Birds, Beetles and Butterflies (and a bit more besides)

We are slipping into autumn, despite the weather remaining warm the signs are everywhere. Berries are ripening and birds are on the move. Over the last few days there have been between 500 and 1000 house martin over Ibsley Water, gathering before migrating south. On Ivy Lake numbers of winter wildfowl are starting to rise, at least 12 wigeon and 18 shoveler were there on Sunday and last week 3 pintail dropped in. In fact overall numbers of wildfowl are very high for the time of year, probably due to good weed growth.

Any visitor to Ibsley Water recently cannot have failed to miss the large numbers of cormorant and heron. They are feeding on the huge numbers of small common carp, a fantastic spectacle, but a sign of problems ahead. Such large numbers of small carp will grow into a very large population of medium sized fish which are likely to largely eliminate the weed and eventually most of the food for wildfowl.

Another very obvious feature at present is the lace-like leaves of the alders, they have been eaten away to skeletons.

alder leaves eaten

alder leaf eaten away by alder leaf beetle

The alder leaf beetles that are responsible are a striking metallic blue and were considered as an extinct species in the UK until just a few years ago, however their status has changed dramatically in the last few years and they are now not just present but super abundant. They seem to be everywhere at the moment and almost every alder leaf has been eaten away and they seem to have been eating hazel and even birch as well. Quiet why they have undergone such an extreme change in fortunes is something of a mystery.

alder leaf beetle

alder leaf beetle Agelastica alni

We are now heading into autumn and the moth trap is starting to catch species typical of the season, perhaps none more so than the aptly named autumnal rustic.

autumnal rustic

autumnal rustic

Another autumn favourite of mine is the intricately marked feathered gothic.

feathered gothic

feathered gothic (male)

The males use their feathered antennae to test the air for female pheromones, in effect using them to smell.

The main butterfly on the wing at present is speckled wood and they are very abundant this year, they are one of the few species that you can see throughout the season as they have a series of overlapping broods. Sometimes the first are on the wing before the end of March ans they can still be flying in November.

speckled wood

speckled wood

Autumn is also the fungi, actually they are to be found all year but many species are most abundant at this time of the year. When we were working today we came across a bright yellow patch on a log near the Woodland hide, but although many of the logs in that are are covered in fungi, this was not a fungus, but a slime mould called troll butter.

troll butter

troll butter slime mould

For those that like to venture up to the Lapwing hide in the winter or spring I have good news. The need to take the long way round or risk getting wet feet when the route through the reedbed floods will soon be a thing of the past, we are having a boardwalk constructed!

new boardwalk to Lapwing hide under construction

new boardwalk to Lapwing hide under construction

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A Black and Grey Day

That is black as in the tern, as there was another juvenile black tern today and even better, grey as in grey phalarope!

grey phalarope

Grey phalarope, juvenile

Yet another in a proud line of “record shots” of wildlife at Blashford, my excuse is that it was a long way off and I have to say to is much better than my efforts the last time we had a phalarope at Blashford. Of course it should not be here, it has been blown in by the north-westerly gales and Ibsley Water was just the nearest thing to the open sea that it could find.

Despite the phalarope and black tern and a supporting caste of 2 ruff, 2 dunlin a ringed plover and Walter the great white egret my personal show-stopping wildlife spectacle of the day was actually the house martins. Thousands and thousands of them, I think at least 8000, possibly even more than 10,000 at the start of the day. They swarmed over the water like gnats with a 1000 or so swallow a few hundred sand martin and still a single swift.

I had an autumn moth event this morning, I was a little concerned we might have no moths to look at after yesterday’s paltry two moths, luckily it was not quite that bad. The highlight were 2 feathered gothic, the first of the year, others included snout, pinion-streaked snout, frosted orange, canary shouldered thorn, square spot rusticautumnal rustic and a few micro-moths.

feathered gothic

Feathered gothic, male

Signs of Autumn

Bird News: Ibsley Watercommon sandpaper 1. Ivy Lakegreat white egret 1.

A few days since I have been able to post so a bit of a catch-up now. Yesterday I moved the lake camera to a new location which I thought might be better for birds this winter. I arrived this morning and turned on the tv in the lobby at the Education Centre and there just to the right of the centre of the picture was the great white egret, the first time I had “seen it” this autumn. I did see it in the flesh later, as it flew off towards Rockford Lake when I went to open the Ivy South hide. Opening the Tern hide there was a very smart juvenile common sandpiper on the shore near the hide, the picture does not do it justice.

common sandpiper

The moth trap was not busy but included a fine autumnal rustic.

autumnal rustic

There were also several very smart feathered gothic.

feathered gothic

And a single hedge rustic.

hedge rustic

It was my last Thursday Volunteer task today before I move off to pastures newish and old. Todays weather was a splendid as that for the Sunday volunteers the other day was dire. We were doing various tasks associated with this weekend’s events at Blashford, for which there are still places for anyone looking for something exciting to do with the family on Sunday. There will be pond dipping and a trail with loads of things to find, numbers are limited for come activities so booking is essential if you want to do some things (call 01425 472760).

The recent days have been very good for dragonflies and I have a few pictures. There have been lots of posing migrant hawkers.

migrant hawker

And common darter really do seem to be fairly common this year, although not as much so as they used to be a few years ago.

common darter

I hope to blog once or twice more before I sign off for good. In the meantime thanks to everyone who has made working at Blashford so enjoyable over the last six and a half years and to everyone who reads the blog and who have sent me comments, picture and information, please continue to do so as I’m sure Jim, Michelle and Steve will continue to post until my replacement arrives.