Walter!

Having reported on Saturday evening that a great white egret was back on Ibsley Water, but that it was not our old veteran and trail blazer nicknamed “Walter” a few years, I am now delighted to report that Mark Wright got in touch on Sunday with the pictorial evidence that Walter has now made it back for his 16th year! So many thanks to Mark for the pictures below, taken overlooking Ibsley Water where the first bird was seen on the previous day:

Walter by Mark Wright

Walters back! By Mark Wright

Walters leg by Mark Wright

There’s no mistaking Walter when you can see his “bling”!

No great white was reported at all yesterday but this morning there was one bird on the little island to the right of Tern Hide. With its legs obscured by an adjacent Egyptian goose and later on a cluster of little egrets, I have not yet managed to ascertain which of the two (or more?!) great whites we have on show this morning.

For more about the history of “our” Walter follow the link to Bobs blog post from August last year: https://blashfordlakes.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/walter-returned/

 

 

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Not Walter…

…but a non-ringed great white egret has arrived today, the first of the season, spending most of it on the spit midway between Lapwing and Goosander Hides on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water.

Hopefully it heralds the arrival of our long standing regular visitor “Walter” whose ringed legs will mark him quite unmistakably when/if he arrives. Keep your eyes open and let us know if you do see him!

Woodsmoked…

Woodsmoked is definitely what I am this week! After a couple of weeks off it was straight back in at the deep end with back to back campfire based activities:

Tuesday – a Wild Day Out activity day, namely the BIG campfire cookout challenge for 7-12 year olds. The challenge being to come up with, prepare and cook over the campfire a tasty, creative and well presented menu from a prescribed selection of ingredients:

Most teams managed the creative aspect – well presented and tasty, I’d like to say the jury was still out but unfortunately for the poor judges (we really should be paid danger money) who sampled the offerings (most of which, surprisingly, were NOT burnt it has to be said!), tasty and well presented the dishes were not!

Wednesday – a wet day and another Wild Day Out, this time the little campfire cookout challenge for 5-8 year olds. You get the idea! Today however our younger visitors on the whole produced creative AND tasty food for us to try  and some of the dishes were even presented well!

Next week the Wild Challenge Wild Day Out for 7-12 year olds still has places available – more information and booking here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-wild-challenge-tickets-63113599475 (Please note that Thursdays Wild Play day for 5-8 year olds is now fully booked).

Thursday – Myths, moths and marshmallows. An evening storytelling event – around the campfire of course! Not a huge number of moths to look at but enough, everyone enjoyed hearing about how the nightingale got its song and how my Grandad failed to secure the leprechauns’ pot of gold and the toasted marshmallows went down a treat too. The latter possibly enjoyed more by the adults than the children!

Wet today so in the office catching up on emails, telephone calls… and blogs!

Following the previous posting while I was away last weekend I will just confirm that the reserve, which was closed due to the extreme weather on Saturday, has been open since Sunday, is still open now and will be until the next extreme weather event!

Reserve Closed!

Due to the high winds the reserve will be closed today (Saturday 10th August), so the hides and car parks will remain closed. Although the winds are not as strong as we get in the winter the trees are in full leaf so I expect there will be branches and probably some larger limbs down and whole trees falling is certainly possible. Some will be quite stressed already due to drought which is likely to increase the risk.

Please respect the closure today, we should be back in business tomorrow and if you do go out anywhere today take care, even a small branch falling from height can be like being struck with a baseball bat!

Butterflies

As lots of you will know this year has been tipped to be a once in a decade one for an invasion of painted lady butterflies. There have been huge numbers arriving on the east coast, but locally it has seemed pretty unremarkable so far. Or at least it had, until this afternoon when I suddenly saw 19 in a small area just south of Goosander Hide along with several red admiral and peacock.

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One of at least six painted lady on one clump of fleabane near Goosander Hide

A a rule such an arrival of painted lady would have been the stand-out butterfly event of the day, but no so this time. That accolade goes, by some margin, to an extraordinary and most unexpected sighting of a male chalkhill blue. This is a chalk downland butterfly that has caterpillars that feed on horse-shoe vetch, quite what it was doing beside an old gravel pit on the edge of the New Forest is beyond me. The nearest colony must be several miles away on the chalk north of Fordingbridge I would guess.

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chalkhill blue (male) – not the greatest shot but a really good reserve record.

Woodwork and wandering

The weather last week resulted in two very different Wild Days Out, with Tuesday very wet and soggy and not the best conditions for wildlife watching although we did still manage a trip to the hides and a walk in search of wasp spiders, and the Wednesday much warmer and brighter.

On Tuesday we swapped wildlife watching for some making, made possible with a small group and limited only by the children’s imagination, the materials we could lay our hands on and the woodwork skills of volunteers Chris and Lucy and myself. The group did keep us on our toes! But the focus and determination that went into the making was fabulous, we started with a bit of wand making then this progressed into making paints from blackberries, charcoal and clay, bug homes, a willow snail and a sword and a shield.

And there was definitely time to play at the end, especially when they found a toad!

Playing

With very different weather on the Wednesday, we headed off to the lichen heath in search of wasp spiders, munched a few wild strawberries and blackberries then made our way to Goosander Hide to see what we could spot.

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any adders, but on our way back we did see a number of butterflies enjoying the sunnier weather:

There were also plenty of butterflies and other insects enjoying the flowers by the pond at lunchtime:

We also spent a bit of time enjoying the new sand pit, tunnel and stepping stones:

After lunch we rummaged through the moth trap, with the highlights including a stunning Elephant hawk-moth, a Poplar hawk-moth and a Canary-shouldered thorn:

We then headed off on the ‘Wild Walk‘, keeping our fingers crossed for grass snakes and we were not disappointed, spotting six altogether either on the branches in Ivy Silt Pond or outside the front of Ivy South Hide: 

We carried on along the sculpture trail then headed down to the river to finish with a paddle and some rush boat racing:

We still have some spaces available on our summer Wild Days Out and details on how to book can be found on our website.

Bug-ingham Palace

Last Sunday our Young Naturalists made a rather magnificent bug hotel in a sunny spot close to the new dipping pond. The improvement works here on the reserve resulted in a rather large number of pallets accumulating, so it was great to be able to put some of them to good use.

Bug hotel

Positioning the bug hotel

We stacked the pallets one at a time, packing them with various different materials to create lots of different nooks and crannies, including bark, sticks, pine cones, old roof tiles, bamboo, off-cuts of roof from the old Tern Hide, pebbles and sawdust. We also drilled different sized holes in some of the bits of wood.

We still have a few more gaps to fill with more pine cones, dried plant and reed stems and dry grass and I’m hoping we can add a green roof to finish it off, but we were pretty pleased with our efforts:

To make a sign, Torey and Sophie carefully broke up a pallet with Geoff’s help and some of the group had a go with a pyrography pen to burn writing and pictures onto the wood.

Sign

We didn’t quite have time to finish the sign on Sunday, but volunteer Lucy made a brilliant job of finishing it off on Monday, the bugs should be impressed!

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We’re looking forward to seeing who moves in!

Finley and Percy had a go at using the various bits and pieces we had assembled to make a bird feeder:

Bird feeder

After lunch we headed off to do the Big Butterfly Count. We decided to do ours in the wild play area where we do our den building and campfire activities, as although we had seen a lot of butterflies that morning around the Centre we fancied a change of scenery to the area where we had been working. On route we spied this Brimstone:

Brimstone

Brimstone butterfly

With Nigel as our time keeper, we positioned ourselves in the long grass and counted the greatest number of different species seen at any one time in our 15 minute window. We managed five species in total and 15 butterflies altogether: four Meadow brown, three Brown argus, three Gatekeeper, three Common blue, one Red admiral and one Speckled wood.

The Big Butterfly Count runs until the 11th August so there’s still time to get involved – you just need to find a sunny spot (this could be your garden, a park or in a wood) and spot butterflies for 15 minutes then submit your sightings online.

We had a few minutes to spare before the end of the session so decided to head back to the Centre via the lichen heath in search of wasp spiders, which we’d heard were visible in the patches of bramble and taller grass and rush.

Finally, we spied some Cinnabar caterpillars munching on the ragwort:

Cinnabar caterpillar

Our Young Naturalists group is supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

 

 

Almost there…

…by Lucy Wiltshire (Volunteer Placement)

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From earlier posts you may already know that over the past few months we have undergone many changes here at Blashford. Thanks to generous donations from local people, together with funding from the Veolia Environmental Trust (with money from the Landfill Communities Fund) and LEADER (part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) we have been able to update reserve signage, create a new pond, replace the old Tern Hide and add in additional new features for visitor engagement, including the ‘Wild Walk’ sculpture trail and Welcome Hut. Today’s blog will highlight some of these new developments just as they are coming to completion, so please do venture down to the reserve to discover them for yourself along with friends and family.

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The Welcome Hut

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Inside the Welcome Hut

Around the Education Centre much thought has been given to making the space accessible and beneficial for all, with a safer area for visiting groups and families to congregate and enter or exit the building and more picnic benches.  The wildlife has not been forgotten, with three large planters filled with many pollinator friendly plant species. Particular favourites are the Salvia and Marjoram, both of which are regularly visited by many types of familiar insects including the bumblebee (both shown in the photograph below). When visiting next make sure you stop by to look or take a few photographs of your own.  In addition, wildflower turf had been laid next to the Welcome Hut and this is currently being frequented by a dazzling array of damselflies.

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Bumblebee on Salvia

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Azure blue damselfly

As some eagle eyed readers may have already spotted from the photo at the start of this blog, we have also increased our offer to our youngest visitors to the reserve. Re-surfacing the car park to improve the drainage has removed the almost permanent puddle that was so popular with our Wildlife Tots groups and other visiting toddlers, so hopefully to compensate for the loss of this water feature we have built a sandpit, with leaf stepping stones leading from this to a tunnel (which used to be uncovered and behind the Education Shelter) and then on to the boat.

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Sandpit, tunnel and boat

The sandpit is now the first part of this mini adventure trail leading up the bank to the boat, and children can follow the oak leaf stepping stones through the wildflower tunnel.

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Stepping stones leading to the boat

The centre lobby has also been refurbished to include a new wildlife camera screen which currently lets visitors switch between live images of the new bird feeder station in front of the Woodland Hide as well as the popular pond camera. 

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Centre lobby

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New feeder station & Camera by Woodland Hide

New interpretation inside the Centre encourages visitors to think about how they can work towards making a wilder future and inspire not only themselves but also friends and family to take action, no matter how big or how small. Do share your pledge for wildlife with us by filling in a feather and adding it to our egret.

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One of the biggest changes has been to the Tern Hide, which was replaced in Spring with a whole new structure. The Tern Hide now offers a panoramic view of the lake, new seating and most excitingly a living roof which is looking brilliant as it becomes more established.

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Tern hide

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Viewing platform

From the viewing platform and the hide you can also see our newest tern raft which was just moved into place last week. Hopefully next year we will see some nesting pairs using the raft, with the aim to increase the colony numbers and to further chances of successful breeding, with the birds occupying more locations around the reserve.

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Tern raft on Ibsley Water

The new pond which again was dug earlier in the year is the only project yet to reach completion. The pond, located behind the Education Centre and next to the existing pond is awaiting a new fence which hopefully will be constructed over the next few months. This however has not stopped the wildlife from taking advantage and we are looking forward to being able to dip it once it has become a little more established.

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New Pond

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Female Emperor dragonfly egg laying in the new pond

This Female Emperor dragonfly was spotted laying eggs upon the fringed water lily beneath the surface of the water. Moreover this stunningly vivid Common Darter also paused to land on the boardwalk by the old pond – just long enough for a beautiful photo!

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Common Darter on the Boardwalk

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We also have a new donations box for visitors in the main lobby located between the office and kitchen. If you visit and enjoy all the developments to the reserve please do help us to continue improving the site by donating to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Without public donations the daily running and upkeep of the reserve would not be possible.

 

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us so far: our visitors for their support and patience during the interruptions which took place whilst the new infrastructure was being built and fitted; our lovely volunteers who have worked so hard to help us make these changes a reality; as well as to our funding partners and everyone who donated towards the Blashford Project who ultimately made these developments possible.

vet-logo eulogo New Forest LEADER

 

 

 

Med Gull Update

Back during 30 Days Wild, on the 6th June I included a sighting of a first summer plumage Mediterranean gull that I photographed on Ibsley Water. At the time I suggested that I thought it had been ringed in Ireland and the ringer is indeed based there, however it turns out it was not ringed there, but on Coquet Island in Northumberland. It was one of only nine nestlings colour-ringed there in 2018 and had not been seen again until I saw it and does not seem to have been seen since either.

colour-ringed Med gull

colour-ringed Mediterranean gull

I am still awaiting details of a colour-ringed lesser black-backed gull I saw the other day, which looks as though it has come from the Channel Islands.

30 Days Wild – Honourable mentions

Sometimes during 30 days wild the hardest part is picking just one video or photo to tweet. There were many days where I could have posted multiples, so here are some of the photos that I didn’t post.

The yellow flag iris was truly spectacular at Fishlake Meadows this year, lots of insects made the most of them too. I was able to take a video of a bee visiting several flowers; this is a still from the video.

Bee and yellow flag iris

Bee visiting yellow flag iris

Whilst out on the side of Ibsley water at Blashford, working on a new tern raft there was lots of scarlet pimpernel just in flower. They are one of my favourite plants; the flowers are such a beautiful colour.

Scarlet pimpernel

Scarlet pimpernel at the side of Ibsley Lake

On day 11 I posted a photo of a beautiful bronze beetle which I identified as Crysolina banksi, on the same day I got a photo of a lovely hoverfly on the geraniums in the new planters outside the Blashford Lakes centre. This one is Helophilus pendulus or Sun fly.

Hoverfly and geranium

Helophilus pendulus on geranium spp.

Scarlet tiger moths have been good in number again this year at Fishlake Meadows, the earliest I saw this year was the 12th June, and last year I think it was a week earlier. On the same day walking around Fishlake I got lots of photos, mainly of the wildflowers; meadowsweet, water forget me not, and a bumblebee collecting pollen from hemlock water dropwort.

At Blashford the bee orchids have been wonderful this year, on the same day I took a photo of the bee orchid I also got a shot of biting stone crop with its yellow star shaped flowers and fleshy stem. There is a lot of this around Blashford, particularly around the car parks and stony paths.

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Biting stonecrop

On the 17th June I posted a photo of lots of peacock butterfly caterpillars, it was a day however when lots of sightings nearly made the cut. There was a moorhen with a grown up chick nearby along the canal, a shield bug, yellow loosestrife and bittersweet. I’m fairly sure the shield bug is Eurygaster testudinariav also know as a tortoise bug.

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Tortoise bug

18th June was a photo of a freshly emerged marbled white, which was my favourite photo of the month. This was seen whilst doing some more work on the tern rafts at the side of Ibsley. While moving the tern rafts, we disturbed this wonderful young toad and were able to get a good look at it.

Toad at blashford

Common toad

On the 21st June I saw what was possibly the first pyramidal orchid in Ashley Meadow, but I also saw some lovely common valerian in flower. Delicate pink/white flowers with stamens poking out beyond the flowers.

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Common valerian

26th June I was able to get a good photo of a banded demoiselle, so posted that, I also saw what I later discovered was a figwort weevil. Very sensibly it was actually on water figwort when I found it. The photos aren’t very good, but it’s a lovely little thing with an interesting pattern. It also went a bit shy and tucked it’s rostrum in, I assume as a bit of a defence mechanism.