Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Where has all the water gone?

Bird News: Ibsley Water - 1 dunlin, 1 adult ringed plover, 174 cormorant and at least 630 coot. Ivy Lake - 4 little egret ( 1 a juvenile), 1 water rail.
Since Friday the level of Ivy Lake has fallen by about 0.5m, although it looks like more. This has been done by pumping water across into Blashford Lake and will allow me to cut some of the trees around the lake shore and do various other work on the shore during the autumn. Incidentally it will provide good habitat for waders through the autumn and the herons will like fishing in the shallower water.
I am also planning to cut some trees around the shore of Mockbeggar Lake this winter and I was up there today to take a look at where we will start. There is a good bit of fen type vegetation on parts of the shore and the trees are shading it out. Incidentally I came across the pair of mint leaf-beetles pictured below, they are a fabulous colour.
I also found a male raft spider, this coming just after our first reserve record on the Centre pond only in the last few days, either we have not been looking or they are having a good year. The vegetation is much as other similar areas of the reserve, although I don't remember seeing nodding bur-marigold elsewhere.
The other evening we tried putting out some straw as bedding for the badgers and they have now found it and there is a trail of straw all the way from the Woodland hide back to their sett.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Clouded Magpie, Another First

Bird News: Ibsley Water - swift 2 at least amongst a flock of sand martins, 1 common sandpiper, 1 green sandpiper. Ivy Lake - kingfisher again seen regularly from north and south hides, little egret and hobby reported.
Best record of the day was a clouded magpie moth on the
wall of the Centre beside the moth trap, only the second I have ever seen and a first for the reserve.
Walking back to the Centre after opening the hides this morning we came across a large number of black fungi on the large fallen oak tree along the Dockens Water path. They developed through the very distinct phases and I got a picture of each. First they were rounded with a spiked out surface.
Then they opened out to a flat top.
Finally ending up in a brain-like black ball.
The species is called black bulgar and is apparently common, although I do not remember seeing it before.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holiday Bioblitz

Bird News: Ibsley Water - Ringed plover 2, redshank 1, goosander 1 juv. Ivy Lake Kingfisher several from both hides, mostly if not all juveniles and a green sandpiper.
I continued with my recording of things today and so far have identified 361 species on the reserve over the last two days. This includes 179 plants ( last night's total was the result of very poor addition!), 71 birds, 8 other vertebrates, 10 butterflies, 6 dragon and damselflies, 31 moths and 56 miscellaneous other invertebrates. I have a number of as yet unidentified things that will add as and if I can identify them. I did not attempt any fungi and several other groups were more or less ignored. Several were new to the reserve including the Conopid fly below, it is a parasite of bumble-bees called Conops ceriaeformis.
In the so far unidentified group comes the miniature velvet ant species below.
More easily identified, but also new for the reserve as far as I know was the predatory shieldbug Picromerus bidens.
Another shieldbug, but this one not a new record was hawthorn shieldbug.
I had a go at some harvestmen and found again the new one I first recorded a few days ago, the relatively recent colonist Dicranopalpus ramosus, this one seems to have captured a springtail, which I have not identified!
I think this harvestman is Paroligolophus meadii, a scarce species of dry heaths, if it is then it would be a new record.
Lastly a real mystery, two larvae, not found by me, they looked like caterpillars, but had too many prolegs, so I guess they are sawfly larvae, but I have never seen anything quite like them, they were covered in white "fluff". They were quite large, at least 2cm long and were eating alder leaves. If anyone knows what they are I would be delighted to hear from you.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lots of Blashford Wildlife

Bird News: Ibsley Water- ruff, juvenile male still present, 2 juvenile turnstone, 3 ringed plover, a juvenile little ringed plover, 32 shoveler, c1000 sand martin and 2+ swift.
Ivy Lake - green sandpiper, a shoveler and a teal.
I did a bit of a "Bioblitz" on the reserve today, although the weather did not help and i intend to try and add to the list tomorrow. At the Centre the raft spider was still in residence on the pond, although I got a better picture of a pair of common pond skaters with a fallen common wasp.
By the end of the day I had 293 species listed in my notebook and a few still to identify. There are some groups I did not do at all and the weather limited the numbers of insects, but not bad for an average day. The list included 66 birds, 7 butterflies, 2 snakes, 201 plants and a scatter of other beasties.
Late news from yesterday included an osprey, and the great white egret, the next few days should bring a few migrants and now the level of Ivy Lake has dropped a not it looks good for waders.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Wild Walkabout!

More children's holiday activity days have been taking place at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve over the last few days. Yesterday we were building dens, fire lighting and cooking bread in the baking sunshine. The best wildlife encounter of the day was when one of the adults lept off her log seat and much to all of our astonishment a large goat moth caterpillar appeared from underneath her! This was closely followed by more goat moth caterpillars appearing in some of the dens. It is at this time of year that they leave the trees they have been living inside of and move to pupate underground.

Today was a rather more soggy adventure. We spent the morning looking for animal droppings and found some belonging to fox, badger, rabbit and roe deer. The children then had a go at making some edible poo!

In the afternoon we went down to the river, sailing boats made from rubbish. We then went river dipping and caught bullhead, lots of stonefly nymph and shrimps and 2 beautiful demoiselle nymphs.

It is the first time I had walked down the river since it was in spate last week and I was amazed by how much gravel and the size of the logs which had been deposited on the banks of the river.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Reports and Captures

I have not actully been at Blashford today but I thought I would share a few reports that have come my way. The great white egret was on the silt pond behind the Lapwing hide and a black tern was on Ibsley Water.
I have also been sent the pictures below from the ringers who have been in twice this weekend catching something like 140 birds including good numbers of willow warblers, which are passing through in some numbers just now and two sparrowhawks.
A single lesser whitethroat was agood catch as they are not at all common on the reserve.
Two juvenile bullfinches will have been reared locally and prove breeding in the area.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Darters, Coneheads and a Big Spider

Bird news: Ibsley Water - 3 common sandpiper, 1 turnstone.
Very quiet for birds today, but the sun did bring out some insects, southern hawkers are now regularly around the Centre pond. I also saw more common darters today than I have seen all summer. In the afternoon I came across a female long-winged conehead and managed to get a half decent picture of it as well. The long sword-like ovipositor is very conspicuous in this species.
The sun also brought out a good range of butterflies, a new brood of brown argus must be flying as I saw several fresh ones, also small copper, comma, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood.
The best record of the day came right at the end when I was told there was a raft spider on the Centre pond, it was lurking on, or rather under, the leaves of fringed water-lily and jumping out and grabbing damselflies. I get a very, very poor "digi-bin" picture, others had really good ones, but you can just see what it is. As far as I know it is the first Blashford record.

Friday, the Night

Friday night was moth night. It was billed as "50 Mighty Moths", it was always going to be a tall order, especially when the evening cleared to a fabulously starry night, just what you don't want, moths like a dense blanket of low cloud to keep in the warmth. Possibly the highlight was a moth I found on the shed wall in the afternoon and potted up to look at later, a magnificent red underwing and yes they do have red underwings, you just can't see them in this picture.
We had six moth light running at various points around the reserve and on trees beside the paths we put out "Moth gloop" the sugar mixture that some species will come to feed at. There was much doubt about the gloop in some quarters, but more of that later. We first emptied Thursday night's catch ands so stared with sixteen species and the red underwing, thirty-three to go. One of the more attractive species to arrive quite early in the evening was the brown china mark, the larvae of which feed on water plants in ponds.

An autumn species that has just started to appear in the trap recently is the flounced rustic
not the most colourful species but quite attractive for all that.

One or two species turned up in some numbers, common carpet certainly lived up to the name and there were good numbers of sharp-angled peacock, pictured below.

Despite the doubts the gloop did produce some slight result, just two moths, but ones that we did not see at the lights, a copper underwing and best of all an old lady moth. Both these species are not attracted to lights very much but do like sugar. The sugar did attract a lot of other creatures though including earwigs, harvestmen, and woodlice. We also saw lots of slugs, snails, millipedes and ground beetles heading up the tree trunks. The lights also brought in a variety of other things as well, including mayflies, caddis flies, midges, parasitic wasps and bugs like the forest bug below.

Two light traps were run all night and produced the following species, in no particular order:

common carpet, green carpet, riband wave, small fan-footed wave, common wave, common white wave, light emerald, canary-shouldered thorn, sharp-angled peacock, small phoenix, straw dot, snout, pinion-streaked snout, mother of pearl, black arches, poplar hawk, square spot rustic, large yellow underwing, vine's rustic, shuttle shaped dart, flame shoulder, dunbar, lesser swallow prominent, pale prominent, spectacle, flounced rustic, dingy footman, rosy footman and nine species of micro moths, making 37 in all. Several species were seen only in the evening and not caught in the traps, including the old lady, copper underwing, iron prominent, lesser treble bar and another three species of micros, making 44. If I add in those that we saw as well let Thursday's catch go we gain setaceous hebrew character, common rustic and white-point, making 47, then we have the red underwing, to make 48. Unless I have forgotten some that would seem to be it, so we came up two short, actually not at all bad on a cool night.

We did also have several bats including pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton's bat, possibly a serotine and a tantalising brief detection way up in the 90+hz range.

Friday, the Day

Bird News: Very quiet generally, although the clear highlight was a Marsh Tit near the Centre, the first in over a year.

After Thursday's rain Friday dawned bright and the Dockens Water was right down to the level of a benign stream again. I decided to go out and clear the path beside Rockford Lake and just to prove it here are the before and after pictures. I also took down the height of the brambles to improve the view of the lake.

There was a green sandpiper and 9 common tern on the shore of Rockford Lake but no sign of the black tern, which must have gone now.

I was over by Ellingham Pound int he afternoon and found this egg-laying emperor dragonfly, the females only get blue like this when they are quite old. Hovering just beside it is a male red-eyed damselfly, I think there must have been a fresh emergence of these as there are lots more about now. I also saw black-tailed skimmer and a single common darter, these have definitely not lived up to their name this year, being decidedly scarce.

Lastly there was a swarm of pond skaters, running to at least several hundred. Both the skaters and the dragonfly were taken by the "digi-bin" technique, not as good as digi-scoping but ok.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Pitter, Patter, Pitter, Pat

Bird News: Ibsley Water - the red-crested pochard reported, c500 sand martin 200+ swallow and at least 7 swift.
Rockford Lake - a green sandpiper, 2 summer plumage turnstone and 9 common tern.
The real news of the day was nothing to do with wildlife though. It was Thursday so it was volunteer day and did it rain! There was a little light rain early on but it really got going at about 09:45 and by early afternoon we had over 40mm and nearer 45 by the end of the day. Michelle had an evening event planned for today, people phoned to see if it was going ahead, yes we said, the rain was stopping. This was true enough, but the Dockens Water continued to rise and rise. In the late afternoon I went to close the hides and took the pictures below, the first is not the Dockens Water, but the path beside it, just negotiable in wellies.
The path then goes into the alder carr, I had to turn back, no chance of getting through without waders, the logs are all floating.
The Ivy silt pond had filled and was powering into the lake, ruining any chance of getting the work done on the lake shore that I had planned for this autumn. The boardwalk was south of the hide was under water and near the bridge the huge stag-headed oak had fallen, completely blocking the path and presenting a massive clearance job.
I then thought I had better go and see if we could get out of the reserve, the answer was just, so Michelle phoned round the people booked on the evening activity to say it was off, due to flooding and we beat a retreat. The view below is of the Dockens flooding across Ellingham Drove, it may not look much but the water across the road is the river flowing across and off into the main car park which was just a huge lake.
I expect the water level will have continued to rise for an hour or two more so it would have been very unwise to have stayed, we could still be there. It was certainly the biggest flood I have seen on the reserve and it has managed to wreck my work plans for the autumn. When the water drops tomorrow I expect we will find more that needs doing as well, the unpredictability of outdoor working.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Life on the Wall

Bird News: Ibsley Water- Drake red-crested pochard again, 300+ sand martin and c100 swallow with at least 3 swift by the end of the day. Black swan still and several Egyptian geese.
The moth trap was again quiet, although not quite as empty as yesterday, I just hope it improves by Friday for my moth event. I did spot the harvestman below on the wall of the Centre by the trap. It is a species I had not seen on the reserve before, Dicranopalpus ramosus a Mediterranean species that arrived in Britain along the south coast a few years ago and is steadily spreading northward.
"Bugs" on the buildings were a bit of a theme today, on the door of the store I found three stages of harlequin ladybird, in order below, the larva,
the pupa,
and an adult.
Harlequin ladybirds are also alien species of course, but they come from much further afield, originally south-east Asia, although they are all across North America and Europe now.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Pipits Netted

Tree pipit picture thanks to Kevin Sayer
Birds: Ibsley Water - at least 4 common sandpiper, the red-crested pochard reported, the black swan and at the end of the day at least 4 swift.
The ringers were in this morning and had a great day, catching over 80 birds including redstarts and 5 tree pipit! The area on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water is proving to be a very productive ringing site.
Opening the Tern hide the young roe deer buck was feeding on the shore close to the hide, surprisingly there was a young one with it, one of this year's still with the shadow of spots on the flanks. There was no sign of a doe, the young will usually stay with their mother much longer than this so I wonder if this youngster has been orphaned or just got lost.
It was a day for house-keeping tasks, I cleared debris off the paths in the morning and rigged up some new leaflet dispensers int he afternoon. We also tried and failed to get the webcam to stream again, so I'm afraid it is still not viewable, still I will keep working on it. Michelle did a good job of cleaning the lens of the camera in the pond, it is remarkable how quickly it gets covered in algae.
Lastly, the mysterious brown-black "buzzard" was still in the tree on the northern shore of Ibsley Water, my skepticism about it even being alive was perhaps well founded.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Black, the Stinky and the Mysterious Brown

Bird headlines: Ibsley Water - Red-crested pochard 1 drake still, also a juvenile little ringed plover, a common sandpiper and a report of a wheatear and a turnstone.
Rockford Lake - the juvenile black tern still present also a juvenile little ringed plover.
After nearly two weeks away from the reserve it was good to be back. I did a fairly comprehensive tour around today, very pleasant but it did highlight the backlog of work clearing paths and trimming trees. It was good to see the juvenile black tern still on Rockford Lake and even better to get a picture of it, albeit not the greatest you will ever see.
A juvenile little ringed plover was good to see although it was probably not reared at Blashford, there was also a second on Ibsley Water. There were also at least 8 common tern, apart from one, all adults. I continued on to the Lapwing hide and Mockbeggar Lake where a green sandpiper was the highlight. From the Lapwing hide the eclipse drake red-crested pochard went well with at least 10 Egyptian geese and the black swan. I got a good count of the mute swan and coot with 210 of the first and 536 of the latter. There were also at least 10 pochard, a good number for the time of year. Two wigeon and a fly over hobby completed the scene. Leaving the hide 2 ravens flew over and the bushes had a range of migrants including reed warblers, chiffchaffs, willow warblers and a lesser whitethroat. A redstart was also seen on the path to the Goosander hide, just after we had seen a fine female adder basking beside the path.
Back over near the Centre a found a stink horn fungus, they really do stink too, near the Woodland hide, it had two beetles feeding on it, they were a species of burying beetle that does not bury things, Oiceoptoma thoracicum.
Close by a striking patch of brilliant yellow on a log beside the path was a patch of yet another slime mould, long time readers will know how much I like these weird things, it is a species known as troll butter, even the name is good.
At the end of the day locking up I saw my first group of swifts for some time, about 20 with a flock of house martin high up over Ibsley Water. Mystery of the day was a blackish-brown lump in a tree at the northern end of Ibsley Water. Apparently it was a buzzard sized bird, I was told it did move, although it was in exactly the same place and position for at least five hours, was it a bird, was it even alive? I just don't know!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Stick insect surprise

The Poulner Lakes Wildlife Discovery event went well today - not overly busy, as it went a bit dead in the afternoon, but had a good turn out of wildlife explorers in the morning who delighted in the abundance of meadow invertebrates that could be caught in the sweepnets.

There were lots of responsible dog walkers using the site, many of whom enjoyed finding out a little bit more about the wildlife they walk past every day. Hopefully the less responsible dog walkers using the site will have also read our interpretation and learnt how dog mess in the countryside is not just unpleasant for children to play in and people to walk through, but how it also increases the soil nutrients and can affect the diversity of wildflowers. We (okay, mostly Michelle!) picked up bag after bag of the stuff today and disappointingly even had to pick up more part way through the day, despite there being a very obvious nature trail that people were following.

Aside from that rather unpleasant aspect to the day, we all enjoyed it and particularly watching a water stick insect shedding it's skin - in the photograph below you can see the bright yellow newly emerged insect with the discarded skin to the right:

Terned up in the end

The black tern that is. As predicted yesterday there was a sighting reported of a single bird over Ibsley Water yesterday afternoon. It may or may not be the same bird that has been seen of late, including a sighting on Wednesday evening, report received by e-mail when I checked them at the end of the day yesterday - this time of another bird (juvenile) over Rockford Lake.

Nothing stood out while opening up this morning. We had a good day at Sweatford Water Meadow in Fordingbridge - a lovely green oasis in the heart of the town where we had a wildlife discovery event aimed at highlighting the work of the Trust and drawing local peoples attention to the wealth of wildlife to be enjoyed on their doorstep that is generally overlooked as people walk their dog or cut through on the way to and from the town. Highlights included wasp spiders, Roesel's bush crickets and some rather lovely mint leaf beetles.

Today we will be in Ringwood running a simmilar event, this time at Poulner Lakes, so we'll see what turns up today!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Normal service will resume shortly...

...yes, Bob's back soon!

Been a bit too busy with children's activities and event planning and preparation to blog of late, so, without pretty pictures, here is a quick catch up of the weeks events so far:

I haven't seen a lot - exploring with 24 5-7 year olds does not lend itself to close encounters with wildlife, but opening up over the last few days highlights have been: a pair of goldfinch feeding on thistle seeds immediately (within touching distance!) outside Ivy South Hide, the roe buck on the foreshore of Ibsley Water and a peregrine cruising along the eastern shore of Ibsley Water. I expected to see black tern today, the weather being inclement, but sadly did not. I would not be in the least bit surprised if there were several seen over the next couple of days though - I keep forgetting to mention it here in the blog, but I did see one last Friday over Ibsley Water, where one was also seen on Monday and there were also reports of a black tern over Rockford Lake at the weekend.

Other reports from visitors include a swimming heron snaffling up tufted ducklings on Ivy Lake, the mallard drake wolfing down sand martins at Goosander Hide and (relatively!) frequent sightings of kingfishers from both Ivy South and Ivy North Hide.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Dragonfly rice?

Dragonfly rice? No, not a new dish available in the centre alongside the vending machine, but rather the size of the dragonfly nymph spotted by one of the children participating in today's "Radical Reptiles and Amazing Amphibians" Playday. "Digi-Micro-scoped" through the microscope you can appreciate it's delicate beauty in detail! I'm even less of an expert on dragonfly nymphs than I am everything else(!), but having said that I'm guessing it is a broad-bodied chaser - but am happy to be corrected if anyone would like to post a more knowledgeable opinion on the matter.

I also managed to get a shot of a rather small free-swimming cased caddisfly larva using the same technique! Different species use different materials to build their shells (grains of silt or sand, small stones, old snail shells, dead leaves, twigs, or, as in this case, pond weed stems).

As always, everyone had fun...

We managed to get smooth newt (adult and eft), toad and frog, but reptiles avoided us (can't have been anything to do with the noise surely?!). I did see a nice sized grass snake in the compost bin before the children arrived though.

Elsewhere on the reserve there were reports of greenshank, green and common sandpiper and the great white egret (on Ibsley Silt Pond first thing and Ibsley Water later on in the day). A hobby was spotted harassing sand martins at Goosander Hide and there is still a reed warbler skulking (sometimes singing) in the vegetation around the centre dipping pond.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Thursday magic no more

By rights today, or the morning at least, should have been glorious because it is Thursday and volunteering day and Bob has maintained for at least the last 12 months, that it does not rain when the conservation volunteers are in. Sadly the good luck did not hold and it clearly is Bob that is blessed as he is still away and the sun most certainly did not shine!

It was very wet - 24mm over the last 2 hours, which is by no means a record, but more rain than we've had in one go for a little while and in stark contrast to the previous few days. I was soaked by the time I'd opened up - and was not surprised when it did not appear that any volunteers were going to arrive.

Hats off then to Tony and Jackie who did turn up and show willing! Tony gave up after a cup of tea and went back home to do some chores when no one else showed, but Jackie stayed on to clean three of the hides and was rewarded with a nature reserve pretty much all to herself and fantastic views of a kingfisher. The last bit of ragwort on the Ibsley Water peninsula remains.

Today should have been a family river dipping event but the high rainfall scuppered these plans too - numbers dropped from 26 to 5 people and with the river in spate, despite the rain having stopped a couple of hours earlier, we pond dipped instead.

A few more brave souls did venture out this afternoon when the rain had stopped and I had reports of the black necked grebe still on the western shore of Ibsley Water. I saw water rail again from Ivy North Hide today and although I have not seen the chick that Bob saw I think I have seen a water rail at least once every day this week - always around, at one end or the other, of the cleared cutting through the reed bed.

Playdays again tomorrow, so the centre car parking will once more be reserved for disabled visitors, or parents picking up/dropping off their children.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wildlife Wander...

...was the name of today's school holiday activity "Playday" and enjoyed by all, despite the heat! With a "minibeast" theme focusing upon woodland and grassland habitats the highlight was undoubtedly the meadow where (nearly!) all enjoyed a quiet and stationary "Still Hunt" searching and listening out for the meadow wildlife around us and during which time Maggie spotted this stunning wasp spider, the first of the year, and, as far as I am aware, actually the first for a couple of years as I think we all "dipped" on this impressive arachnid last summer:
First recorded in the UK in 1922 and once a rare migrant species of spider restricted to the south coast which they "parachuted" into from across the channel, in recent years wasp spiders have established themselves as a breeding species and are slowly but surely establishing themselves further and further north. This is the striking female - the male is a third of her size, pale brown and vulnerable to being eaten by the female when seeking to mate with her! They are a grassland specialist where they spin a web low down in the vegetation to trap their grasshopper and cricket prey as the insects hop among the flower and grass stems.

The other highlight of the day, for the children at least, was getting nice and mucky, digging up and then sculpting some Blashford clay. Robbie modeled a particularly fine duck:

Other wildlife highlights today: the Little Ringed Plover is still guarding its chick and there were plenty of dragonflies about - emperor, southern and brown hawker. I've yet to see it in the flesh, but a couple of visitors both saw and managed to photograph (with cracking results!) the lesser emperor on Ellingham Pound today.

The undoubted highlight was