Red-headed Stars of the Big Screen

Bird News: Ibsley Waterbarnacle goose 5, goldeneye 35, yellow-legged gull 3, Mediterranean gull 8. Ivy Lakebittern 2,water rail 2, smew 2, little egret 1.

A grey, mild morning, a foretaste of days to come if the weatherman is to be believed. Opening up the hides the best location by far was the Ivy North hide where I saw a bittern fishing, a water rail feeding int he open and 2 smew fishing all in the space of five minutes or so. The light was so poor that pictures were not really possible, but that did not stop me trying.

water rail

The mild night did produce a few moths including the regular chestnuts and Hebrew characters, along with the first March moth of the year.

March moth

March moths are one of several winter flying species that have flightless females. I have wondered why this strategy is so common at this time of the year and never actually sought an answer. My guess would be that it means the females can save resources for egg production by not wasting energy on flying, leaving the males to find them by following the pheromone trail. The downside is that it must make dispersal difficult, limited by how far the females or caterpillars can walk, which is presumably not far. Unless they have other ways of hitching a ride to new places.

In the lobby of the Centre we have a big screen which shows the output from one of our cameras out on site, recently we have had the one looking at a corner of Ivy Lake as the most frequently displayed and it has shown a good range of species, shoveler, wigeon, teal, tufted duck and pochard are all regular. Yesterday a drake goosander swam past, a new species for the screen, but today this was eclipsed by the 2 smew. The same output is streamed on the web as well so it was possible to watch them from the comfort of your own home. We are still awaiting a bittern though, despite a couple of possible large flappy birds that have passed through too quickly to be identified.

I spent a good part of the morning cutting vegetation on the shore of Ibsley Water to improve conditions for nesting waders.  If it stays mild lapwings will be displaying any day now and could be nesting within a couple of weeks, so any remaining work has to be done in the next few days.

At dusk I had  a better than usual look at the gull roost on Ibsley Water, the gulls are overwhelmingly small ones now, I estimated 6300 black-headed gulls tonight with a few hundred common gull, although their numbers are now falling fast. I also found 8 Mediterranean gull, all adults and mostly in full or almost full breeding plumage. It is unsurprising that the early movement involves mostly adults as they will be the first to get back to their nesting sites, followed by the first time breeders and then the non-breeding younger birds. The situation is similar with the black-headed gulls, at present most are adults but by late March the flocks are mostly of first year birds. The numbers of larger gulls are much reduced, but I did pick out 3 yellow-legged gull, all adults, but I have still had no luck with the Iceland gull.



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