Letting the Light in

For several weeks now there have been contractors working up at the Linwood reserve working to open up an areas of mire habitat that had become seriously shaded. This happens more or less imperceptibly, in this case it was easy to think the area had always been continuous woodland , but the flora told a different story. Many species present, although declining, were ones that do not tolerate being heavily shaded. In addition when the trees are looked at more closely it was obvious that many were no more than twenty or thirty years old. The Our Present, Our Future (OPOF) New Forest National Park project had a strand that was dedicated to helping to restore habitats such as this and it is this project that has enabled the heavy work to be done.

Linwood SSSI clearance works

Work to clear shading trees from Linwood mire habitats

The oak and beech trees have been left alone, the opening up has been achieved by felling birch and pollarding willow. Some trees have been ring-barked to leave them as valuable standing deadwood habitat. It will be interesting to see how species such as white sedge and bog myrtle respond to having access to more light in the years to come.

Last night was very mild and I was looking forward to seeing what the moth trap had caught. The trap was against the wall of the Centre and there were 45 “November” moth on the wall alone! November moths are hard to identify reliably as there are a few very similar species, so I lump them together when recording. Other moths included three merveille du jour.

Merveille du Jour

Merveille du Jour – I know I have used pictures of them many times, but they are one of my favourite moths!

There were also late large yellow underwing and shuttle-shaped dart as well as more seasonable black rustic, yellow-line Quaker, red-line Quaker, chestnut and dark chestnut.

dark chestnut 2

Dark chestnut, it is usually darker than the chestnut and has more pointed wing-tips.

In all there were 16 species and over 70 individual moths, other notable ones were a dark sword-grass and two grey shoulder-knot.

grey shoulder-knot

grey shoulder-knot

We have been doing a fair bit of work around the hides recently, mostly aimed at improving the views from them. Tomorrow it is the turn of Ivy North hide, so I expect there will not be much to be seen in the northern part of Ivy Lake during the day. With luck I will get some sight-lines cut through the reeds, so perhaps the bittern will get easier to see, if it is still around.

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Moths and a bit More

The thunder on Saturday night heralded a change to more normal spring weather, but the burst of summer has produced a marked change. In a matter of three or four day the beech trees have leafed up and there has been a dramatic greening of the scene.

The moth trap catches are increasing in numbers and species range. Yesterday’s catch includes several brindled beauty.

brindled beauty

brindled beauty (male)

There was also the first pale pinion of the season.

pale pinion

pale pinion

The early spring species are starting to decline in numbers with fewer Quakers and Hebrew character, although fresh frosted green continue to be caught.

frosted green

frosted green

The number of swift increased again to 25 or more during the day and there were still at least 3 brambling around the feeders. On Ibsley Water a single common sandpiper was the only sign of wader passage. Some of the black-headed gull are starting to settle down to nest and the common tern are pairing up, so the nesting season is showing signs of getting going properly after a slow start.

Out and About Today…

Very busy day (again!) today with a group shelter building and firelighting this afternoon and a pre-event meeting with HOS and RSPB coordinators in advance of the Bird Trail 2013 event being held at Blashford next Sunday (12th May) – although the reserve will remain open for the day, car parking will be restricted to the main Ibsley/Tern Hide car park for much of the day and  regular visitors may deem it prudent to avoid visiting between 9am-2pm when there could be up to 120 children and young people exploring the reserve and learning about its birds and other wildlife! You have been warned!

I did make the most of about an hour or so before the meeting to get around as much of the reserve as I could and was delighted by a pair of bullfinches by the gate into the main car park as I opened up, the male looking really striking amongst the bramble leaves on what was at that point a fairly dull start to the day. Equally vibrant was the flowering cherry near the entrance through up to the centre – non-native perhaps, but a visual treat on an otherwise grey morning and the picture also shows the hazel coppiced by the volunteers this winter getting away quite nicely too:

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I saw my first orangetip butterfly yesterday (and a few more when the sun did come out today) and couldn’t resist the brilliant white, pink tinged flowers of the Lady’s smock in the wet meadow which will no doubt provide food for some orangetip butterflies shortly:

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The resident mute swans are still in residence outside Ivy North Hide. Having turfed out the old cobb swan “Asbo” and his penn last summer hopefully they will do better. The new male is at least a lot more attentive to his mate and nest than Asbo was, who could  be guaranteed to be causing mayhem far away on the other side of the lake with no clue as to what was actually going on at the nest! The new pair is not nearly so aggressive and I think they may even be “permitting” a second pair to nest in Ivy Silt Pond, something that Asbo would never have allowed!

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In case any one was wondering, the “scenic” path to Lapwing Hide through the reedbed and willow scrub is still underwater at the top, though it has dropped away a lot, leaving a thick layer of gloopy silt that is great for looking for animal and bird tracks in. It is now definitely passable in wellies, but not sure I’d try it in walking boots yet!

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While photographing the flooded path I also couldn’t help noticing the mares tails below – mentioned, but not pictured in one of Steve’s recent blogs the emerging plants were looking quite beautiful with their dew/rain drop embellishments and therefore pictured here for your viewing pleasure:

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Heading back along the Dockens Water I stopped to admire the freshly emerged beech canopy – one of my favourite spring sights and also to pluck a couple of young leaves for a fresh spring time lemony/salad snack as a traditional taste of spring that has become a habit of mine over the years:

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Before continuing back to the centre I spotted a couple of strange “clean” patches of gravel in a shallow section of the river that receives a fair amount of dappled sunlight for much of the day:

 

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I’m not certain, but am I fairly confident that they were in all probability recently the site of a spawning tangle of brook lampreys mentioned in previous blogs, but I am more than happy to accept suggestions from our readers if they think differently!

Finally, may I please remind everyone that the track up to the centre, and both car parks on the Centre  side of the nature reserve, will be closed for most of next week from 7th – 10th May due to essential track maintenance. There will be no parking available at the centre so visitors should use the main car park adjacent to Tern Hide/Ibsley Water north of Ellingham Drove and walk in from there.

A small amount of parking for disabled visitors and visiting school parties/coaches ONLY will be reserved at the bottom of the track and along the approach to the Water Treatment Works.