As usual it has been a busy summer of holiday activities and family events for Michelle and I, but the last of this summers “Wild Day’s Out” took place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week with some very happy children enjoying some pond dipping in the morning (highlights being a water stick insect on both days and a good number of dragonfly nymphs. The children also, somewhat nervously at first, enjoyed being carefully scrutinised by southern hawkers whilst dipping the pond!) and river dipping in the afternoon (the bullheads were co-operative and as always elicited great excitement) On both days river dipping with nets moved on to simply river dipping, with one boy announcing with a great big grin “Now I know why this was called “Splash!”” on the Wednesday and another child on Thursday suggesting that we should have called it “Splashford Lakes” – a title we liked and will try and remember to use next year!
On the wildlife front, other than the really wild wildlife pictured above, it has been relatively quiet but kingfisher are being seen quite regularly at Goosander Hide and in Ivy Silt Pond or around Ivy South Hide suggesting that there have been at least two pairs of kingfisher nesting successfully within the reserve this year, for once not hampered by high rainfall causing river spate and nest flooding.
Amazingly there is still at least one (there were two reported earlier in the week) unfledged common tern chick on the southern most raft on Ivy Lake, weeks after the first fledged! Ed and Adam have done a lovely job clearing back the vegetation around Ivy South Hide so watch out for basking grass snakes from there again on sunny days.
Dragonflies and butterflies are still very much in evidence around the reserve and particularly by the pond at the back of the centre where another wildlife spectacle to look out for at the moment, is that of a persistent hornet successfully hunting the butterflies nectaring on the buddleia. Not always successful it is still a very effective and efficient killer, seemingly favouring the small tortoiseshells, but also managing to catch peacock and red admiral butterflies too. It “buzzes” them as they land on the flowers and, if successful in grappling them with its legs, bites the unlucky lepidoptera with its powerful jaws to kill it whilst using its weight to crash them both down to the ground before carefully and surprisingly swiftly trimming off the wings and carrying the “meaty” head, thorax and abdomen off, presumably to the nest. A gruesome but really quite fascinating piece of behaviour to watch!