So Close and Yet so Far

A rather better day today, sunshine in place of steady rain. My first sight upon looking across Ibsley Water was of a merlin sitting on the osprey perch out in the lake, not a bird I see at Blashford very often. I was also at the reserve to lock up yesterday when the bird of prey of the day was a marsh harrier feeding on something on the western shore of Ibsley Water. Also on Ibsley Water today were a black-tailed godwit, a curlew and 4 pintail. yesterday evening at dusk I counted 45 pochard and 22 goosander, so the waterfowl roosts are slowly increasing in numbers. In the same vein, tonight there were a few thousand starling gathering to the north of the reserve and the first indication of a greenfinch roost near the main car park, with perhaps thirty birds gathering.

With the day set fair I took the chance to clear some of the paths of leaves and do so cutting back. Despite the recent frosts there are still quite a few fungi about.


candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Candlesnuff is one fungus that can be seen all year round, but I rather liked this group with water droplets on them, they were beside the path between Ivy North and the Woodland hide.

Along the Dockens Water path I saw a firecrest in the holly and for a change it was not hidden in the shadows but out in the sun, looking very jewel-like. This path is looking really good at the moment with the trees in full colour.


Dockens Water path

Clearing leaves from the path towards Rockford Lake I found a raptor plucking post with the remains of a jay, it could have been taken by a female sparrowhawk although, these days, a goshawk might be just as likely.


remains of a jay at a plucking post

I had seen “Walter” the great white egret at Ivy North hide when I opened up and heard water rail and Cetti’s warbler there too, but the bird of the day from there was the ferruginous duck, which spent the afternoon in front of the hide. Unfortunately I missed it as by the time I heard about it it was more or less dark. This is no doubt the drake that has been returning to Blashford for some years, although it usually frequents one of the private lakes to the south of the reserve.

In the late afternoon I was at the Goosander hide hoping to see some colour-ringed gulls on the perching rails there. There were gulls, but none with rings.


Lesser black-backed gull, yellow -legged gull, herring gull and black-headed gulls.

Yellow-legged gull are slightly large and darker than herring gull and typically have whiter heads in winter, lacking the grey streaking of herring gull. The picture above shows a fairly dark lesser black-backed gull, with the yellow-legged gull in the centre and a typical herring gull on the right.


yellow-legged gull, adult.

As I went to lock up the Moon was just rising, close to the horizon it always look large and this evening it looked especially so. It has good reason though as apparently it is closer to us at present than it has been for 68 years, so I really never have seen the Moon look so big.


A big Moon


Ivy Lake as I locked up after sunset.




little grebe

little grebe – fewer than usual are on Ibsley Water this year

Today we did the monthly waterfowl count of all the lakes in the Blashford complex, this allows us to know how many birds there are across all the lakes as a whole and what proportion are using each individual lake. Perhaps surprisingly the lakes that hold the greatest numbers of birds are not the same each year. The number of birds are determined by the amount of food, in the main weed and this varies widely from year to year and between one lake and another. Unfortunately this winter looks as though it is not going to be one of high numbers as weed growth seems to be relatively poor over many of the lakes. I will leave Ed to post something on the totals we counted tomorrow and who knows perhaps numbers will build later in the winter.


lapwings – a flock of over a hundred were by Ibsley Water today

Yesterday’s slime mould had mostly turned to slime today, but the splitgill fungus is still growing slowly. Nearby I found this small group of candlesnuff fungus.

candlesnuff fungus

candlesnuff fungus

It was quite warm so we ate lunch outside where we were joined by a tiny fellow diner, a small true bug which was actually eating some of the bread crumbs from Ed’s sandwich.

bread-eating bug

bread-eating bug

Apart from thinking it is some sort of plant bug I have got no further with identifying it as yet.

During the course of the day quite a range of birds were recorded on the reserve. Both the bittern and great white egret were seen on Ivy Lake. At the Woodland hide and brambling and lesser redpoll were at the feeders. I came across three chiffchaff at various places around the lakes, perhaps they will be around for the winter now. Usually I see very few in November, the autumn passage birds mostly leave in late October and the wintering birds don’t usually arrive until the start of December. At dusk the gull roost once again played host to the adult ring-billed gull.