One Day, Two Reserves

I am not often at Blashford on a Saturday, but this weekend I was, I managed to intersperse catching up on paperwork with a walk round all the hides. Getting around the reserve is very pleasant but also highlights all the tasks that need planning into the coming winter season, I think an eight month winter would just about be enough!

Opening up the hides I saw a greenshank and three wheatear from the Tern hide, which suggested that there might well be migrants about and with luck “something” might turn up.

As usual the day proper started with a look through the moth trap. This contained no rarities but one unexpected moth, a very fresh dark form coronet, this is an attractive moth and one we see quite often, but it flies in June and July. If I was to get one at this time of year, I would have expected it t be an old, battered one on its last legs, not a pristine newly emerged one.

coronet late season


The cumulative results of my wanderings throughout the day indicated that there were indeed a reasonable scatter of migrants around the reserve. Chiffchaff were frequently to be seen, although willow warbler were many fewer than last week. In one mixed flock of birds near the Lapwing hide I saw a very smart juvenile lesser whitethroat, a rather rare bird at Blashford these days. On the south side of the main car park a spotted flycatcher was catching insects from the small trees and there were several blackcap eating blackberries.

In the early afternoon I was in Tern hide when I spotted an osprey in the distance flying towards us down the valley, it looked as if it was going to come low over Ibsley Water, but as it came over Mockbeggar North lake a large gull started to chase it and, rather than brush off this minor irritation, it gained height and headed off at speed to the south. It was a young bird and is going to have to learn to tough out such attention.

It was not a bad day for insects, I saw red admiral, painted lady, small white and speckled wood, despite almost no sunshine and there were good numbers of migrant hawker and brown hawker about. I also saw more hornet than I had noticed so far this summer and very widely about the reserve too.

Other birds of note were mostly signs of approaching autumn, a single snipe near the Lapwing hide was the first I have seen since the spring here and later wigeon, one on Ivy Lake and 4 on Ibsley Water were also the first returns that I have seen.

For a couple of years now I have been noticing increasingly large floating mats of vegetation in the Ivy Silt Pond and kept meaning to identify the plant species involved. I finally did so yesterday and one of them, the one with the rosettes of pointed leaves, is water soldier, a rare plant in Hampshire and mostly found on the Basingstoke canal!

water soldier

water soldier

It is probably most likely to be here as a result of escaping from a local garden pond, but might be wild, anyway it seems to be a notable record and as far as I know it has not been recorded here before.

In the evening I went out to another reserve in my area, Hythe Spartina Marsh, it was close to high water and I was interested to see if there was a wader roost. There was, not a large one but interesting, it included 74 ringed plover, 30 dunlin, 2 turnstone, 3 grey plover and a single juvenile curlew sandpiper. In addition 2 common sandpipers came flying north up  edge and on the way across the marsh I saw a clouded yellow butterfly nectaring on the flowers of the sea aster. I also saw that on e of the juvenile ringed plover had got colour rings on its legs, however it would only ever show one leg so all I could see was a white ring above a red ring on the left leg, not enough to identify where it had come from. Ringed plover can breed locally on our beaches or have spent the summer way off in the high Arctic of Canada, so it would have been good to see all the rings.


Clouded Yellow

From the Tern hide first thing it was no surprise to find that yesterday’s spoonbill had moved on. Possibly a good thing as the volunteers were working outside the hide this morning to further improve the view by hand-pulling the annual; plant growth that obscures the shoreline. During the we came across a “Woolly bear” caterpillar, once a very common sight these larvae of the tiger moth are now not so often seen. Then a rather large grass snake slithered away up the bank and lastly the reserve’s first clouded yellow of the year flew by. Later in the Centre car park I saw a second clouded yellow, so perhaps there is something of a migrant insect arrival underway with the change in the weather, if it includes moths we could be in for a good session on Sunday morning. Incidentally if you would like to come along to see what the trap has gathered overnight there are still places available.

Birds were rather few, a dunlin on Ibsley Water and 2 whitethroat in the bramble around the main car park were as good as it got for me today.

The Sun and the Stars

I got to spend a Saturday at Blashford today, standing in for Jim who is now off on paternity leave. It was a very pleasant day and at times the sunshine was warm enough to tempt out a range of insects. I saw good numbers of speckled wood, several red admiral, of which this rather battered individual was one.

red admiral

red admiral

I also heard of someone seeing a peacock and I saw a clouded yellow flying south over Ibsley water. There were also still lots of common darter and a fair few migrant hawker dragonflies on the wing.

I walked the paths around the Ivy Lake hides with the leaf blower in the morning and could not help but notice the number of fungi all over the place. The earth stars continue to come up, with another new one opening.

earth star

earth star

It was one of a line of them each at different stages.

a constelation of earth stars

a constellation of earth stars

Later on I walked the northern part of the reserve an don the way along the Dockens Water path I heard a firecrest calling, I then came across a group of four “crests” chasing around the hollies, I only ever managed to get a good look at one at any time and it was a firecrest each time, but I cannot say for sure if I was looking at the same bird each time or a different one, so I still don’t know if there was more than one!

Up at the Lapwing hide, I looked for and failed to find the black-necked grebe, but did see 2 ruddy duck and rather a lot of Egyptian goose. The geese were already checking out the osprey platform as a nest site again.

Egyptian geese on osprey

Egyptian geese on osprey

One of the problems that Egyptian geese pose for native specie sis that they will start breeding very early in the year, perhaps in January and so occupy sites long before native species, often these are large tree holes and by taking them over so early they can displace birds such as barn owl for these sought after nest locations.

During my wanderings I came across many more fungi, I cannot identify most of them and even the ones I put a name to may well be wrong, but here are some pictures anyway.

Bolete - spongecap

Bolete – spongecap

parasol mushroom

parasol mushroom

amethyst deceiver

amethyst deceiver

My most unexpected sighting of the day was of 2 sand martin over Ibsley Water, I think my latest ever sighting of this species. I also saw a goldeneye, at least 374 greylag geese, a few goosander and 5 snipe.

At dusk the gull roost was quite large but not spectacularly so, I estimated about 3000 lesser black-backed gull, 2000 black-headed gull and a single adult Mediterranean gull. Earlier the regular adult yellow-legged gull was on the raft on Ivy Lake, it is almost certainly the same one that has been there each winter fro several years and it has a metal ring on the left leg, unfortunately it is too far away to ever be read.