Thankfully with no dogs bar working guide dogs permitted at Blashford Lakes one of the most common things that we have to watch out for when out and about in the countryside is not a problem here! However if one can believe the forecast (and it did look pretty fearsome when I saw it last night, despite having made it to 3.30pm while I write this without a splash!) we are in for drop of rain at some point today and over the next few days and when/if it arrives I think I can pretty much guarantee that the footpaths will be alive with toadlets making the most of the damp conditions to continue their dispersal from the lakes. So please do take care if venturing out on to the reserve over the next day or so if/when the weather does finally break!
Another reason for being careful where you walk is wasps:
I spotted this nest just off the Rockford/Ivy Lake path today but is one of several that I have become aware of over the last week or so. Wasps had been keeping a fairly low profile, possibly having got off to a bad start with a cold spring and late summer, but the recent heatwave seems to have really bumped up their population, here at least. Wasps will use old mouse or vole holes, as with this one, or alternatively find other cavities in old tree’s, lofts, or nest boxes. As long as you don’t disturb them they won’t normally be a problem, but you wouldn’t want to step in the nest, or bump into one. This one has got quite a large opening and I suspect it clearly been discovered by a badger, though not (yet!) excavated. Badgers, for reasons known only to themselves love to gorge themselves on wasp eggs and grubs. I can only suppose that the wasps are a bit sleepy when the badgers tuck in to their midnight feasts and therefore escape the worst of the stings. Either that or they’ve got a thing for hot and spicy food! Still, can’t help thinking that a chilli would be a better option.
A final reason for watching where you walk at the moment is to conserve the lichen heath:
This unique habitat and the rare and unusual assembly of lichens that it supports is very sensitive to trampling, which is why all of our footpaths take you around rather than across it. Despite this many people do cut across it on route from the car park to either Goosander and Lapwing Hides or Ivy North Hide and you only have to look at the degradation in the lichens along the “desire” lines to see the impact that this has had on the lichen population. At the moment this habitat is exceptionally parched and the lichen communities especially vulnerable, so please do keep to the surfaced paths and avoid the lichen heath.
The meadow areas are also dry – and brilliant places to watch out for hawking dragonflies at the moment. Michelle had a very successful family event in their yesterday, with children and adults of all ages thoroughly enjoying discovering and identifying the invertebrates that were caught in the sweepnets:
Looking at the state of the meadow it is not really a surprise that the deer are getting hungry and looking for food elsewhere. Until recently I had been really impressed with how well all of the willow, alder and hazel coppiced last winter was regenerating:
Unfortunately although the alder and willow is escaping the attention of the deer, a lot of the hazel is now being ravaged by them as they seek alternative food to the parched grassland vegetation:
Fortunately the twig and branch “deer defences” that the volunteers wove around the coppice stools are minimising the damage so that they will in time get away again – like these here that were coppiced a few years ago but had had a terrible re-growth, again due to deer browsing, but which have now really got away, possibly in part thanks to the extra light that has resulted through the thinning of ash and removal of Scots pine in the same woodland last winter:
And finally, on the basis that if it does rain (and lo-and-behold it just started!) there won’t be any moths for Steve to blog tomorrow, here is a selection from another bumper haul of 39+ species today (sorry Steve!):