Blashford ltd and the goose with the goldeneye – Oh , and a great white egret

Isn’t digital photography wonderful!!

I’m old enough to remember when some of the first digital images were published, back in the 1960’s. At that time such technology was the preserve of ‘big science’ and military intelligence since it was used to get images back from space probes and satellites. Definitely one of those instances of necessity being the mother of invention because they couldn’t get photographic film back (and to the chemists!) from these remote vehicles. Also behind the original digitising camera it needed a computer the size of a car to process the data and produce the image

With the irrepressible march of technological progress and innovation these images have become more detailed and sharper over the years and now available to us all.  Having said all this though, its one of the features of wildlife (especially bird) photography that the target always seems to be far off and usually moving. Such was the situation today when the long-tailed duck on Ibsley water hove into view in  middle of the lake.  Winding my modest camera up to its full potential (72x zoom) and in less than bright conditions produced the slightly grainy, almost monochrome image, reminiscent of the quality of some of those early space-shot pictures.

long-tailed duck on Ibsley water

long-tailed duck on Ibsley water

Another benefit of computerised imaging is our ability to select and manipulate those parts of an image that  are of interest… so….

IMG_1601 ltd

image from above ‘cropped’ and ‘sharpened’

A little nearer than this, a group of three Egyptian geese were keeping close together but moving around from place to place on Ibsley water, occasionally coming close enough to picture.

Egyptian and Canada Geese - escapees from the goose fair??

Egyptian and Canada Geese – escapees from the goose fair??

Another advantage of this digital lark is that the concept of ‘wasted (and expensive) film’ no longer applies, so there is a tendency to run off lots of shots and sometimes this leads to unexpected and interesting juxtapositions as with this picture…..

Possible 'Bond movie' stars - The Goose with the Goldeneye.

Possible ‘Bond movie’ stars – The Goose with the Goldeneye.

Also on Ibsley water the colour ringed great white egret was showing well..

great white egret seen from Goosander Hide

great white egret seen from Goosander Hide

Back on Ivy lake kingfisher have been giving a good account of themselves, with several delighted visitors reporting excellent views from both hides overlooking the lake.

Somewhat un-seasonally a great spotted woodpecker has been ‘drumming’ in the area around the Woodland Hide.

My last posting of the year, so may I take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year!

 

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Just a few Birds

I know Ed’s been really busy and hasn’t had the opportunity lately to post much in the way of pictures from the Reserve so I’ll share a few images of some of our more common species, taken last Wednesday and today.

The long view from the Tern Hide to the far side of Ibsley Water was distinctly autumnal

Across the water from the Tern Hide

Across the water from the Tern Hide

A few of the ‘regular’ birds using the feeders around the Woodland Hide were considerate enough to perch up on the nearby branches before dashing in to take a few seeds.

Male chaffinch

Male chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

Collared Dove - normally a bird of more open areas, these have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

Collared Dove – normally a bird of more open (park and garden) areas, but at Blashford they have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

and a seasonal favourite…………..

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

Although most of the tit family only lingered long enough on the feeder for me to take their picture

Great tit

Great tit

Among the other birds seen around the woodlands are wren, nuthatch, blue and coal tits, siskin, dunnock, goldcrest and chiffchaff.  On the water there are increasing numbers of duck of several species including gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, shoveler, pochard, goldeneye and goosander, as well as the now regular long-tailed duck.  Great crested, little and black-necked grebe are all present on Ibsley water. Here also the early evening spectacle of large numbers of lesser black-backed, herring and black-headed gull  together with smaller numbers of great black-backed, common and yellow-legged gull coming to roost continues to attract birdwatchers. The starling murmuration has lost some of its previous  splendour with reduced numbers and more distant view, but on clear days, like today, can still be quite impressive.

On Ivy Lake at least two bittern have been seen and a couple of water rail were scrapping, chasing one another around outside the Ivy North Hide earlier today.

Visitors often ask where they might see particular birds around the reserve. In my experience the species most often sought is kingfisher, but I usually have to resort to rather vague advice of looking from one or other hide where a bird has been reported (but not personally seen by me!!). So it was gratifying to be privy to views of these birds perched openly and close(ish) to the Ivy North Hide, even allowing me to capture some half-decent images.

Kingfisher in reedbeds to right of Ivy North Hide

Kingfisher in reedbeds to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

 

 

 

Colder, not ‘otter

It’s always a bit of a shock to the system  on your first day back at work after a holiday and none more so than today, having last worked here over two months ago and in the meantime having been in warmer climes ……..

The scene which greeted me on going to open the Tern hide was well worthy of what, I believe, was the coldest night so far this winter.

frosty hedge by Tern Hide

frosty hedge by Tern Hide

Sometimes such heavy frost can be too overpowering and completely ‘whites-out’ any definition, but the delicate nature of last night’s cold spell highlighted some interesting patterns on the foliage.

 

frosted leaves of bramble

frosted leaves of bramble

I don’t suppose these conditions make life too easy for our more insectivorous birds, like this pied wagtail, which despite, or maybe because of, the conditions was foraging quite successfully along the edge of Ibsley Water.

pied wagtail on edge of Ibsley Water

pied wagtail on edge of Ibsley Water

Walking round to open up the hides, I was struck by the picturesque interplay of the frosted grass and fence wires with the oblique rays of the early sun.

frosted grass and fence

frosted grass and fence

I’d heard that one of ‘our’ regular wintering bittern has been seen from the Ivy North Hide recently. so full of expectation I stealthily opened the hide and the side window in expectation…. but no bittern!!!  So often when nature-watching it’s the unexpected which provides the most thrills,  so I was suddenly excited by views of a medium sized mammal swimming close in to the hide.  ‘Otter!!’, was my immediate thought as I  struggled to extricate camera from its case to take some confirmatory pictures. It was a few minutes before my rapier like brain kicked in…………….. not an otter, but a mink!!

not and otter!!

not and otter!!

Some visitors today have been more fortunate and did see a bittern, and among other sightings were several snipe by Lapwing Hide as well as the great white egret

A trip to the lapwing Hide was rewarded when Jacki spotted some fallow deer grazing by the fence.

fallow deer

fallow deer

The same group, or possibly different ones were more distant, but showing slightly better with the sun on them, from the Goosander Hide, with the added bonus of a buzzard perched on a post right next to them.

fallow deer and buzzard

fallow deer and buzzard

 

Tigers, Crocks and Kings – some news from downunder

Hello folks.  Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted much on the Blashford Blog lately.   Well this isn’t a regular type of posting as, after many years, Sheila and I have finally got round to visiting her family in Australia and we are taking the opportunity to see a little of the local wildlife (apart from my sister-in-law !!!).

We’ve now ben here three weeks and have explored some of the habitats round and about so I thought I’d share a few images of some of the things we’ve seen.  In truth it can be quite hard work managing to see some of it.

So far our journey has taken us around the Brisbane area (parks and gardens, rainforest, sclerophyll forest, wetlands and a whalewatchng trip),up to Cairns to visit Danetree National Park (rainforest and river close to coast) and Atherton Tablelands (an elevated plateau further inland with rainforest, wetlands and farms – lots of sugar cane).

Rainforests are really tricky as for the most part they’re quite dark with birds fairly high up in the canopy. There isn’t the option of ‘standing back’ to look up, you simply loose your view and looking straight up usually involves peering through dense foliage with bright sunny sky beyond.

Having said that we were overjoyed that our first rainforest trip produced a quite stunning bird – this rather striking Australian King-Parrot.

Australian King-Parrot

Australian King-Parrot – maddeningly our hosts reported that they have had these in their garden!!

There are quite a few other colourful birds, but perhaps the most common spectacular (and noisy) one is the Rainbow lorikeet, which looks somewhat like an explosion in a paint factory.

Rainbow Lorikeet - a very common garden and forest bird around eastern Australia

Rainbow Lorikeet – a very common garden and forest bird around eastern Australia

Most of the small birds move too fast for my little camera, but we were fortunate to see this handsome chap in an urban park setting.

Superb Fairy-wren

Superb Fairy-wren

Perhaps a little more familiar, but quite striking, are some of the wetland birds, like this lovely white-necked heron.

White-necked heron

White-necked heron

Most exciting was the prospect of seeing some different mammals, but as yet our views of kangaroo  and wallaby have been very few. Whilst in the Atherton Tableland there is a regular ‘feeding station’ (sugar smeared on tree trunks) where possums and sugar gliders come to feed … shades of Blashford’s woodland hide, but with mammals not birds!!

Striped possum, near lake Eacham

Striped possum

Sugar glider

Sugar glider

We were hoping to catch up with platypus at some stage, so were delighted to get some mid-distance views of one from a purpose built ‘Platypus Viewing Station’.  Unusually this was quite late (8.30) as they are supposed only feed at dawn and dusk. The next day from the same platform there was no sign, but a  lady passing by said she’d just seen one further down the river, so we went to take a look and were well rewarded..

Duck-billed platypus, at Peterson's Creek, Atherton Tableland

Duck-billed platypus, at Peterson’s Creek, Atherton Tablelands

Whilst we’re looking at mammals, I can’t resist putting in an image of probably the largest mammals to figure on the Blashford Blog, these humpback whale...

Humpback whale, seen  off of Brisbane coast

Humpback whale, mother and calf, seen
off of Brisbane coast

The east coast of Australia sees regular migration north-south of these creatures who swim to warmer northern waters to give birth, before returning south to the better feeding area.

Now from the largest animal to some of the smallest.

All the insects seem to be supercharged, hardly ever stopping and zipping about. we’ve seen some magnificent specimens, briefly, including the enormous Cairn’s Birdwing butterfly (sorry no picture). Blue seems to figure quite highly in the few we have ‘caught’ including the Blue Triangle and Blue Tiger butterflies.

 

Blue Tiger butterfly seen in Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Blue Tiger butterfly seen in Brisbane Botanic Gardens

 

Blue Triangle butterfly

Blue Triangle butterfly

We made a couple of river trips whilst in the Danetree area, one at dawn and the other at dusk.  as well as some interesting birds we also had our best views of reptiles – not everyone’s favourite, so those of a nervous disposition might want to ‘look away now’

This little fellow was hardly visible, but our guide spotted him from quite a way off, hanging out over the water. Size-wise he’s probably not much thicker than a middle finger and – so far as I know – completely harmless to us.

Green tree-snake

Green tree-snake

On an altogether different scale this saltwater crocodile, found ‘basking’ in the early evening presents a slightly more hazardous prospect – not one to go swimming with

Saltwater crocodile - these can reach up to five metres long and have big snappy teeth ......

Saltwater crocodile – these can reach up to five metres long and have big snappy teeth ……

Sheila says it looks about as active as me and probably is just as grumpy!!!!

I think that’s probably just about enough from me for now  – there are lots of other things I’d like to share – but as I see there have been some kingfisher pictures on the regular blog, I’ll just add a few of my own..

Forest kingfisher

Forest kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher

And to finish —just for a laugh……………….

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

We’ll be heading south tomorrow – off to Canberra and a gentle drive back to Brisbane – no idea what we might see, but if I get the chance, I might add something here.

A Touch of Frost

With three millimetres of rain and overnight temperature a low single figure, it certainly feels more like autumn now.

The final butterfly transects, we have been monitoring them now since early April, were completed this week. The surveyors haven’t been bothered by huge numbers of butterflies, although understand we still have quite a few speckled wood butterflies,

speckled wood

speckled wood

 

37 were seen on the north transect, plus a good number of comma (16) and five red admiral on the south section.

Other signs of autumn are the burgeoning numbers of fungi, like this troop, of I believe lycoperdon sp.(?),  I saw beside the path.

 

lycoperdon species?

lycoperdon species?

Whilst bird numbers aren’t particularly spectacular yet, the range of species is increasing slowly. One lucky couple saw what they are sure was a honey buzzard in the Ibsley Water area.  More prosaically I only managed a few of the more common species, like this lapwing

lapwing

lapwing

and a couple of young little grebe, or dabchick, with a coot.

coot and dabchick

coot and dabchick

 

A final flurry of, mostly fairly inconspicuous, flowers is providing a little colour around the place, but most are well past their best.

P1540544 geranium

cut-leaved geranium(?)

common storksbill

common storksbill

dark mullein

dark mullein

On the ‘light  trap’ front, we are still attracting hornets,

hornet

hornet

 

but a number of colourful moths as well.

pink-barred sallow

pink-barred sallow

 

frosted orange

frosted orange

angle shades

angle shades

Bank Holiday blues

Welcome, from a soggy Blashford Lakes Reserve. As is customary we have another damp and dismal Bank Holiday Monday (10mm of rain overnight and it hasn’t stopped raining all day), but there are a few folk here making the most of the situation.

Not terribly inspiring for bird watching and most self respecting insects are keeping well out of sight today, so I’ll just share a few pictures, taken last Friday, when covering the Butterfly Survey transect on the south of the Reserve.

Green-veined white butterflies were the most common on the transect and arguably THE most common butterfly in the U.K. with a wide geographic range (absent only from Orkney and Shetland) and having two or even three broods (in good years).  An innocuous butterfly, its caterpillars don’t damage cultivated cabbages, unlike their close cousins the large white  and small white, but lay their eggs on wild relatives of these plants. An active butterfly its quite difficult to identify from small white when in flight, I’m guessing that many ‘non-butterfliers’  probably wouldn’t even have heard of them – I know I hadn’t before taking more interest in these insects.

Most common butterfly - Green-veined White

Most common butterfly – Green-veined White

Green-veined white butterflies are very much a species of damp and marshy places near hedgerows and woodland edges, so the Reserve is ideal habitat for them – especially today.

Overall the number of butterflies to be seen has dropped off lately as the temperature falls  and sunshine has decreased with only 21 butterflies of four/five species ( including ‘unknown’ White) seen last Friday, although I believe the transect on the north side of the Reserve was more productive. The brightest and  most colourful was this Comma.

Comma - so named from the tiny white 'comma shaped' mark on the underside of the hind wing

Comma – so named from the tiny white ‘comma shaped’ mark on the underside of the hind wing

The common name of this butterfly, and even the scientific name Polygonia c-album, refer to this tiny mark (if my rusty knowledge of Latin is correct c-album = ‘ white c’), but it’s really quite inconspicuous unless you know to look for it.  I guess the naming dates back to the time when collectors could study these things at their leisure as it was  ‘O.K.’ to catch these beautiful insects and handle them, before killing and mounting them in collections

In greater profusion than all the butterflies were common blue damselflies which were just about everywhere, gently skimming over the tops of shrubbery and settling, usually briefly, before being disturbed by another damselfly. The males were most conspicuous, with their electric blue colouration,  whilst the females were difficult to pick out, especially if motionless as they stayed perched up.  I’ll admit that I find it easier to identify the species of a male damselfly, like ducks as opposed to drakes, the females are more drably marked.

Dragonflies and damselflies are spectacularly visual insects, the relative size of their eyes is a bit of a give-a-way, so I’m guessing that males can easily identify their prospective mating partners from a mixed assortment of, to us, similar looking females of other species.  As a safeguard to prevent cross breeding  I understand that the claspers (anal appendages) on a male can only latch on successfully to the neck of a female of the same species to create the mating position called the ‘heart’ or ‘cartwheel’ position.  Whilst so engaged they are easier to photograph as they seem somewhat ‘distracted’ and less likely to fly off suddenly – can’t think why!

pair of common blue damselflies

pair of common blue damselflies in cartwheel position

Dragonflies were also out and about, hopeless trying to photograph them whilst flying (the dragonflies – not me!) with my little camera, but when they hang-up briefly there’s a chance of a quick shot.   Missed the southern hawker, but this migrant hawker was more obliging.

Migrant hawker

Migrant hawker

Common darter are living up to their name, by a) being quite common (20 plus seen easily – don’t know how many we missed) and  b) perching up and ‘darting’ out before returning to the same perch, making them relatively easy to photograph.

Common darter

Common darter

The butterfly transect should notionally take about an hour and a half, but we managed to stretch it to two hours, having been ‘distracted’ by some quite delicious blackberries along the way. Whilst engaged in this activity a strange bug hopped onto my hand and demanded to have it’s picture taken.

Dock bug?

Dock bug?

Searching the literature – and online – I think its a dock bug (Coreus marginatus) , though not a fully grown one, as these appear to have a more definite darker patch on their abdomen.  One of the family ‘Leatherbugs’ of which there are eleven species in the U.K. and five in the new Forest (Paul D. Brock : A photographic guide to Insects of the New Forest) this is apparently the most common and easily found.

I’ll close with an update from the rain gauge – 22mm (nearly an inch in real terms)  and rising!!

 

Pictures from the Purple Patch

It’s often been said, ( although, probably only  by me!) that a lot of the conservation work at Blashford is  ‘ a bit like gardening, but on an industrial scale‘ .  Today I was doing what, to me,  is one of the more pleasant gardening tasks of dead heading the buddleia.   We don’t have much buddleia left on the reserve, it’s a terribly invasive non-native plant and as such doesn’t really belong here so it’s largely being eradicated from the more wild parts of the reserve, with only one plant left near the Centre.  It is, however, a great nectar source for insects and removing the seed heads encourages more flower to form.  So what could be finer on a pleasantly warm day than a little light pruning whilst seeped in a heady fragrance and being constantly visited by comma, small tortoiseshell, green-veined white, silver-washed fritillary and peacock butterflies and also this smart red admiral.

 

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

The rich lilac/purple flowers of the buddleia are mirrored by many other flowers at the moment – indeed the reserve is going through a ‘purple patch; as evidenced by the flower-heads of creeping thistle, teasel and marjoram

creeping thistle

creeping thistle

 

Teasel

Teasel

 

Marjoram

Marjoram

All of which were within about four metres of the buddleia.

In fact I didn’t really need to go more than a few paces to see …

Green-veined white butterflies on marjoram

Green-veined white butterflies on marjoram

Southern hawker dragonfly

Southern hawker dragonfly

Common Lizard playing 'peek-a-boo' on fencing around the pond

Common Lizard playing ‘peek-a-boo’ on fencing around the pond

and perhaps most unexpected this small furry mammal taking advantage of  the largess provided by some spikes of seeds ( sorrel I think) close by the pick-nick benches

mouse or vole

mouse?

After my embarrassing faux-pas over the bee/hoverfly last week ( thanks to those who put me right) I’m reluctant to put a name to this  —  I just know there are really knowledgeable folks out there who can tell us.

And a final flourish was this rather posey small tortoiseshell who insisted on sharing a pick-nick bench with me.

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell

As I say all this from, almost, a single position – can’t be bad…

Thistle Do(wn)

Hi(low)light of the day was an injured young greylag goose which some visitors saw being hit by a car on Ellingham Drove. Fortunately they  managed to catch it and bring in to the centre. We don’t have facilities or expertise to deal with injured wildlife, but there is a gentleman living close by who is able and prepared to give his time to rescuing wildlife and was willing to look after this bird.

At this time of year the initial frenzy of bird breeding activity has largely abated, many adults will no longer be holding breeding territories and are not so vocal. As they start to moult their plumage they will be less nimble and need to keep under cover, away from predators and birdwatchers.  A larger number of the waterfowl are now spending time simply loafing about on the lakes. For instance some 400 coot have been counted on Ibsley water.  I was asked to count them today, but unfortunately didn’t have a telescope with me.  Some birds, though, are easier to see as were the little egret and grey heron.

Little egret - note the yellow foot

Little egret – note the yellow foot

 

Grey heron

Grey heron

More a time for insect and wildflower interest at the moment. Trolling up to the seasonal path to check on the ponies we have grazing the reserve,  I noticed a profusion of pink, yellow and purple from hemp agrimony, fleabane and a mixture of spear thistles  and creeping thistles.

Hemp agrimony

Hemp agrimony

The flowers look sort of ‘washed out’ from the side view, but are magnificently intricate and olourful from above

Top view of hemp agrimony flower

Top view of hemp agrimony flower

Fleabane flowers are, perhaps,  one of the the richest yellow colours on the reserve,

Fleabane

Fleabane

especially where they occur in large clumps,

P1520842

whilst the delightful purple shades of  spear thistle are a welcome attractant to many insects.

hoverfly (Volucella inanis?) on spear thistle

hoverfly (Volucella inanis?) on spear thistle

even without accompanying insects the plants are a captivating structurally

spear thistle

spear thistle

although an awful lot of the creeping thistle have now set wonderfully fluffy seed heads

creeping thistle seed heads

creeping thistle seed heads

When I took this shot I was unaware of the small tortoiseshell – a sort of bonus really.

As I hinted above, there are plenty of insects around, but the heat is keeping most of them fairly active – so tricky to photograph, but I was quite pleased with this shot of a common blue damselfly.

common blue damselfly perched on a nettle leaf

common blue damselfly perched on a nettle leaf

The light trap is now in more regular use, following a period when a bird (robin I believe) was using it as a larder.  Pick of today’s ‘catch’ were this almost butterfly like moth, a  large emerald.

Large emerald

Large emerald

not to be outdone by an impressive garden tiger moth,

garden tiger moth

garden tiger moth

and an equally impressive tanner beetle.

tanner beetle

tanner beetle

 

 

Snakes Alive

There are now at least five grass snakes being seen on the logs outside the Ivy South Hide, although three of these reported yesterday were quite small.  Although not as warm as yesterday when opening up the hide, some were basking – how many I leave for you to decide….

Basking Grass Snake(s) ???

Basking Grass Snake(s) ???

A close up of the head of one snake shows a distinctly blue cast to the eye,

Old 'blue-eyes'

Old ‘blue-eyes’

 

probably indicative that it is getting ready to slough off its outer skin, which , I believe happens as they get larger. literally bursting out of their skin.

Early morning, before too many people are around the wildlife has the place largely to itself and it’s probably a bit of a shock when we turn in to open the place up. Yesterday morning, I startled a couple of roe deer that were lurking near the Woodland Hide

Roe Deer and young

Roe Deer and young

Though still suffering some predation, we can run the light trap without too many losses. providing its stuffed full of egg-boxes. Highlights from yesterday and today were this Coxcomb Prominent,

 

Coxcomb Prominent

Coxcomb Prominent

 

a rather butterfly-like Common Emerald,

Common Emerald

Common Emerald

a distinctively marked and appositely named Blood-vein, contrasting nicely with the black of the light trap,

Blood-vein

Blood-vein

and star turn, a Privet Hawkmoth, which when seen with wings closed is quite impressive,

Privet Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

but with its wings open and spread out reveals a body clad in a rugby shirt of black and pink stripes.

Privet Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

Reports of birds in and around the Reserve, include a flyover Hobby and a rapacious Sparrowhawk which caught a Sand Martin just outside the Goosander Hide.

Near the Centre a juvenile Great-spotted Woodpecker was being fed, from our feeder, by an adult male Great-spotted Woodpecker — presumably its Dad – quite appropriate for Fathers Day!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May bug and an ex-miner

Jim put the light trap out last night, it was its first use for quite a few weeks as we had been having problems with an avian predator. Unfortunately this still seems to be an issue and there were a few unattached wings in the trap, but also a reasonable selection of moths that had managed to avoid being eaten.

One of the first insects seen was this magnificent beetle,  May bug or cockchafer, which I believe can be a bit of an agricultural pest.

May bug or cockchafer

May bug or cockchafer

I have in the past seen up to twenty of theses beasts in the trap. They have been known, historically, to emerge in their thousands, so much so that they have even be considered as a dietary supplement – I quote from Wikipedia:-

“In some areas and times, cockchafers were even served as food.  A 19th century recipe from France for cockchafer soup reads: “roast one pound of cockchafers without wings and legs in sizzling butter, then cook them in a chicken soup, add some veal liver and serve with chives on a toast.” ….delicious!!!

Possibly slightly less nutritious, but more welcome, were some of the other inhabitants of the trap.

Poplar hawkmoth

Poplar Hawkmoth

 

 

Pebble Hook-tip

Pebble Hook-tip

 

Cinnabar

Cinnabar

The depletion of the trap, in terms of numbers of moths might well have been due to the attention of a robin which watched me closely whilst I was checking the moths. A bit later this same robin spent a few minutes flaked out on the decking by the pond, apparently sunbathing,  in an activity which is, I believe, called ‘anting’.

Robin 'anting'

Robin ‘anting’

I think the theory is that they are allowing ants to crawl through their feathers and remove parasites. As there weren’t any obvious ants in the vicinity perhaps the sunbathing has some other beneficial effect – does anyone out there  know???

Saddest encounter today was this dead mole not far from the Tern Hide and quite some way from obvious ‘mole territory’. This is the second dead mole I’ve seen on the reserve in the space of a fortnight and am wondering if this is just coincidence or is some disease affecting them?

Ex-mole

Ex-mole