30 Days Wild – Day 2

Back working at Blashford Lakes today, this morning with the first Sunday of the month volunteers. Only a small turnout today but we spent the time working around the new dipping pond, covering up the exposed liner and generally trying to make it look more like a “real” pond. As we were working I noticed some of the plants that had grown up on the exposed soil thrown up when the pond was dug and amongst the plants were several of common fumitory.


common fumitory

This is a species that was once an abundant “weed” of cultivation, typical of the margins of arable fields. Some thirty years ago it was noticed that the distribution of turtle dove and fumitory were very similar in Devon, this gave rise to the idea that perhaps the doves needed the plant. However it turned out that it was more that they both needed the same habitat, it was a correlation, both depended upon there being a bit of space left for them between the intensive arable.

The hemlock water-dropwort growing beside the old pond is now in full flower and is usually a really good nectar source for lots of insects, so far this year I have not seen nearly as many as I would expect. However today there were at least a few hoverflies to be seen on the flowers.

Eristalis horticola 4x3Eristalis horticola

Myathropa florea

Myathropa florea

The warm night resulted in much the best moth catch of the year so far, with 34 species including a privet hawk-moth, poplar hawk-moth, pale tussock, Brussels Lace and this alder moth.

alder moth

alder moth

Almost immaculate, apart form a slightly rubbed thorax.

As I went to lock up the Tern hide looking out over Ibsley Water I saw a tern in the distance that did not “look right” and no wonder, it was a little tern, in fact there were two of them. Typically very much coastal terns in the UK, so it is always a treat to see them inland, or increasingly anywhere these days, as they are one of our most threatened seabirds.


Ringing the Changes

ox-eye daisy

ox-eye daisies

Perhaps the last of the warm days for a while so I thought I would start with a summery shot of the ox-eye daisies which are just starting to flower now. The good weather has been very useful to us as we have been resurfacing paths and doing much other refurbishment at Blashford over the last few days,. With this in mind I will mention that the car parking on the southern (Education Centre) side of Ellingham Drove will be closed tomorrow whilst the entrance track is being resurfaced. Hopefully we should be more or less back to normal on Friday, so everyone who has been putting up with the bumpy track should notice a significant change.

I had a moth trap opening public event this morning, there were not a lot of moths, but a better catch than we have had for a while. There was common swift, poplar hawk, alder moth, treble lines, light brocade, may highflyer, green carpet, brindled beauty, pale tussock,

pale tussock

pale tussock

silver Y, clouded border, white ermine, buff-tip, common carpet, common marbled carpet, spectacle, pale prominent, sharp-angled peacock, fox moth, flame shoulder and Apotomis betuletana (a micro moth that looks like a bird dropping).



Yesterday I found a dead bird on the path as I went to open up the Ivy North hide, it was not freshly dead, so I am not quite sure why it had appeared there now.


a very dead bird!

As you may have spotted, it is interesting as it has a metal ring on the leg. Although there is not much to go on I think it is a chiffchaff, the ring is one from the British ringing scheme run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), it could be one ringed at Blashford or maybe it is from elsewhere, I will find out soon.


The ring on what might be a chiffchaff

The ringing of birds tells us a lot about where they go to and how they get there, how long they live and much more. With this in mind I have a challenge for all the photographers out there that visit Blashford Lakes. At present there is a pair of oystercatcher with two chicks near Tern hide, one of the adults has a ring, but I cannot read it properly, I have three of the numbers but need more to find out where it came from, if you get a picture that shows any of the numbers or letters please let me know, we may just be able to piece the number together. I have also noticed that two of the common tern have rings, if they ever land on the posts near the hide we may be able to get the numbers off these too. What I know for sure is that neither was ringed at Blashford as we have never caught one at the reserve.

Birthday Set-up Finds

We spent yesterday preparing for today’s Big Birthday Bash to celebrate 20 years of outdoor education at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve. As Jim detailed in his last post everyone is welcome to come along and help us mark this milestone by having a go at an activity like pond dipping, river dipping or sweep netting, or just meeting the staff and some of our wonderful volunteers.

As often happens when we are working out on site interesting things were found and yesterday’s top find was probably a magnificent caterpillar.

alder moth caterpillar

alder moth caterpillar

They are very brightly coloured and it will come as no surprise that they are distasteful and avoided by predators. They also have long paddle ended setae, a type of modified “hairs”, which make them look quite strange.

alder moth caterpillar detail

paddle shaped seta detail on alder moth caterpillar

I had never seen one of these caterpillars before and although the moth is not uncommon the caterpillar is not often found, but I described it as only “probably” our top find of the day with reason.

At lunchtime a visitor came in with a “hornet” they had found in their camper van. It was actually not a hornet, but a horsefly, in fact one of the largest species there is.

large Tabanus

female Tabanus species

The common large horsefly is Tabanus sudeticus, however there is another, very, very rare species that looks similar and is recorded from the New Forest. Although it is difficult to be sure of the identification this one has a lots of the features of the rare Tabanus bovinus. It is quite pale, has large triangle marks and a generally brownish hue.

large Tabanus 2

large Tabanus species

It is also possible to see that the underside is mainly pale and the eyes distinctly green. Unfortunately as it flew into a camper van somewhere in the New Forest it would not constitute a Blashford record, but given how extremely rare the species is it would still be of great interest if it could be verified.

I hope to see you at Blashford later today!