I will try and make up for the lack of any posts over the last few days by doing a short run through recent times at Blashford. On Thursday the volunteers were again busy on the western shore of Ibsley Water, raking up the grass, nettles, thistles and brambles that Ed and I were cutting. The idea is to encourage grass growth for wintering wildfowl such as wigeon and for them to leave the grass short enough for it to be suitable for lapwing to nest on in the spring. It is a lot of work but we are progressing steadily and hopefully we will see the effects this coming winter. It was quite warm and as we worked there were lots of butterflies, especially marbled white, meadow brown and gatekeeper.
At the end of the day on Thursday Ed and I set out to complete a project that he had been planning for some time, this was to put up a tall perch well out in Ibsley Water. As Ibsley Water is mostly between four and seven metres deep this was going to be quite a task.
After a bit of searching around for the right spot and the application of specialist perch placing skill the job was done.
All we have to do now is wait for the first osprey to land on it! So far all I have seen are common terns.
It was my turn to man the reserve on Saturday and despite mostly attending to office work it was a surprisingly varied day. It started with seeing a very smart adult summer plumage turnstone in front of Tern hide.
It was around all day and I am sure there will have been many good pictures taken of it, but this was my best.
In recent days there have been several reports of an adult Arctic tern at the Tern hide, apparently it had a ring on one leg. I photographed this one which fitted the bill in that it has a ring and a, more or less, all red bill, however this is still a common tern.
At this time of year many adult common terns bills have reduced black tips, or even no black at all, so you need to check other characters as well. In this case these are easily seen as it is perched so close to the hide. The characters to look for are: dark, almost black outer primaries (the long pointed part of the wings), on a common tern these feathers are old and very worn by now, on an Arctic tern they would be much paler grey. The legs of common tern are also longer as is the bill, but these features are of less use unless you have seen lots of Arctic terns. Sadly this shot shows none of the letters or numbers on the ring, but if anyone else gets pictures of this bird it would be great to try and see if we can read the ring and find out where it has come from.
There were also several of the fledged juvenile common terns around as well, soon these will be leaving so it is good to enjoy them whilst they are still here.
As I said I spent much of the day in the office, but got out on various errands as well, one was to respond to a call to say there was a mute swan stuck on the path alongside Rockford Lake.
Swans that land on Ivy Lake get attacked by the resident pair and if they fail to fly off get pushed up the bank and end up on the path where they are unable to get into Rockford Lake due to the fences. After a brief bit of swan wrestling I got the better of it and was able to lift it over the fence to join the non-breeding flock on Rockford Lake.
It was a great day for insects with lots of butterflies, dragonflies and other creatures out and about. I briefly saw a clearwing most but frustratingly failed to either get a picture or identify it before it flew off. It had been nectaring on a burdock plant at the Centre, which also had lots of tiny picture-winged flies on the flower heads.
The butterflies included lots of comma and this silver-washed fritillary.
Dragonflies included brown hawker, common darter, emperor, a probable migrant hawker and this black-tailed skimmer, which I found eating a damselfly.
How long will it be before the first osprey lands on the new perch? I for one will be very disappointed if there has not been at least one by the end of August.
Other bird sightings during the day included the great white egret on Ivy Lake, a green sandpiper on Rockford Lake and common sandpiper, dunlin, juvenile redshank and a report of a wood sandpiper all on Ibsley Water. I would be keen to hear more about the last record as only one person seems to have seen it despite there being lots of people about all day, it would be good to know a few details as we don’t see many of them at Blashford.