1000 and Still Going!

As the others have headed off for Christmas I get to blog today and this is the 1000th post on this version of the Blashford Blog! We started this WordPress blog in November 2011, since when the 999 posts have had 397,501 views. We have covered lots of wildlife, loads of events and the continuing Herculean work of the great Blashford Volunteers, education and craft activities, birthday parties and the pop up café, there has been a lot going on and there continues to be.

Over this time we have seen a good few changes of personnel, although Jim has remained constant throughout and I have only made brief forays elsewhere. The reserve has passed its 20th year and the partnership which has made the whole reserve possible continues. Regular readers will know that the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manages the reserve on land (and water) belonging to Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water and that our work is also supported by New Forest District Council. Together we are able to provide a popular nature reserve and a busy education program and hopefully we will continue to do so for many years more.

More change is on the horizon, soon I hope to be able to report the opening of the new path between the main car park and Goosander hide, this will provide a circular route round the whole reserve for the first time. This will also add a fair patch of extra dry land to the reserve and in time might develop into interesting habitat for insects as well as providing nesting area for lapwing and little ringed plover.

If you ventured out today you will know that the morning was one for staying inside. The afternoon was better though and I ventured over to Tern hide in the late afternoon where the gull roost was large and mobile, I could not see the ring-billed gull but it was probably there somewhere. I did see at least 8 yellow-legged gull and 40 pochard. Yesterday I did an “In to roost” event and we saw about 2000 or so starling come in, tonight either I missed them or they went elsewhere.

One bird that comes to roost each evening is goosander and I recently tried putting out a trailcam to see if I could catch them displaying, it turns out I could not, but I did get a few on camera.

goosanders

goosander gathering at dusk

I also got one shot of a female looking under the water, something they often do to see if there are any tasty looking fish in range.

goosander-looking-underwater

Just taking a look

Mostly though I just got pictures of rippling water or coot.

coot

a typical trailcam coot shot

My best picture today was of one of the many fungi that are again coming up all over the place. I think it is stag’s horn or candle snuff, but it did seem to be growing on leaves rather than wood. This close up shot shows how drops of water can act like lenses.

wet-fungus

Candle-snuff fungus with rain drops.

At dusk I counted at least 121 roosting cormorant on Ivy Lake along with one great white egret, I think it was “Walter” but I could not see any rings in the gloom.

I also have a little late news from yesterday, when there was an otter swimming in Ivy lake as we opened up the Ivy South hide, it was not close but we got to watch it for several minutes as it swam along and dived near the southern shore. We called Jim, who rushed down, arriving just after it had gone up the bank, so his ambition to one day have a good view of an otter at Blashford remains intact.

Lastly there was a break-in to a car in the main car park yesterday afternoon. It would appear that the culprit was watching as valuables were stowed into the boot of the car, so knew exactly which car to attack and where to look. It is always wise not to leave anything of value on show, but this also reminds us to remember that you might be being watched too. I would also ask that if you spot anyone looking suspicious in or around the car parks or elsewhere on the reserve do please let us know, along with as much information as you can easily and safely add. Luckily this is a very rare event at the reserve, but I am very keen that we keep it that way!

Last of all, I would like to thank all of you blog post readers, followers, especially those who comment (it is always good to know what you think) and the senders of the many superb pictures.

 

Advertisements

A Dull Day Brightened Up

It was strangely warm today, at first misty and then just very, very dull. The damp grey conditions were livened up by quite a good showing of fungi around the reserve. The logs beside the track between the Centre and Woodland Hide are particularly good, many have clusters of turkey-tail fungus.turkey tails

The moss covered, more rotted ones sometimes have candle snuff.candle snuff

There are also increasing numbers of scarlet elf-cups, a species that is always around in greatest numbers in late January.scarlet elf cup

I also found a few more conventional “toadstools”, one group on an old alder stump.fungi on alder stump

Also these tiny pale ones on a moss covered willow trunk.small fungi

The fallen branches often have various fungi on and one had a brightly coloured fungus  encrusted all along it.sheet fungus

Some fungi live in association with algae to produce lichens, spore production brings out their fungal side.lichen

With all this emphasis on fungi you might think it was autumn, but there was a distinct feel of spring with the first few of the wild daffodil near the Woodland hide already in flower.wild dafodil

You may have noticed that these pictures were taken using a flash, this was because it was so dull today that I could not get a picture of any of these without it!

Out on the reserve the bittern was at Ivy North on and off all day and out on Ibsley Water the usual black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe had hundreds of duck for company. I counted exactly 200 pintail, my highest count so far this winter.

In the late after noon the gull roost was joined by the first winter Caspian gull which stood out on the shingle spit to the right of the Tern hide for all to see, including me, which was pleasing as I had previously failed to catch up with it.

 

 

 

 

Season of Mist and a Feeder Frenzy

The harsh sting of autumn, with forebodings of  winter, struck home this morning as I  scraped the frost from the car windscreen before setting off to get here. Such conditions can, however, have their compensations, imbuing  even some of the most familiar views with a  magical mystique as here, where the mist seems to be boiling off the lake.

Misty view over Ivy Lake

It also makes plain some of the activity of often overlooked wildlife with the drapery of icy droplets on  this spider’s web.

Spider’s web outside Ivy South Hide.

It’s also the season for fungi in abundance and we are not under-endowed here at Blashford,  just don’t ask me to name them all,. Here are a few that I’m prepared to stick my neck out on their names,  seen as we opened up the hides this morning.

Candle Snuff fungus

Lycoperdon species – I think

Fly Agaric

This last one is so distinctive as to be unmistakable, a much-loved fungus by the illustrators of children’s books.   These particular fungi do, however, have other connotations. Their common name refers to  use as an insecticide  to poison flies.   They grow in close association with birches and are, therefore, very common in the dense birch forests of northern Scandinavia.   The toxin, which is  presumably the agent that kills flies, is,  in small amounts, a psychoactive agent causing hallucinations (so I’m told!).  One version of  folklore (other versions are available) suggests that in the long dark and boring nights above the Arctic circle the fly agaric would be introduced into the food for the domesticated reindeer (they normally eat lichen and fungi anyway).  Drinking the fluid that the reindeer excreted would deliver a ‘safe’, diluted  dose of the toxin and give the drinker a ‘high’ including feelings of being able to fly.  So if we mix all these factors together, something ( someone!)  red and white , reindeer and flying, in a land near the North Pole gives us —-well I’ll let you think it through, answers by Christmas.

The colder weather has increased the amount of bird activity around the feeders, especially the one close to the Centre. I mentioned, in Thursday’s posting, that we were in the process of adding some more feeders.   At the time we lacked the necessary low tensile wire on which to hang the feeders, but that has now been supplied, thanks to one of our volunteers, Rex, who, with Pete, put up the posts on Thursday. The result looks a lot like this :-

New feeding station by edge of Centre car park

Only two feeders at present, we’ll probably add more as the season progresses and the number of birds increases. Gratifyingly within a couple of hours there were several birds making use of the new facility, including a robin and this great tit.

Great tit investigating the new feeder

Even more satisfyingly, for the present at least, an inquisitive grey squirrel made an exploratory foray to try to get at the seeds, but failed.

In anticipation of a busy winter we used the opportunity of the warm sunshine to set-to and clean about a dozen feeders that had been put away over the summer, but which needed cleaning before being used again.  At the moment the usual collection of tits including a couple of very smart coal tits, together with nuthatch, greenfinch and a selection of siskin, goldfinch and the occasional redpoll with, I’m assured by at least two visitors, a brambling have been our guests at the  feeders.

Although cold overnight, this hasn’t deterred a few insects from strutting their stuff.  A slightly disappointing collection of only four moths in the light trap,  but two of these were rather smart Angle Shades

Angle Shades – one of only four moths in the light trap

Of the other insects, a pair of Southern Hawker dragonflies were seen by some visitors, but for me this  Common Darter seems epitomise the innate optimism of an evolutionary process that pushes to the boundary the idea of a sensible time to shift from a growing phase  to a  reproductive stage in what is the fag-end of the warm season.

Common Darter – resting up whilst its wings harden

Our attention was drawn to this insect  by the brightly glistening wings, which I’ve always taken as a sign that it’s not long emerged. There is also a definite red colour to the veins in the wings, but I don’t think it’s a Red-veined Darter –or is it??

Closing down tonight was a delight. The last duty is to close the Tern Hide and we spent about 20 minutes enjoying good views of the, mostly, Black-backed gulls coming to roost, a number of waterfowl  including good numbers of coot, tufted duck, shoveler, a few wigeon and teal and a single female goosander,  shades of things to come.  A buzzard, sitting on the recently cleared peninsular to the right of the hide, mysteriously disappeared when we took our eyes off it for a few seconds, but a couple of Egyptian geese hauled themselves out in much the same area that the buzzard had been. Could they have frightened him off????