from their stronghold around the Thames estuary. They seemed to use the motorway embankments, the long grass is ideal for them, as dispersal routes and now they are all over southern England. Curiously the Thames population spread, the small localised population that had long been around the Beaulieu estuary seems to have remained that way, although now they are joined up to the rest.
I saw or heard of few birds of note today, a common sandpiper was on Ibsley Water and
a bar-tailed godwit was reported, although I suspect it may have been one of the very red male Icelandic black-tailed godwit that have been present for some days. The ringers were in again this morning and caught sedge warbler and whitethroat, both will be migrants as neither breed on the reserve.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

First Whimbrel

I was pleased to see an unfledged common tern chick still on one of the rafts when I opened the Ivy South hide, the last pair had two the other day, but I had thought they had both been lost. Rather closer to the hide was a grass snake on the tree trunk in the water below the hide, although they have been regular there, it seems less so than last year when up to four could be seen.
The moth trap was busy, but unremarkable, a silver Y and a diamond-backed moth showed that there are still migrants about and a very fresh privet hawk was a good one for the school group, there was also a Stigmella sp., probably spinosa. The significance of these is that privet hawk is the largest resident moth in Britain and the Stigmella are just about the smallest, their larvae feed by mining the mid-layer out of a leaf, privet hawk larvae will eat the whole bush!
I was ragworting again for much of the day, or so it felt, despite this I did see a juvenile cuckoo near the Tern hide and on one of the islands in Ibsley Water a whimbrel, the first of the autumn and 2 black-tailed godwit. I also got the mute swan count up a bit on yesterday, with 215 today along with the single black swan. Reports includes 2 juvenile redstart near the Goosander hide, always a favourite spot and a couple of Mediterranean gull.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Shore Planning

Another good moth night with 68 species identified so far and a couple of micros still to go. Some of the micros are very fine, the picture is of Caloptilia stigmatella, or at least I think it is, there are several similar species.
I spent the activity working part of the day "Ragworting" again, not the most inspiring of tasks. I did notice that there seems to have been an increase in the number of red admirals about, possibly locally hatched or maybe more likely migrants. This opinion was supported by the large number of the migrant hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus in my garden when I got home.
In the middle of the day I went out to look at the proposed work on Ibsley Water, we are looking to break up the longest spit into a chain of islands and lower the top height to produce more shallows. It will be into the autumn before it happens but it pays to plan ahead. I will need to go out int he boat to take some soundings as well, but we should be working in the area next week so that should give me the chance to push the boat out.
Up close it is clear the spit is not smooth in cross-section, the south side is steep and the northern gently sloping, the water depth is also very different being deep on the south and shallow to the north.
All this working around the shore gave me an opportunity to count the mute swans, I got to at least 205, much my highest count of the year so far. I have also counted 264 greylag, but I feel sure there are quiet a few more. There were also 11 Egyptian geese and a black swan. A couple of common sandpiper were reported today and there were two fox cubs strolling the shore near the Tern hide as I locked up, causing the still sitting little ringed plovers a good bit of alarm.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Arches and Underwings

Just a quick update tonight as it is already late. This morning on Ibsley Water a green sandpiper and two fine summer plumage black-tailed godwit were on the shore just outside the Tern hide and more unusually a whitethroat was singing from the brambles on the car park ban. For some reason I do not fully understand whitethroat are very rare on the reserve apart from a scattering of youngsters on passage int he late summer and autumn, this was only my second singing bird in five summers!
The moth trap was quite busy, nothing unusual, but black arches are always nice to see, I don't think any two are quite the same, this one is a male with big, feathery antennae.
There were also a couple of broad bordered yellow underwing, even without the brilliantly coloured underwing showing they are very smart moths indeed.
Apart from that I have little to reports from today, we did a guided walk in the morning and I was off site in the afternoon. I suspect this is going to be a rather frustrating week, I have a lot of on-site work to do but am tied up elsewhere, or with other tasks that I cannot avoid for far too much of the time. I expect a lot of this week's work is going to have to get done next week.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

An abundance of elephants

Elephant hawkmoths that is! When I got in this morning and moved the moth trap back into the shade there were several elephant and poplar hawkmoths sitting prominently at the top of the egg carton pile. When I checked through later on there were actually 7 elephants and 3 poplars - more than I have seen for a while. There wasn't a lot else, but a handful of old favourites like burnished brass, bufftips, scalloped oaks, double square spots and dark arches stood out along side a couple of "bird dropping mimic" type micromoths one of which was an attractive bird-cherry ermine.Unfortunately none of the photo's are great as our waterproof/shockproof digital camera turned out not to be Jim proof the other day and I was having to photograph without seeing what I was photographing - I managed to damage the LCD screen when the camera fell out of my pocket and was then promptly cycled over while I was supervising the traithletes car parking the other weekend!

Other than that there is not a great deal to report - it's been a nice day and the reserve relatively busy for the time of the year. I was teaching this afternoon - sweepnetting in the meadow again; always my favourite activity at this time of year and it was noticeable how the improved weather has increased the number of dragonflies flying, with a lot more damselflies in the vegetation and emperors and scarce chasers hawking around the reserve or over the pond.

There were also several butterflies on the wing today - not many individuals, but a number of different species including meadow brown, red admiral, large white, peacock, small skipper and, more notably, a silver-washed fritillary (as far as I know the first of the year, but certainly my first of the year!).

The better weather is also bringing the first of the fruit on in sunny sheltered spots:

They were delicious!

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Starry Eyed and the Very Small

It was raining hard when I arrived at Blashford this morning so other than noting the little ringed plover was still sitting I saw very little from the Tern hide.
I was not expecting much from the moth trap, it had, after all been windy and quite wet overnight, but I was pleasantly surprised. The larger moths included a double lobed and several slender brindle, but it was the micro moths that were the stars. Usually a windy night is poor for the smaller species, but not last night. There were a couple of nice Tortrix moths, the first picture is of Eudemis profundana, an attractively marked species with wonderful starry eyes.
The second Tortrix was also a fine one and this also seems to be the first record in the Blashford 10km square. A bit of a surprise as it is the willow tortrix and the caterpillars feed on willows, not trees in short supply hereabouts.
The Tortrix moths are 7 or 8mm long, but moths go much smaller than that and there were a couple of these minis, the first a common species, the apple fruit moth, although in an unusual form as it normally has large white patches on the wings, this one was more or less uni-coloured, but very fine glinting in the sunshine.
The last was even smaller, a real mini-moth called Phyllonorycter geniculella, like a good few really small species it has a very fine pattern, too small to see properly at life size.
Birds were rather few today, although the great white egret was reported again, this time on the pond behind the Lapwing hide, an old favourite haunt. The young common tern are all over the place now, I encountered six or so on the shore of Ibsley Water near the Lapwing hide when I was moving the ponies round to the eastern side of the lake. I moved the ponies so that I can mow the western shore without worrying about them eating anything they shouldn't.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Great White Return

I opened up the Ivy North hide just after 08:00 this morning, looked out and there was the great white egret, returned for an eighth season. It was ringed at Lac de Grande-Lieu, Loire-Atlantique, France on 4th May 2003 as nestling and first appeared at Blashford in the following August. It has returned every year since, usually staying until late February.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Rarer Tiger

Although there were not many moths in the trap, there were a couple of new ones for the year. The finest was an immaculate garden tiger, this used to be a very common species all over the place, but now I very rarely see them. This is not because of any lack of food, as the caterpillars will eat all kinds of general weedy plants, so just why they have decline so much is a bit of a mystery. There was also a gothic, another species I see rather rarely, but the garden tiger makes the better picture.
A good part of the day was taken up with a meeting, so I did not get out until after lunch and that was taken rather late. The carp removing team were working on Mockbeggar Lake again today, although I did not see them until they were leaving, once again they had caught a fair load of fish, so there are evidently lots more to go yet.
When I went to check upon my Crassula experiment I saw a bee resting on a low marsh thistle, it was a leaf-cutter bee. It was about the size of a honey-bee but are in many ways quite unlike most other bees. As the name suggests they cut leaves, rose is a favourite, using the leaf pieces to make their brood cells. They also do not collect pollen in the usual pollen baskets on the hind legs, instead using long hairs on the underside of the abdomen.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Good and Bad

A day of two halves a fine, sunny start, warm and calm. From the Tern hide early on pretty much all the birds were on the southern part of the lake nearest to the hide. They were a fairly undistinguished mob of geese and gulls, but did include the duck pintail and as it came close to the hide I had another go at freestyle digi-scoping and the result was not at all bad.
The birds may have been close, but on the bank way up on the north-west of the lake I saw a group of four large fox cubs, they must have been some 700m away, so the picture is not that bad, all in all.
Just outside the Ivy South hide an adult great crested grebe was sitting close to one of the chicks and I had a go at digi-binning. Actually this was rather a poignant shot, possibly the last time that they were together like this. At the end of the day the adults were together and when one of the chicks came over it got chased and pecked hard several times, clearly it is time for them to fend for themselves.
I had occasion to do a more or less full circuit of the reserve this morning, on the way the full horror of the Crassula issue in the south-east corner of Blashford Lake was more than evident. Luckily it doe snot spread beyond the sheltered corner, but it would be good to have something I could do about it. There are new possibilities being trialed and so maybe next year there will be something to try.
Rather better was the realisation that a pair of lapwing had nested successfully on Rockford Lake, although the pair of Egyptian geese with three goslings there were less welcome.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Less Worried more Ragged

I was working way up at the top of the reserve today so had to go up the path between Mockbeggar Lake and Ibsley Water, passed the "Worrying willows", which don't look so worrying now. Their leaves all went brown and crispy about six weeks or so ago, to me they looked to have been mined by a leaf-mining insect, probably the larva of a small moth, although I could not find any. The leaves mostly fell off leaving the trees looking like winter, but now new leaves are growing. This is just the same response that oak trees will make to being defoliated by winter moths, they produces a summer crop of leaves and I reckon this supports my theory, rather than any disease alternative. The picture shows a few of the old crisped up leaves with the smaller new growth.
Also on my way north I also spotted a small group of very fine parasol mushroom, growing in a very dark spot under some trees, so even on a day as bright as today I had to use flash to get a picture.The objective of my trek was the north shore of Mockbeggar Lake, I was going to cut the ragwort, not ideal but the amount of it makes pulling it up impractical and cutting is fine so long as the ponies are not allowed to graze there afterwards, in truth this year here is so little grass that they would have trouble in there in any case. Before I started I took a shot of the size of the problem! Sadly this is not the last of it, but it was the worst.
I was also briefly at Blashford Lake this afternoon and saw a few of the young common tern there, they are all over the reserve now, another group are using the small shingle spit in front of the Lapwing hide and there are still several on Ivy Lake. I got an incomplete count of the moulting greylag on Ibsley Water, there were at least 264 and 7 Egyptian geese.