Flame in June

The puddles all around the reserve entrance – some of them rather large – testified to the heavy overnight rain, so it was no surprise to find 14 mm of water in the rain gauge. The continuing overcast conditions did not bode well for the day but spirits were lifted with a sighting of a juvenile Grey Wagtail preening on a branch of the partially submerged fallen tree outside the Ivy South Hide.

Young Grey Wagtail outside Ivy South Hide

It’s always good to have visual confirmation of successful breeding on the reserve.

Further out in Ivy Lake the young Common Terns were flexing their flight muscles and almost taking off as they flapped their wings to strengthen them ready for their first ‘solo’ flights, whilst their parents were doing sterling work bringing in copious quantities of small fish to satiate their growing offspring. Otherwise the lake was, typically for this time of year, rather short of waterfowl. One Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Mute Swan, a handful of Mallard and a couple of dozen Coot were all that was to be seen.  From the Ivy North Hide a vociferous Sedge Warbler greeted us from just outside the left hand window.

The generally dismal nature of the forenoon precluded much obvious insect activity of the butterfly or dragonfly populace, but the overnight haul in the moth trap, whilst not large was sufficiently diverse to be interesting. There were 29 individuals representing 15 species of macro moths, the  species with more than one representative included Uncertain, Large Yellow Underwing, Buff Ermine and the most numerous today, Flame.  Quite why they have attracted this name escapes me, there isn’t anything in their appearance that I can discern to conjure up fiery images, but what do you think?

Flame(ing) moth?

Perhaps they were named for a propensity to fly into flames!

As many readers of this blog will know I like to speculate on the origins of the common names that have been given to our wildlife. Also in the moth trap was this splendidly named Blood-vein.


and this not so obviously named Spectacle


But, perhaps the name becomes more obvious when it’s viewed ‘head-on’ when it looks, to me, like a rather weird alien landing craft.

Spectacle of a Spectacle

I’ll close the mothing section with what was, for me, one of the first moths that gave me the ‘wow’ experience of seeing just how well evolution has led to the adaptation of stunning camouflage for some species.  Not a terribly uncommon moth this Buff-tip looks amazingly like a piece of broken birch twig. I include it for this reason and the fact that I know there is at least one regular reader of this blog who shares my wonderment.


Later in the day the sun at last made its presence felt and things started ‘buzzing’. lots of bees –  moving too fast to photograph – and a range of other insects, including butterflies such as Meadow Brown and Red Admiral, and a good range of damselflies, Common Blue and Azure, Large Red and Blue-tailed, were dashing around the pond by the education centre.  One dragonfly was briefly seen, though not identified, whilst a Scare Chaser was seen by a few visitors near the Ivy South Hide.

At least two Grass Snakes were in and around the centre pond at different times basking on a log at the back.

The smaller of the Grass Snakes seen today

The sunshine also encouraged a Blackbird to spend a little time ‘sunbathing’  alongside the path between the centre and the car-park nearest the reserve entrance. It at first looked dead, but the outstretched beak almost seemed to indicate a degree of pleasure in this activity.

Apparently ‘dead’ Blackbird, either ‘sunbathing’ or ‘anting’

It isn’t clear whether this bird was just sunbathing, an activity which is thought to cleanse the feathers by exposure to ultraviolet light, or if it was  ‘anting’ , which involves getting ants to remove parasites from the feathers, a rather wonderful symbiotic activity in which both participants obtain a benefit.

I’ll close with a quick ‘grab shot’ of a Reed Warbler seen outside the Ivy South Hide as we closed, perched  on much the same branches as the Grey Wagtail I opened with.

Reed Warbler


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