It is the same every year, at the end of October we are looking forward to the winter tasks with the whole season stretched out before us. Then, suddenly it is February and there is still lots of winter work, but not much winter. So it has been lucky that this week the weather has been kind and the schedule of meetings and other “interruptions” has allowed us to really get on with some tasks out on the reserve.
We have cleared bramble clumps to encourage grassland and maintain path edges, layered willows to thicken up habitat for breeding warblers and provide screening, cut rushes along Ibsley Water shore to increase suitability for breeding lapwing and grazing wigeon, cleared brash piles left by the power line clearance and cut around the Woodland hide to improve the viewing. When I think about it we also got a few other odd jobs done as well, but then winter is fast leaving us.
This point has been brought home when I have run the moth trap, only a couple of species caught but both typical early spring ones rather than winter species. One of my favourite early moths is the oak beauty, the closest relative of the peppered moth, well known a the classic example of industrial melanism. The other moth was the common quaker, which is often very abundant indeed in early spring.The reserve has continued to host a wide range of birds over the week, with both the black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe being seen on Ibsley Water along with the usual goldeneye, goosander and good numbers of shoveler (over 200), wigeon (1000+) and some pintail. At dusk the large gull roost has included the regular ring-billed gull, three or possibly even four Caspian gull and several Mediterranean gull, these always increase during February, so far about five or six, but they might top twenty in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile the bittern and great white egret have been seen fairly regularly on Ivy Lake and a the Woodland hide has hosted small numbers of brambling, lesser redpoll, reed bunting and masses of siskin.