Autumn’s nibbled tresses

The weather certainly feels as though it is heading for autumn, although the recent (and current!) rainfall has certainly improved the look of our original dipping pond which with a tear in the liner had definitely suffered during the rather long hot dry spell.


Our dipping pond, looking much happier and healthier than it did a few weeks ago

Thankfully we have had the second pond to use for our dipping sessions and yesterday saw another four very happy family groups delving into its depths to see what they could catch.

The highlight for me this time were the few alderfly larvae we caught in the morning:

alderfly larvae

Alderfly larvae

Whilst out by the pond we also had great views of a number of dragonflies, with a common darter perching close by on the boardwalk, a pair of common darters mating in the wheel position and resting on nearby vegetation, and in the afternoon a female southern hawker getting very close to us and egg lay into the grooves in the wooden boardwalk.

common darter

Common darter

Mating common darters

Pair of Common darters mating

Female southern hawker

Female Southern hawker

Female southern hawker 2

Female Southern hawker

I have seen dragonflies egg laying straight into the water and pond vegetation many times before but hadn’t realised some species prefer to lay their eggs into wood on the pond margin and will happily use a newish boardwalk rather than an older rotting stick.

Whilst dipping a Common carder bee flew onto one of the children, who was not worried at all, but in brushing it off her leg it fell into the pond where she was so close to it. It was quickly rescued and relocated onto some of the flowering water mint to recover:


August is the time of year to look for the last of our flowering orchids, Autumn Lady’s-tresses, which can be found on grassland and heathland. Here it grows in places on the lichen heath, if it is given the chance!

It is a very delicate looking orchid with white individual flowers that spiral round the short stem. I have been on the lookout for them since the start of the month, when they first started popping up on social media, but had no success. Although they can be very hard to spot I put their absence in part down to the very dry spell we had over the spring and summer. Jim though did manage to spy a small group of them on the lichen heath and Bob, in checking for them again came to the conclusion the increasing numbers of rabbits on the reserve have in fact merrily munched their way through the ones that have flowered.

Not expecting much, I decided to have one last try this morning before the rain arrived and was rewarded with one flower, admittedly slightly past its best, in amongst a clump of I think St John’s Wort (I say I think as that was also going over) which clearly kept it safe from the rabbits. Nearby I also spied a second stem, with the flower bitten clean off:

Autumn lady's-tresses

Autumn Lady’s-tresses

nibbled autumn lady's-tresses

Autumn Lady’s-tresses nibbled stem

If anyone would like to try and find some, I think Wilverly Plain in the forest will be a better place to look!

It is probably time for me to relocate everything from the Welcome Hut (a much nicer spot to work from even in the pouring rain!) back to the centre, so I will finish with a few photos taken a week or so go that I didn’t quite get round to sharing: a bee-wolf and another heather colletes bee enjoying the heather in bloom in the meadow and a solitary bee on the Inula hookeri outside the front of the Centre.

30 Days Wild is here!

It’s the first of June which can only mean one thing, 30 Days Wild is here… if you didn’t see my last blog, it is a fun, feel-good challenge run annually by The Wildlife Trusts which aims to bring people closer to nature and take small actions on a daily basis that can collectively have a big impact, for their health, wellbeing and for the planet.

You can still sign up to the nature challenge throughout June by visiting the website here.

So, for day one of the challenge (I can’t promise I will blog every day, but between myself and Bob we may manage one most days…) I spent some time appreciating the insect life that is currently enjoying the raised beds outside the front of the centre.

The purple salvia seems to be the biggest draw and it has been covered in lots of green-eyed flower bees for most of the day, a new bee for me! They are quite small and very smart, with lovely green eyes and a noisy, high pitched hovering flight similar to other flower bees.

green-eyed flower bee

Green-eyed flower bee Anthophora bimaculata

I had decided whilst furloughed to try and improve my bee knowledge, spotting hairy-footed flower bees and early bumblebees in the garden, so these are a welcome addition.

Also enjoying the salvia today was a common carder bee:

common carder bee


Common carder bee Bombus pascuorum

Damselflies have been swarming over the beds and paving up to the Centre in large numbers all day and an emperor dragonfly has also been hawking overhead. A dark green fritillary also settled for a few minutes, the first I’ve seen this year, so hopefully we’ll get a few more sightings over the coming days.

We still have no news on when the car park will open, but Bob and I have been busy writing signage and putting it up around the reserve to aid with social distancing when we do open. Bob has also adjusted all the latches to the pedestrian kissing gates, bolting them up, so the gates can be pushed open more easily without everyone touching the same parts. Do keep an eye out for these changes when you visit next.


30 Days Wild – Day 14

Some days are wilder than others, even when you work on a nature reserve. Today was not one of the wildest, the morning was spent in a meeting, where wildlife was a topic rather than present and the afternoon was largely taken up with trimming paths with the help of our volunteers. During path trimming we saw a few common spotted orchid and broad-leaved helleborine, I looked for twayblade and southern marsh orchid, both of which I have seen in the same area before but without success.

It was warming up as we finished and on the way back to the Centre we saw a red admiral and a male large white. Butterflies are very few and far between at present, but soon the browns will be out and this should change.

As I went to lock up the sun was almost out and near the Woodland hide the orange-tip caterpillars were doing their best to look like the garlic mustard seedpods upon which they feed.

orange tip caterpillar

orange-tip caterpillar

When I first saw these I discounted them as orange-tip, because they were not green, forgetting that they look quite different in their first few instars.

On the way down to the Ivy South hide is found a tree bumblebee sunning itself on a bramble leaf. This is a species that ha sonly colonised this country in this century, but is already common throughout most of England. It is similar to the common carder bee but the white tail gives it away.

tree bumblebee

tree bumblebee

Finally caught up, I just have to keep going to the end of the month now!

Blossom, Bees and Balsam

Bird News: Ibsley Waterwater pipit 1, mandarin 1, Egyptian goose 2, sand martin 2, green sandpiper 1, Mediterranean gull 1. Ivy Lakewater rail 2.

Yet another brilliant sunny day with temperatures topping twenty degrees. The hawthorn is coming into leaf and the blackthorn into bloom.

blackthorn bloom, or just possibly another Prunus as the blossom is a bit large.

Opening the Tern hide I saw the water pipit briefly before it flew off with about a dozen meadow pipits when a male sparrowhawk flew down Ibsley Water. There were 2 sand martin over the lake, but they did not stay and a single adult Mediterranean gull bathing before heading off north. The sighting of the morning though was a drake mandarin that flew north right up the centre of the lake. It turns out there was also one on Ivy Lake a short while later and in the afternoon I saw a pair on Mockbeggar Lake, so I am not really sure how many there were in all.

At the Ivy North hide the water rail pair were calling loudly, I took this as complaint as they were being chased around by a belligerent moorhen.

There were butterflies all over the reserve today, although I still could not find an orange tip. I suspect there could be large red damselflies out somewhere, I have seen them in March before, but only once and some years ago, I had a search of likely spots but unsuccessfully. Other insects were out in good numbers, bumblebees including several common carder bees.

common carder bee

The bee-fly Bombylius major was out in force and I saw the hoverfly Tropidia scita for the first time this year. These were near the Dockens Water where I also found several plants, some more desirable than others. The fertile stems of the horsetails are shooting up now.

horsetail, fertile stems

Near the horsetails I came across a clump of arum, or cuckoo-pint of the form with dark spotted leaves.

arum with spotted leaves

At the top of the undesirable finds was a rash of tiny two-leaved seedlings, they were seedling Himalayan balsam, almost makes me want a short sharp frost to thin them out.

Himalayan balsam seedling

During the afternoon I was working near the Lapwing hide and came across my first adder of the year, I know they have been out for ages, I just had not seen one myself. On my way back to the Centre I was passing the rather inappropriately named Clearwater Pond when I spotted a pair of mandarin ducks and digi-binned this very iffy picture to prove it.

mandarin pair

Just before I left I was locking up the Tern hide and saw a green sandpiper on the shore just below the hide, the first I have seen on the south side of the lake for ages.