I arrived a few minutes late this morning due to treacherous road conditions on the way in, so was delighted to see that the main “Tern Hide” car park was clear and, to my surprise, reasonably safe to drive and walk over so was able to open up. It is a week since I was last at Blashford so a build up in wildfowl numbers, particularly wigeon and teal, was especially noticeable on both Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake, the latter of which had a lovely early morning mist dissipating when I opened up. Also unmissable was the massive erosion scar in front of Tern Hide and just how much higher the lake was. Made me quite glad that I’d missed it – in more than 10 years working at Blashford the car park has been flooded by the Dockens Water on a regular basis on many an occasion, but never has it been so flooded that it has gone under the hide. A big thanks to Ed, Steve and Jacki who cleared up the devastation:
The lakes are all very high now and the river, though dropped, is higher than normal. Still, the board walk through the willow carr beyond Ivy South hide is accessible again!
Further along the path that runs between Ellingham Lake and the river was more evidence of the recent flood event however; this time another of our mature oaks gone. However, uprooted as it is on the river bank it has, and will, create brilliant little micro-habitats in the root plate and in the river itself, the dead and rotting wood will support hundreds of species of invertebrate, fungi, lichens, small mammals and birds and it is entirely possible that, depending upon what roots remain intact in the ground, it will continue to grow. And thankfully, because it is in an area of reserve with no access, it can just be left without worry that someone will come a cropper:
It didn’t take too long for the thickest of the frost to melt this morning, but it really was quite stunning in places while it lasted and allowed me the opportunity to get a little creative:
The beautiful day and strong winter sun saw a steady stream of visitors coming through the reserve – busiest I have seen since last winter/early spring and what was particularly nice was the fact that it was a real mix of serious birders and photographers, less serious photographers (i.e. they hadn’t re-mortgaged the house or sold the car to purchase their equipment!) and lots of families just out for a walk and the opportunity to see some wildlife – with black necked grebe and merlin on Ibsley Water, and, at times, really good views of at least two bittern and the great white egret on Ivy Lake, Ivy North Hide. Also reported today was the first Bewick’s swan of this winter, on Ibsley Water and no doubt over in the water meadows of Harbridge too.
A reasonable number of visitors either arrived late or stayed on later in hope of a decent starling murmuration, which sadly did not entirely live up to expectations in terms of numbers of birds nor weather which clouded over right towards the end of the day and even started raining while I locked up. However it was still a wonder to behold and with at least one peregrine diving into the midst of the birds they did perform. The main roost certainly does seem to have dispersed into at least two smaller roosts now with some still going down west of the A338 north of Ellingham Church and some into Mockbeggar North north of Mockbeggar Lane. Didn’t see any going into the reeds behind Lapwing Hide tonight, but they did yesterday and surely will do so again. Kind of forgotten about with the excitement of the starlings, the gull roost was also quite spectacular today. Neither picture below do either spectacle justice, but were the best I could manage in poor light with a poor camera!