And Wildlife Too

Although the week on the reserve was undeniably hectic with contractors working away all over the place, it was still a week of wonderful wildlife.

The early surge of migrants dropped off when the wind and weather changed, but as we get into mid-March migrants are arriving anyway. Chiffchaff are now singing at various locations, sand martin are being seen occasionally and a little ringed plover has been a fixture on Ibsley Water, although hard to find hunkered down out of the wind.

Perhaps the most surprising bird on the reserve has been the bittern, which seems not to want to leave and has been giving good views day after day from Ivy North hide.

bittern square

The bittern remains lurking and often not, near Ivy North Hide

The adult ring-billed gull seems again to have become a regular fixture in the gull roost on Ibsley Water each evening, after having gone off somewhere or the mid-winter period.

The early butterflies have retreated due to lack of sunshine, but the occasional adder is still being seen and mild nights have resulted in good moth catches. Common Quaker are most abundant, but Hebrew character, small Quaker, twin-spotted Quaker, clouded drab and oak beauty have all been regular. Although not warm enough for butterflies, bees are made of sterner stuff. Buff-tailed bumble-bee queens are buzzing around and investigating potential nest sites between bouts of feeding, sallow catkins being one of their favourites.

Bombus terrestris and sallow catkins

buff-tailed bumble-bee visiting sallow flowers

There are also some solitary bees flying, so far only males that I have seen, they tend to emerge earlier than the females. Yellow-legged mining bee being the most common, but I found a blacker bee this week, I suspect it of being the rare grey-backed mining bee. The female is very distinctive but the males look similar to the much commoner ashy mining bee.

Andrena bee male

a male mining bee, I suspect grey-backed mining bee

The wonderful thing about spring is that you can see the things moving on day by day, even when the weather is poor, the imperative to get on with life pulls wildlife along, or perhaps pushes it. The costs of being late are probably to miss out on breeding, so this encourages getting earlier to steal a march on rivals, but get it wrong and starting too early and all can be lost.

Climate change is an added complication at this time of year when timing is so important and the costs of getting things wrong so high. Many species respond to temperature, but others to day length, or other factors or combinations of them. Many species will be dependent upon on another, bees need flowers for food but the plants need bees to pollinate them, sometimes the relationships are complex and the interdependence critical to survival. If the relationship is broken completely extinction is likely for one or both partners, but even stretching it will result in declines.

There is no doubt that our management or mismanagement of land, use of chemicals and casual approach to waste have all taken a serious  toll, the much publicised insect decline being just one result. We are now recognising some of this and some things have been turned around, ozone in the atmosphere being a good example of effective action.

However the really big threat is climate change and it will not be so easy to reverse, in fact halting it looks way beyond us at present. So it was really refreshing to see so many young people getting involved in a call for real action, showing that there is perhaps a generation who are seeing the big picture. The lack of engagement by the young in politics is often decried but maybe they are seeing what others are missing, the real issue is way beyond politics and certainly our current politicians. The environment not as special interest, but a matter of life and death.



A Eye on Ivy

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoosander 55+, goldeneye 16+. Ivy Lakebittern 1, Cetti’s warbler 1, chiffchaff 1, ferruginous duck 1. Harbridgewhooper swan 1, Bewick’s swan 3.

Although I was at the Tern hide quiet early this morning the Bewick’s swans had already left. The goosander were still scattered all over the lake though, the drakes dashing about trying to look impressive, whilst the ducks generally ignored them, or at least pretended to. Once again, as I opened the Ivy North hide I spotted a bittern, this time in the sparse reeds just to the east of the hide. Down at Ivy South I did not expect the ferruginous duck to be there as there were rather few pochard, but I was wrong as it was asleep, what else, straight out from the hide.

Following yesterday’s report fo the whooper swan from Harbridge I could not resist popping up the road to take a quick look, luckily, not only was it still there it was also the nearest swan to the roadside.

whooper swan

A good part of the morning was spent installing a new camera overlooking a hidden part of Ivy Lake, although my input was strictly non-technical, I just trimmed and tweaked the view and installed a perch for any passing kingfisher. I was a bit concerned that as this involved wading out into the lake it might scare off the ducks including the ferruginous and so cause some consternation amongst the assembles watchers. Luckily we approached gently and so the ducks just moved off to the south, but remained on the lake.

As we worked a Cetti’s warbler was singing in the reeds and a chiffchaff calling int he willows above our heads, my first of the year. Also a first for 2012 was the snipe we flushed as we walked out to the lake shore. The new view should be up on the website tomorrow.

It remains very spring-like, today there were two male smooth newts visible on Pondcam, at the Centre a huge buff-tailed bumble-bee queen was buzzing about and I saw my first snowdrops of the season. The mild night allowed moths to fly and the trap contained four species including common quaker and pale-brindled beauty.

common Quaker

In the afternoon I had a “walk” that went nowhere, it was a public event to look at the birds arriving and departing Ibsley Water as the sun went down. We watched from the Tern hide from 15:30 and saw the streams of gulls arriving from the north to spend the night on the lake. At the same time the cormorants that collect on the islands during the afternoon flew off to roost in trees both north and south in the valley. A small swirl of starling circled the north shore, initially fifty or so, but steadily groups arrived from all directions and the flock grew into a reasonable sized gyrating murmeration. All the while goosander were zipping in, banking hard as they dropped in behind the long shingle bank. The jackdaw and rook roost to the west did not really show before we finished and the greylag geese also had not arrived, although they can be rather unreliable. The Bewick’s swans do roost on the lake but often fly in too late to be seen, so I was not so surprised we missed them tonight.