Magical Swiftery

Bird News: Ibsley Waterdunlin 4, swift 300+, house martin 400+, red kite 1 (reported).

The fine brought start to the day lasted just long enough for me to arrive on site whereupon it started to rain lightly. The rain did bring down hundreds of swifts, swallows and martins low over Ibsley Water, I tried to count them, but only got very poor estimates. The spectacle though was worth just watching as hundreds of birds and surely well over a thousand in all zoomed about. A few of the swifts passed so close in front of the Tern hide that I could hear the slicing of their wings through the air as they scythed by, magical by any standards. The only other birds of note were 4 dunlin and a reported red kite.

The weather continues rather poor and as a result insects are in short supply. the moth trap contained a miserly four moths! A poplar hawk-moth, a muslin moth, a pebble prominent and a lesser swallow prominent. This is something of a concern to me as I am leading a course on invertebrates at Blashford on Wednesday and had rather hoped there would be a good range of species to find. I have always had a rather general and very amateur interest in insects. Initially it was the usual butterflies, moths and dragonflies, but as the literature on many other groups became more accessible I branched out. The advent of digital photography has made things even better meaning that you can often identify to species with just a photograph and on-line resources sometimes mean you do not even have to invest in expensive specialist books.

The hawthorn flowers are out now, as they should be and are quite a good place to search for insects. Hawthorn or “Quickthorn” hedges were widely planted as they can be managed to be stock-proof, are fast growing and easy to manage by cutting. Some were planted as part of the gravel pit restoration but after care was poor and they grew too far up and so did not thicken to form a proper hedge. To correct this we laid over the leggy bushes a couple of winters ago, not to proper hedge laying standards but effectively for all that and much quicker. The hedge along Ellingham Drove now looks pretty good and has flowered quite well this spring.

The latest group of insects that I am trying to identify are the ground beetles as there is now a good guide to them published by the Royal Entomological Society and they also have a website with good pictures of reliably identified specimens. I snapped the one below the other day, I am fairly sure it is one called Amara ovata.

Amara ovata 

The internet can be very useful for identification, but must be used with care due to inaccuracies of identification or search terms and just duplication of names. A search for “Peacock” might bring several species of moth, butterfly, sundry blue things or an actual peacock, a bird I have yet to see at Blashford, although I do have it on my garden list.

 a peacock at home (although not mine!)

Surely the weather will brighten up and more importantly, warm up soon. I have still seen very few damselflies and no dragonflies at all.


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