Still quite a lot of bird song around, although the leaf cover makes seeing them a little tricky. most evident amongst the summer visitors are blackcap, garden warbler and whitethroat song.
The seeds from the ripe catkins are now very much in evidence, but in among the drifting white downy seeds there are quite large numbers of almost inconspicuous blue damselflies. From the ones I managed to identify there is a mixture of common blue and azure damselflies. At Blashford I’ve only been aware that we have these two species, although there might just be variable damselflies, which do occur on the New Forest. Blue damselflies are a group of insects that many find difficult to separate in the field and in truth they do look very similar. Just as with birdwatching it helps to know a little about their range and habitat preferences so you can eliminate those species which are unlikely to occur. To separate the blue and Azure it helps to be aware of subtle differences in the arrangement of the various coloured parts. Many field guides make mention of the shape of the black markings on the second segment of the abdomen (tail!) which is ‘club shaped’ on the blue and a ‘U’ shape on the Azure. Personally I find this quite difficult as they perch with their wings along the body length, which can obscure these markings. My favoured field marks are the thicker blue stripes on the thorax of the common blue and also the double clear blue segments near the tip of the tail. Azure damselflies have one and one half blue segments on the tail.
Common blue damselfly ( Enallagma cyanthigerum)
Note the thick blue stripes, club shape near top of abdomen and blue end to tail with a faint black line separating equal sized patches of blue.
Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Thinner blue stripes on thorax, ‘U’ shape mark and unequal sized blue bits on tail end.
All this, of course, applies to the male damselflies. the females are more confusing ( ’twas ever thus !!), being less conspicuous by having paler blue colouring and more black markings as in the case of this female common blue.
Female common blue damselfly
Also ‘on parade’ but proving more elusive to photograph, was a banded demoiselle damselfly, which perched approximately 10 feet up and partially obscured by leaves – this poor image gives some indication of its stunning metallic lustre.
Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)
I spent some time today cutting back nettles and brambles around the entrance gates to the reserve, serenaded by blackcap and whitethroat, but otherwise not seeing much wildlife other than a fine male orange-tip butterfly, which failed to stop long enough to have it’s picture taken. More obliging was this speckled wood near the Woodland Hide.
Sometimes when wildlife watching you can see the most amazing things – like this mallard walking down an oak tree……
A sort of duck-down!!!!!
Not really!! Saw this mallard on fallen oak and couldn’t resist the urge to turn the image sideways – sorry.
A relatively new addition to the reserve’s equipment is this small sailing boat to be used in some educational activities. Its been carefully tided up and all sharp edges removed before being set in the ground with some holes in the bottom and a soak-away underneath, so that it doesn’t fill with rain, all courtesy of some of our volunteers, many thanks to them – you know who you are!.
Activity boat set into the ground for children.
But nature being what it is, it won’t be too long before the boat will be colonised by all sorts of wildlife. In fact its already starting to happen as it appears there is a ‘piratical teddy’ on board.