Further car park closures… …and son of George?

Is this a young raft spider?

Is this a young raft spider?

Two summers ago saw our first ever records of raft spider on the reserve and by the end of the summer we had recorded at least 6 individuals in a variety of locations, including the centre pond where George, as he was christened, was a very popular resident with all of our visitors. We had high hopes for last summer but the abysmal weather seemed to have done for them all… until lunchtime today when Ed happened to spot what appears to be a young raft spider on the edge of the pond. The markings seem right, it even has a bit of a green-ish tinge to its legs, but if it is indeed a raft spider it is a very young one, still only about the same size as the pond skaters it was sharing the water surface with. Son (or daughter?) of George? We hope so; watch this space!

The weather perked up a bit today and saw hundreds of swallows, sand martins and house martins feeding over Ibsley Water, the most noticeable bird however being swift whose screams and acrobatics fill the air most days now. There were no sightings of the black or arctic terns seen earlier in the week, but at least 22 common tern

Unfortunately the change in weather has delayed the resurfacing of the entrance track and therefore the car parks and track by the Education Centre remain closed and will remain closed over the weekend and probably until Tuesday, in order that the clay in the clay/stone mix can dry out and harden into a finished surface. Sorry for the inconvenience but sadly it does seem to be the case that whenever Robin rolls up with machinery to maintain track at Blashford you can almost guarantee rain out of a blue sky, regardless of the weather forecast previous.

A reminder too that the joint HOS/RSPB/HIWWT Bird Trail 2013 event is being held at Blashford Lakes this Sunday (12th) so regular visitors may choose not to visit until after 2pm when the event is over thus freeing up Ivy North, Woodland, Ivy South and Goosander Hides which will otherwise be fairly full to capacity for much of the day until then…

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White Water Rafting

I know I have left Blashford for the distant seaside world that is Farlington Marshes some time ago (incidentally there is a blog for there too “The 108ft blog” you can find it at http://solentreserves.wordpress.com/) , but today I was back to try to get the tern rafts on the water. I was also there to say a big welcome to the new reserves officer Ed, who will no doubt be posting in the near future.It was volunteer Thursday and we had intended to get the rafts onto the lake and in position but the high winds prevented us from doing that, so we contented ourselves with getting them prepared and on the water ready to put out when the wind drops. There were actually breaking waves on Ibsley Water today, definitely not a day to be towing tern rafts!

raft preparation

raft preparation

As we worked we saw several common tern flying overhead calling for us to get on with the job.

Having got all four rafts onto the water we headed back to the Centre for some lunch. There was a school group in doing some pond-dipping and they had caught some interesting beasties including several sub-aquatic caterpillars.

ringed china-mark larva

ringed china-mark larva

They all seem to have been larvae of the ringed china-mark moth, I know it seems an odd idea but they really do live underwater as caterpillars eating water plants. They also had some dragonfly larvae, after a false start identifying it I am now pretty sure it is the larva of a migrant hawker.

migrant hawker larva

migrant hawker larva

After lunch Ed and I went on a short tour of part of the reserve, it really is a great site, so much variety and always things of interest to see. I saw my first garden warbler of the year and with the common terns on Ibsley Water 2 Arctic tern were also my first. We checked under one of the tins and saw two grass snakes, this was the larger one.

grass snake

grass snake

Looking at Ibsley Water at the end of the day the 2 Arctic tern were still there along with at least 32 common tern, a bar-tailed godwit, 2 dunlin and hundreds of swallow, sand and house martin and swift. I also see there was a turnstone reported form near the Tern hide, but I missed that.

Although this might not quite be my last ever Blashford Blog post, the reserve is now well and truly in new hands, I hope Ed enjoys it as much as I did!

 

 

Spring despite the drizzle!

I finally managed to get a snap of a large red damselfly! Unfortunately it only had 3 wings which probably aided with my photography as it couldn’t get away. However having such close up views let me appreciate its traffic light colours; it has a metallic green body with go faster yellow stripes and a red body.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

It’s definitely May as the first cockchafers, also known as May bugs turned up in the moth trap last night!

Cockchaffer

Cockchafer

Jim and I saw our first swifts flying over the Centre at lunchtime. Over on Ibsley there were 5 whimbrel, a regular migrant visitor. The first black tern was also reported.

After yesterday’s post on bird ringing someone questioned the French ringed bird as I said that although it was a french ring it might not have been ringed in France. So I asked Kevin the bird ringer who gave this response:

“The reason why a French ring appearing on a bird doesn’t necessarily mean it was ringed in France is because French Ringers are like the British – we both like to travel!

There are several countries which have strong ties with France (being a former colonial power) where French Ringers will operate . These countries won’t have their own ringing scheme so the French Ringers have to take their own rings.

We trapped a Sand Martin a few years ago at Blashford which had a French ring and it transpired that the bird was ringed in Senegal, West Africa.

I believe that British (BTO) rings are used in some overseas territories too.”

Hope that answers the question. Thanks Kevin!

Newts and Warblers

We spent the day with Our Lady and St Joseph’s School searching Blashford Lakes’ habitats for minibeasts. Included in our catch were 3 smooth newts caught at the pond. After a late start they have finally made it back to the pond to breed.  The following photos are of the stunning male smooth newt. They have the striking spots and orange tummy and a crested tail. The male waggles his rather grand tail in courtship dances to the much plainer female.

Male Smooth Newt

Male Smooth Newt

Male Smooth Newt

Male Smooth Newt

Male Smooth Newt

Male Smooth Newt

On Sunday the bird ringers were in for their first session of ringing up near Goosander and Lapwing Hide; they had an excellent start with a catch of 39 birds. Thanks to Jenny, Carol, Jenny and Kevin for their help with the ringing. They caught and ringed the following;

Reed Warbler 18

Sedge Warbler 2

Garden Warbler 4

Chiffchaff 1

Blackbird 3

Reed Bunting 3

Long-tailed Tit 2

Blue Tit 1

Dunnock 3

Wren 1

Song Thrush 1

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler

Some of the retrapped birds are of interest. One of the Sedge Warbler’s had a French ring – which doesn’t always mean it was ringed in France – as we have found this out  in the past!

They also had a control Chiffchaff – a bird ringed in the UK but not at Blashford Lakes.

Several of the Reed & Garden Warblers are returnees which were originally ringed at Blashford in 2011 and 2012.

Monday Sun Day

To stay inside on a day like today would have been criminal so at lunchtime I headed out to Goosander Hide in the glorious sunshine with the air filled with bird song.  After reading Jim’s blog from Saturday I was inspired to do some foraging of my own and so tucked into a few fresh beech leaves and hawthorn leaves and finshed off my snack with some tasty garlic mustard! The celandine flowers had opened up in the sunshine and created a beautiful glowing yellow carpet along the edge of the Docken’s Water.

Docken's Water

Docken’s Water

At the entrance to the hide I spotted this adult alderfly bumbling along. I saw my first alderfly larvae in the pond last week. Alderfly spend a year or two in the water as a larvae before crawling up onto land and pupating in the soil. A few weeks later they emerge as an adult with the power of flight and live for just a few days.

Alderfly

Alderfly

The stinging nettles by the doorway to the hide are the first patch of stinging nettles I have noticed that have been nibbled. After carefully turning over a few leaves I identified the culprit – a green caterpillar (yet to be identified! Let me know if you know what it is.) It is always astounding to think that the stinging nettle supports over 40 different species of insect! Expect to see a lot more nibbled nettle leaves soon.

Caterpillar feeding on stinging nettle

Caterpillar feeding on stinging nettle

I could have sat in the Goosander Hide all day, it was so peaceful and there was blue as far as the eye could see! Some carp (seen at the bottom of the photo) were circling in the shallow waters enjoying the warmth of the sun. Sand martins chattered away on the wing as they flew over the water catching their lunch. A few tended to their nest holes however the wall remained quite quiet for the duration of my stay.

Ibsely Water from Goosander Hide

Ibsley Water from Goosander Hide

Back at the Centre a few people reported seeing bank voles in front of the Woodland Hide as well as a grass snake on the log pile to the right of the hide and a speckled wood butterfly to the left. Other butterflies seen today included peacock, orange tip and comma.

Finally please remember that the driveway to the  Education Centre is being re-surfaced from tomorrow through to Friday. This means that the two car-parks on the Education Centre side of the reserve will be closed.  Although there will be a (very) limited space for disabled parking  by the driveway to the water treatment plant, all other visitors should park by the Tern Hide – Thank You.

Snakes Alive

Another conservation party today, as it’s the first Sunday of the month, and we set about ‘beefing-up’ the protection from deer browsing, of some coppiced/pollarded willows in a patch close to the Education Centre.  Although there aren’t huge numbers of deer on the reserve, the steady attention of these few to browsing off re-growth can eventually kill the trees. Whilst it’s impossible to completely fence off these trees we can dissuade  the deer by surrounding the trees with brash, so that its difficult and unpleasant to stick noses through to get at the tender leaves. The end result isn’t exactly pretty – a little like a piece of installation art – but with the added benefit of being useful.

Protection from deer browsing

Protection from deer browsing

Afterwards we went to examine the contents of the light trap. Whilst there wasn’t a huge number of moths – only eight individuals – among them were these rather splendid Great Prominent, Pebble Prominent and Chocolate-tip

Great Prominent

Great Prominent

Pebble Prominent

Pebble Prominent

Chocolat-tip

Chocolate-tip

Whilst most of us were looking at moths one of the conservation volunteers went fora short walk towards the Ivy South Hide and was rewarded with the sight of a Grass Snake  swimming across the settlement pond. Luckily he was ready with his camera and managed to get a couple of pictures – here’s one ……

Grass Snake swimming in setttlement pond . picture taken by Geoff Angel -volunteer.

Grass Snake swimming in settlement pond . picture taken by Geoff Angel volunteer.

With the recent spell of warm weather it wasn’t too surprising to see a few butterflies including Peacock, Green-veined White and Orange-tip showing well. Jim noted in an earlier posting  of the emergence of  Large Red Damselflies and a dragonfly, possibly a Hairy Dragonfly was seen briefly.

Some summer plumaged dunlin have been much in evidence around Ibsley Water and one of the three or so  little ringed plover was giving good views as well.

Little ringed plover on shore of Ibsley Water - seen from Tern Hide.

Little ringed plover on shore of Ibsley Water – seen from Tern Hide.Som

Most of our expected summer visitors are now with us, and it’s difficult to escape the sound of warblers all around. with plenty of siskin and lesser redpoll making good use of the niger seed feeders as well.

Finally I’ve been asked to remind our readers that the driveway to the  Education Centre is being re-surfaced in the coming week( Tuesday to Friday). This will mean that the two car-parks on this side of the reserve can’t be used.  Although there will be a (very) limited space for disabled parking  by the driveway to the water treatment plant, all other visitors should park by the Tern Hide – Thank You.

Out and About Today…

Very busy day (again!) today with a group shelter building and firelighting this afternoon and a pre-event meeting with HOS and RSPB coordinators in advance of the Bird Trail 2013 event being held at Blashford next Sunday (12th May) – although the reserve will remain open for the day, car parking will be restricted to the main Ibsley/Tern Hide car park for much of the day and  regular visitors may deem it prudent to avoid visiting between 9am-2pm when there could be up to 120 children and young people exploring the reserve and learning about its birds and other wildlife! You have been warned!

I did make the most of about an hour or so before the meeting to get around as much of the reserve as I could and was delighted by a pair of bullfinches by the gate into the main car park as I opened up, the male looking really striking amongst the bramble leaves on what was at that point a fairly dull start to the day. Equally vibrant was the flowering cherry near the entrance through up to the centre – non-native perhaps, but a visual treat on an otherwise grey morning and the picture also shows the hazel coppiced by the volunteers this winter getting away quite nicely too:

130504Blashford12 by J Day_resize

I saw my first orangetip butterfly yesterday (and a few more when the sun did come out today) and couldn’t resist the brilliant white, pink tinged flowers of the Lady’s smock in the wet meadow which will no doubt provide food for some orangetip butterflies shortly:

 130504Blashford1 by J Day_resize

The resident mute swans are still in residence outside Ivy North Hide. Having turfed out the old cobb swan “Asbo” and his penn last summer hopefully they will do better. The new male is at least a lot more attentive to his mate and nest than Asbo was, who could  be guaranteed to be causing mayhem far away on the other side of the lake with no clue as to what was actually going on at the nest! The new pair is not nearly so aggressive and I think they may even be “permitting” a second pair to nest in Ivy Silt Pond, something that Asbo would never have allowed!

130504Blashford3 by J Day_resize

In case any one was wondering, the “scenic” path to Lapwing Hide through the reedbed and willow scrub is still underwater at the top, though it has dropped away a lot, leaving a thick layer of gloopy silt that is great for looking for animal and bird tracks in. It is now definitely passable in wellies, but not sure I’d try it in walking boots yet!

130504Blashford7 by J Day_resize

While photographing the flooded path I also couldn’t help noticing the mares tails below – mentioned, but not pictured in one of Steve’s recent blogs the emerging plants were looking quite beautiful with their dew/rain drop embellishments and therefore pictured here for your viewing pleasure:

 130504Blashford8 by J Day_resize

Heading back along the Dockens Water I stopped to admire the freshly emerged beech canopy – one of my favourite spring sights and also to pluck a couple of young leaves for a fresh spring time lemony/salad snack as a traditional taste of spring that has become a habit of mine over the years:

130504Blashford9 by J Day_resize 130504Blashford10 by J Day_resize

Before continuing back to the centre I spotted a couple of strange “clean” patches of gravel in a shallow section of the river that receives a fair amount of dappled sunlight for much of the day:

 

 130504Blashford11 by J Day_resize

I’m not certain, but am I fairly confident that they were in all probability recently the site of a spawning tangle of brook lampreys mentioned in previous blogs, but I am more than happy to accept suggestions from our readers if they think differently!

Finally, may I please remind everyone that the track up to the centre, and both car parks on the Centre  side of the nature reserve, will be closed for most of next week from 7th – 10th May due to essential track maintenance. There will be no parking available at the centre so visitors should use the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide/Ibsley Water north of Ellingham Drove and walk in from there.

A small amount of parking for disabled visitors and visiting school parties/coaches ONLY will be reserved at the bottom of the track and along the approach to the Water Treatment Works.

*NEWS JUST IN!* CENTRE TRACK BEING RESURFACED NEXT WEEK! plus other news

Following consultation with the NFDC planners, and a likely looking window of opportunity weather–wise, Jess has finally been able to go ahead and book in our contractor for the long-awaited and much needed re-grading and resurfacing of the track up to the centre.

For many this may prove a mixed blessing as unfortunately this will mean that the track up to the centre, and both car parks on the Centre  side of the nature reserve, will be closed for most of next week from 7th – 10th May and therefore there will be no parking available at the centre – please use the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide/Ibsley Water north of Ellingham Drove and walk in from there.

A small amount of parking for disabled visitors and visiting school parties/coaches will be reserved at the bottom of the track and along the approach to the Water Treatment Works, but this is limited and as Wessex Water have a lot of traffic in and out of the works currently it is essential that their access is not hindered, so please do not be tempted to park there, but rather leave it for those who really do need it.

Thank you for your understanding – and I’m sure you are all as pleased as I am that the pot-holes will finally be a thing of the past again (for a while at least!).

Further news to be aware of; the volunteers did a great job (again!) today and Tern Hide has now been painted with preservative, front and back, so there will be no need to cause disturbance there again this spring/summer – and just in time as it seems that more little-ringed plover may have arrived this morning with reports of four along the south shore of Ibsley Water this morning.

In my last entry I also mentioned that the BTO CES ringing survey would be begiining again soon and I have now had confirmation from the co-ordinator that the first session will be this Sunday, during the morning (starting early!).

Damsels finally sighted…

Michelle and I are now well and truly in the throes of what is always a hectic summer term of teaching, so apologies for the lack of pictures to accompany this entry, but, yes, at long last, yesterday (and today) large red damselflies can finally be seen winging their way around the nature reserve and particularly by the Centre pond, where no doubt many emerged recently as nymphs. The last day in April was remarkably late considering they are regularly first seen in March. Also reported today were first sightings of a few butterfly firsts of the year, including orangetip, speckled wood and comma.

The BTO Constant Effort Site bird ringing survey begins as of tomorrow, so morning visitors may be aware of activity in the vicinity of Lapwing Hide with the intention of building up on-going long-term information about the bird life of this part of the nature reserve and population trends, with the primary interest being the warblers that breed and feed in the reed and scrub here, though of course other birds will also be ringed and contribute further to our knowledge of bird population trends both within the reserve and nationally. The bird ringers are very happy to talk to visitors about what they are doing but please do not disturb the nets, particularly when they are being deployed for the survey work.

Another warning for visitors tomorrow is that subject to weather the volunteers may be “painting” the exterior of the Tern Hide – it needs doing while the sun is shining and while there are no birds nesting outside to disturb, so apologies to any visitors that this may impact upon.