A Trip To Kitt’s

At last the weather has turned to spring and, although I should perhaps have been working in my garden, I took the opportunity to go up to Kitt’s Grave. I have never really had a look round there at this time of year, like most people I go up to Martin Down in the summer to see the butterflies. The opening up of the habitat on Kitt’s grave has continued this winter and it is beginning to look more like grassland with scrub rather than scrubland with trees.Kitt's Grave showing clearance work

The area above should develop into grassland over the next couple of seasons and if we are able to graze it as well it should stay that way, providing a lot more habitat for the plants and insects the site is so famous for. There will still be large blocks of dense scrub, valuable as shelter and for nesting turtle dove and other birds.

We did not see a lot of wildlife, several bullfinch were nice and the sun had brought out a few common lizard.

common lizard

We also found a blood-nosed beetle, I confess that until I looked it up when I got home I had not appreciated that these can be found as adults at any time of the year.bloody-nosed beetle

They the largest species of a group known as “Leaf-beetles” and eat bedstraws growing in open habitats, so it is easy to see why downland is a favourite area to find them in. They have particularly wonderful feet and a very deliberate way of walking. The elytra are fused along the midline so unlike most beetles they cannot fly. The elytra are the two halves of the “back” and are actually modified fore-wings, the wings other beetles use to fly with are the other of their two pairs.

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Busy, Busy Blashford

This has been a busy week at Blashford, with volunteer work parties on Tuesday and Thursday, a meeting with our partners on Wednesday and several education groups and this evening a star-gazing event. Along the way we also, finally, got our new entrance signs for the main entrances.

On Tuesday we burnt up the vegetation on  Gull Island in Ibsley Water. Clearing it each year prevents it getting covered with scrub and so unsuitable for the gulls, ducks and waders that nest there each summer. We are hoping to make one end as clear as possible to see if we can encourage terns to nest there once again, I suspect we may need to add some shingle, but luckily we have some of that.

Clearing Gull Island

Clearing Gull Island

Terns are in real trouble on the coast, where most nest, very few manage to rear any chicks most years and so colonies are declining. They have to cope with high tides washing out the nests, disturbance by people, lack of food and predation. Although many fewer nest inland they generally breed much more successfully, so encouraging more to do so might be vital to their future. At Blashford we have between 20 and 25 pairs of common tern and they usually rear at least 50 young, so it seems well worth trying to encourage more.

On Thursday we were clearing the bramble and willow from the western shore of Ibsley Water, in this case to provide more grassland area for wildfowl to graze and, if we are lucky, lapwing to nest. There were a good group of volunteers and it is amazing what can be achieved in just under two hours!

Before

Before

……….and then after, as you can see even the weather improved!

After

After

It has also not been a bad week for wildlife, the great white egret has been seen several times, mostly on Rockford Lake. The count of goldeneye has gone up to five, with two adult drakes. Roosting bird numbers are picking up, with at least 25 goosander, perhaps 8000 starling and thousands and thousands of gulls, probably in excess of 10,000. Other birds have included sightings of red kite and goshawk and at the Woodland hide brambling and lesser redpoll. There have even been a few moths, including feathered thorn and a sprawler.