Greens

The cool autumn nights see rather few moths flying, but those that are around include some of the most attractive of the year. A personal favourite, as I have posted beforen (several times!), is the Merveille du jour, with its black, white and green colour scheme, there was one particularly fine one in the Blashford trap this morning.

merveille du jour

A lot of autumn moths are yellow or brown, presumably as camouflage as the leaves change colour, but there are also several with shades of green. The merveille du jour would be well hidden on a lichen covered tree, whereas the green brindled crescent might do better in the vegetation.

green brindled crescent

Although the moth traps with their ultra-violet light attract most of the moths it is also worth checking the security lights and today the one at the Centre door had attracted a micro moth Tinea semifulvella, a species with caterpillars that eat organic debris in places like old bird nests.

Tinea semifulvella

The trap attracts various other insect as well, most conspicuously caddisflies. Unfortunately these are harder to identify and I have never spent much time trying to name them, although I do have an identification key, but it takes time to get started on a new group and I never seem to have any of that to spare.

Halesus sp. caddisfly

At least I am pretty confident about the genus of the one above, I have not even got that far with the one below.

caddisfly

Over the last few years the alder trees that used to line the Ivy Silt Pond have been dying or otherwise have needed to be felled, gradually opening up the view from the footpath. The aim now is to try to open up the view along as much of the path’s length as possible. This does make it easier to see the birds on the pond but, more importantly, it makes it easy for the birds to see us. Wildfowl on water feel quite safe, even if there is a predator about, so long as they know where it is and know they can escape if they need to. In this case we are the potential threat, but if we can be seen and are a safe distance away that is probably okay. By cutting the bramble to about waist height they can easily see we are behind the hedge but can easily follow where we are as we go down the path. In this way they are likely to habituate to the presence of people, but it does take time.

Opened up view of Ivy Silt Pond

I was delighted this morning to see 24 mallard. 2 gadwall, 2 teal and a wigeon on this pond, what is more all, apart from the teal, stayed feeding quietly as I walked by. Habituation would be my preferred option throughout the reserve if it were possible, it offers more opportunity to see the wildlife, but it does depend upon the separation between people an wildlife to be very predictable. It works well on coastal sites with deep ditches or mudflats separating viewer from the wildlife, such as is found at Farlington Marshes or Lymington/Keyhaven Marshes. Contrary to what you often read walking on the skyline is actually a good thing on these sites as the birds can always see where the people are and know that if we are on the top of the seawall we are not a threat. Perhaps unsurprisingly wildlife likes to feel safe and avoids unpredictable situations. One way to accommodate more wildlife into our lives is to understand this and plan accordingly, we could have a lot more space for wildlife without actually needing more physical space, all we need to do is think about how we design and use the space we share.

A Late Surge

It was a generally grey, humid day with very little to report. A yellow wagtail and a spotted flycatcher seen at the Tern hide in the morning seemed like the best the day had to offer. Despite the warm night even the moth trap was not exactly exciting, the best being a large haul of largely unidentifiable (at least to me) caddisflies and a female bulrush wainscot.

small caddis

unidentified small caddis

bulrush wainscot

bulrush wainscot (female)

As usual the Tern hide was locked up last and Tracey came over to take a look , just in case there was anything to see. At first the best was a single common sandpiper, after a while we realised there were two, then I spotted a wader flying about over the water, at first I could not work out what it was then, the give away, it landed on the water – a grey phalarope. I have missed a couple at Blashford before so I was pleased to see this one, I tried to get a very distant picture and the result is probably the worst bird picture ever to grace this site, and that is saying something! If you use  a lot of imagination you might be able to see what it is.

grey phalarope

grey phalarope (honest)

Apart from this the lake was very quiet, even most of the tufted duck seem to have gone now. As I watched the phalarope it swam passed a sleeping duck and it dawned on me that it was a drake common scoter! I did try a picture but this one was so bad that I won’t distress you with it. Good things can come in threes, but despite looking hard we could find nothing else , apart from a third common sandpiper.

It just goes to show that just because there does not seem to be anything much around it is always worth taking a good look.

A Better Class of Osprey

It was a mostly quiet and cloudy day at Blashford today, although busy with a training course and meetings. I eventually stopped for lunch at 2:45 and decided to go to the Tern hide, “just in case”. My reward was an especially discerning osprey, perched on the large branch that Ed and I put out for this species back in July. The last one we had on Ibsley Water had  foolishly ignored it, but this was clearly a better class of bird altogether!

Osprey on the perch provided

Osprey on the perch provided

It is getting quite late for them now and this juvenile will probably not hang around for long.

The moth trap has been quite for a while now, with only a few species each night, although caddisflies have been more in evidence. Many species are rather hard to identify, but these are two of the easier ones.

Glyphotaelius pellucidus, the mottled sedge

Glyphotaelius pellucidus, the mottled sedge

Halesus radiates, the caperer

Halesus radiatus, the caperer

When I went round to lock up the hides, somewhat later than usual, the cormorant roost on Ivy Lake was much in evidence, I counted 75 birds tonight and they were still arriving. This roost has grown from nothing in just a few seasons.

cormorant roost

cormorant roost

I was still too early for the main gull roost, but I did see in excess of 3500 black-headed gull, 7 yellow-legged gull and a variety of lesser black-backed gull. The lesser black-backs vary in the shade of their back and various other things, British birds being typically palest grey with dirty heads and black primaries with white mirrors at this time of year, they also tend to be quite compact compared to some. At the other end of this spectrum are birds with very dark, sometimes almost black “backs”, clean white heads, unmoulted, all black primaries and a long and slender look. They typically have a very high “stern” and a very pointed looking rear end.

lesser black-backed gull, of the darker, more slender type.

lesser black-backed gull, of the darker, more slender type.

At the extreme end they usually show small, round heads too, the bird in the picture is not the blackest, nor the slightest I have seen but it is quite different from the average British lesser black-back. They probably come from further north and east and the most extreme examples may well actually be the recently split Baltic gull, but that is another story and one for the true Laridophiles.