30 Days Wild – Day 14 – Garden Safari

I spent almost all of the day in the garden, working in bursts until I got too hot, then just sitting back and watching. There was a lot to see, twice groups of crossbill flew over, these birds breed very early in the year and then the families set out to look for ripening cones from which to prize the seeds. In some years, when the breeding season has been good but the cone crop is poor, birds will fly very long distances, hundreds or even thousands of miles. These are known as irruptions and are characteristic of species that exploit locally abundant, but unreliable food sources.

The main interest was the insects though, the pond continues to draw in dragonflies and this fine male broad-bodied chaser spent most of the day nearby.

broad-bodied chaser

broad-bodied chaser (male)

Whilst looking in the flower border at something else this recently emerged emperor dragonfly was spotted, not by me, although I was looking at something about 15cm away!



As it was so close I got a few closer shots of the head and eyes. They have almost all-round vision with thousands of tiny facets to the eyes, which also have different coloured zones.

emperor head

emperor head

It was not just dragonflies though, there were meadow browns in the mini-meadow and a red admiral on privet flowers, a small white attempting to lay eggs on the cabbages was less welcome though. The wild carrot is now coming into bloom and attracts quite a few species, including a second garden record of the mottled bee-fly, first seen a few days ago.

heath beefly

mottled bee-fly

Beetle included a Welsh chafer on a pink bistort flowerhead.

Welsh chafer

Welsh chafer

Lots of bees mostly evaded my camera, but I did get this male leaf-cutter bee resting on the side of the bee hotel, I confess I totally failed to identify this and had to be put onto the right course, I still find bees difficult!

Hoplitis claviventris 4x3

leaf-cutter bee (male)

However prize of the day goes to an especially brilliant bug. I was working near the house when I was called to see “A red and black shieldbug” an exciting prospect as there is a recently colonising species spreading at present. However I was in the middle of  a task so had to wait a couple of minutes before going over, luckily the bug was still there and it was an ornate shieldbug.

ornate shieldbug

ornate shieldbug

A species which is slowly colonising the south coast, something to look out for on plants of the cabbage family, this one was on rocket in our salad patch. Unlike some other species people ask us to look out for this one is pretty much unmistakable and really stands out, although it does come in various colour forms, so they don’t all look like this one.




Listers Gold

This whole post will be bird news as this morning I did a “Going for Gold” walk, the idea is to record fifty species of birds during the course of a two-hour or so walk. The day started a little unpromising with mist shrouding the lakes, although through the gloom I could make out the shapes of lost and lots of birds.

Ibsley Water, birds in the early mist

Fourteen people met me at the Tern hide at 10 o’clock, thankfully now in bright sunshine we started our list. Mute swan, coot, tufted duck, wigeon, pochard, cormorant, gadwall, a drake pintail, lapwing, greylag goose, grey heron, magpie, 4 Egyptian geese, little grebe, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull, teal and great crested grebe meant that we left the hide with 19 species, almost two-fifths of the way already.

The walk to the road crossing produced blackbird, goldfinch, robin, a wren heard, great spotted woodpecker, jackdaw, carrion crow and woodpigeon. This took the tally to twenty-seven, however some people did not like the idea of not seeing the bird and the, so the wren did not make everyone’s list and the woodpigeon and jackdaw were missed by some as they few over.

Walking to the Goosander hide we saw nuthatch, redwing, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch and some saw and I heard a pied wagtail flying over, goldcrests were also heard several times but never seen, we also heard a singing song thrush. So another eight species taking us to thirty-five.

From the Goosander hide we saw, appropriately enough, goosanders, shoveler, black-headed gull, goldeneye and a few also a jay. Now on forty we headed toward the Centre, on the way we heard lots of jay calls but never saw them, but we did see a mistle thrush rattling away in the top of a bare tree and a small flock of crossbill flew over calling. We also finally saw long-tailed tits after hearing them for most of our walk through the trees.

We arrived at the Centre on forty-three and there saw coal tit and greenfinch on the feeders. Heading to the Woodland hide we saw a flock of siskin in the alders, while at the hide we saw dunnock and had good views of great spotted woodpecker, which we had early only seen in flight.

The last leg was to the Ivy South hide with three species still needed for the magic fifty. Passing the silt pond we finally caught up with mallard and moorhen, well they all count! From the hide we saw a flock of Canada geese and a buzzard.

Of course many “easy” species were missed and not everyone saw, or heard everything. As we dispersed some went to the Ivy North hide where they saw kingfisher and I met some others later at the Tern hide where we saw several starling and the distant black-necked grebe.

At other times today I also saw collared dove, yellow-legged gull, meadow pipit, water rail, pheasant, lesser redpoll and heard Cetti’s warbler. I generally reckon that an all day list at Blashford of about seventy is “par”, certainly anything better means a good day and over eighty is excellent at any time of the year.


A Crossbill with a Twist

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoldeneye 2 (including a new adult drake), dunlin 1, lapwing 250, peregrine 1, Egyptian goose 4, yellow-legged gull 12 (reported). Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1 singing, water rail 2 calling, chiffchaff 1, yellow-legged gull 1 adult. Centrecommon crossbill 1+ flew over calling, heading W.

My day was not a great success, the plan to complete some plumbing work on the building came to nothing when the plumber was called to an emergency. I set out to do some more work on the new camera we are putting in overlooking Ivy Lake, somehow I managed to twist my back. So instead of getting things set up for installation on Monday I just about managed to stagger back to the Centre and spent the rest of the afternoon doing office work.

The day was not a complete write off though, fungi are still popping up all over the place and I came across the group below at the base of a willow near Ivy Lake, just before my back let me down. I think I have the identity right, but if anyone knows better please let me know.

shaggy pholiota

There were also quiet a few birds about. Ibsley Water was busy both when I opened up and later when I ate my lunch there. I only saw two goldeneye today, but one of them was an adult drake, so not included in the six of yesterday. A group of 4 Egyptian geese flew over. At lunchtime a flock of some 250 lapwing were flushed by a peregrine, there was also a single dunlin which departed high to the south.

At the Ivy North hide I heard a singing Cetti’s warbler somewhere to the right of the hide and 2 water rail calling to the left. I was especially pleased to see and hear a chiffchaff there as well. I was almost certain I heard one yesterday, so it was good to get confirmation. Chiffchaffs are on the reserve in every month, but there is always a gap after the last of the autumn migrants leave in mid-October before the wintering birds turn up, usually in late November. Returning to the Centre one or more common crossbill flew over heading west, I only saw one bird but it sounded as though there was a small party of them.

Locking up a single adult yellow-legged gull was standing on the buoy in Ivy Lake, it was one of only two gulls on the lake. By contrast Ibsley Water was packed with gulls, unfortunately I was rather slow over the ground this evening and it was almost too dark to see by the time I got there, but 12 yellow-legged gull had been seen a little earlier, so numbers are still picking up.