Wednesday 15th November – A Little Report

A “Little Report” because there is not much to report from today. The reserve was busy with a large group visiting from Christchurch U3A, but the bird news was fairly unremarkable.

Opening Tern hide I heard the or at least a water pipit calling, but could not see it. The lake had the now usual gathering of pochard. My count of 96 yesterday was by some margin the largest I have seen for a good while, there was a time when they were common at the lakes, with flocks into several hundred. Over the last few years pochard numbers have declined, not just here but right across Europe. Over the last 25 years there has been a 67% decline in wintering pochard in the UK. There are many possible reasons for this. They particularly like eating stoneworts, aquatic plants that grow well in oligotrophic (low nutrient) lakes, newly flooded gravel pits usually have very few nutrients and so are very good for them. However over time lakes acquire nutrients form many sources becoming less suitable for stoneworts and pochard. This is probably one of the main reasons for the decline at Blashford.

It might be expected that gravel pits in lowland England would gain nutrients, weed will grow and die, birds will import droppings and fish will mobilise sediments as well as adding their own contribution. In addition the rain is known to be contaminated with nitrogen which it picks up from the atmosphere, where we have added additional nitrous oxide to that naturally present. Recent reports by researchers at the British Geological Survey have highlighted that nitrogen fertilizers have leached their way down into the groundwater and will be coming out for decades to come.  These sources of nutrients do not include straight forward pollution by industry, sewerage etc. The increase in nutrients is impacting both natural and man-made waters and means that we are faced with a future where most lakes, at least in lowlands will be eutrophic, that is nutrient rich. Ultimately such lakes are likely to be dominated by algae, with little higher plant growth upon which most of our wildfowl depend.

Unfortunately for the pochard it seems that it is not just increasingly unsuitable waters that are against them. It has long been known that wintering flocks in the UK hold more drakes than ducks. Last winter wildfowl counters across Europe were asked to provide the sex ratio of the flocks they counted. This showed that across the whole of Europe the proportion of drakes in flocks had risen from 61% in 1989-90 season to 70% in 2016. The proportion of drakes being higher in northern Europe with more female wintering in southern Europe. It might be expected that females would suffer higher mortality at nesting as they nest on the ground where they are vulnerable to predators. However this is probably not the only reason fro the discrepancy. By wintering in southern Europe where hunting is more popular they are probably more often shot, but worse still they are especially vulnerable to ingesting shot and are more likely to do so in areas where there is more shooting. The paper outlining this research will be available soon at http://www.wwt.org.uk/conservation/saving-wetlands-and-wildlife/publications/wildfowl/ .

Anyway back to the day’s news, at the Woodland hide brambling was again seen and overhead a few redpoll could be heard in the siskin flock, things are looking good for large finch flocks later on. Towards dusk heading out to lock up I heard a firecrest again near the car park and this time also saw it, my first one seen this winter at Blashford, although  one was reported the other day from the main car park. On Ivy Lake Walter the great white egret was again at his roost in the dead alder with 150 or so cormorant also roosting in the trees around the lake.

I did have one non-bird sighting of interest, a common darter dragonfly still on the wing, my first for ten days or so, each year I hope to beat my latest dragonfly date of 19th November, which I have managed three times, I don’t think this is going to be the year though, with so few still flying.

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We’ve Got the Blues, Again

Tomorrow I have a moth event at Blashford, we will be opening two moth traps and looking through at the catch, identifying and photographing them. Over the last few days we have caught three Clifden nonpareil moths, also known as the blue underwing, this is a spectacular species and probably the UK moth with the largest wing area. In fact there was one yesterday and another today, obviously it would be great if there was one tomorrow, but things being what they are I suspect there won’t be! It is also still quite rare nationally, having only recently recolonized the UK, luckily for us the New Forest area is probably their stronghold.

Clifden nonpareil

Clifden nonpareil, or blue underwing.

The caterpillars feed on aspen and probably other poplar species, as it happens we have a number of aspen at Blashford Lakes, which is probably why they seem to be established on the reserve. Aspen is an interesting tree as is has quiet a lot of insect species associated with it. It is a tree that can grow very tall, but also produces lots of suckers, so there can be niches for species that prefer the canopy and shrub layer provided for by a single tree. It is very prone to being browsed and the suckers are often eaten off, increasing numbers of deer are probably one reason that aspen is in decline in many areas.

We may not see a Clifden nonpareil, but I hope we will see a good few moths and one thing that I am fairly sure about is that a number of them will be yellow or orange, autumn is the season for yellow moths, probably because it is the time for yellow leaves.

sallow and pink-barred sallow

pink-barred sallow and sallow

Although autumn is well underway now there at still quite a lot of insects about when the sun comes out, southern hawker, migrant hawker and common darter dragonflies are still around in fair numbers and butterflies include red admiral, comma and a lot of speckled wood. As I was eating lunch yesterday I noticed a fly on the picnic table next to me and realised it was one of the snail-killing flies.

Elgiva cucularia

Elgiva cucuaria a snail-killing fly.

It is the larvae that kill the snails, in the case of this species , aquatic snails, which is probably why it was close to the Education Centre pond.

Mothless, well Almost

Yesterday I ran a “Moth event” at Blashford, unfortunately I forgot to tell the moths and there were probably more human participants than moths! Usually late August is a good time for catching large numbers of moths, but big catches require warm, calm nights following warm settled days. What we had was a windy, mostly clear night following a rather stormy day.

Luckily the day got more settled as it went on, at least until late afternoon anyway. This brought out good numbers of insects, including as many dragonflies as I have seen this year. Around the reserve I saw several brown hawker, southern and migrant hawkers, an egg-laying emperor dragonfly and a fair few common darter. Damselflies included common blue, azure, red-eyed, small red-eyed and blue-tailed.

Butterflies were rather fewer, most that I saw were whites, with all three common species near the Centre. Out on the reserve a few meadow brown and gatekeeper are still flying and speckled wood are increasing again. Near the Lapwing hide I saw both red admiral and painted lady, perhaps indicating some continued arrival of passage insects.

The sunshine in the middle of the day brought out reptiles as well and I saw two grass snake and an adder. The adder was very fat and I suspect a female which will shortly be giving birth, since adders have live young rather than laying eggs as grass snakes do.

adder

adder

I have heard reports of wasp spider being seen around the reserve recently and today I finally saw one.

wasp spider

wasp spider

This is a female, the males are much, much smaller and wander about seeking the females.

I had hoped for a few different birds, following the rough weather, perhaps a few terns, but there was little change form the past week. A few extra waders were the best that could be found, 2 dunlin, 2 oystercatcher, 2 common sandpiper, 1 redshank and the pick of the day, 3 greenshank, although they only flew through. There are starting to be a few more ducks around, I saw 8 shoveler and 3 teal, but there are still no wigeon on the reserve, although they should not be far away. Away for the water looking up there were 2 raven, and single hobby and peregrine. Whilst low over the water before the day warmed there were 1000+ sand martin and c200 house martin.

Perhaps the sighting of the day for many visitors though was the female roe deer that spent part of the morning in front of the Woodland hide.

roe deer at Woodland hide 3

roe deer doe at the Woodland hide

 

Arboreal Newt?

After what has seemed weeks I actually got out onto the reserve to do a bit of management work on Friday. Recent days have been taken up with First Aid training, meetings and miscellaneous other off-site tasks, so it felt really good to get out and do something practical. I spent a good bit of the middle part of the day strimming young bramble and nettle off the western shore of Ibsley Water, this is an area we try to keep as fairly short grassland suitable for grazing wildfowl in the winter and breeding lapwing in the spring. Most of this work is done by the ponies, but they are not keen on the bramble or nettle.

Working on the shore of Ibsley Water does disturb the wildlife, but the lake is so large that it just moves things across to the other side and so closer to the hides. In fact there were not a lot of birds to see, 21 shoveler being about the best. The highlight of the day was yet more sightings of the otter, this time from both Goosander and Tern hide in mid-morning.

Later in the day I was near the store when I spotted something roll down a sloping willow trunk, at first I thought it was a dead willow leaf, but then I realised it was a smooth newt! It had come to rest upside down on the lower part of the trunk and lay completely still, possibly stunned or perhaps “playing dead” as predator avoidance.

smooth newt upside down

smooth newt upside down

Eventually it woke up and started walking down to the ground.

smooth newt

smooth newt

The afternoon sunshine also brought out lots of common darter dragonflies.

common darter

common darter

Locking up at the end of the day I saw a couple of kingfisher and the great white egret was, as it often is, perched on one of the sticks outside the Ivy North hide.

A Mighty Perch has Landed

I will try and make up for the lack of any posts over the last few days by doing a short run through recent times at Blashford. On Thursday the volunteers were again busy on the western shore of Ibsley Water, raking up the grass, nettles, thistles and brambles that Ed and I were cutting. The idea is to encourage grass growth for wintering wildfowl such as wigeon and for them to leave the grass short enough for it to be suitable for lapwing to nest on in the spring. It is  a lot  of work but we are progressing steadily and hopefully we will see the effects this coming winter. It was quite warm and as we worked there were lots of butterflies, especially marbled white, meadow brown and gatekeeper.

gatekeeper

gatekeeper

At the end of the day on Thursday Ed and I set out to complete a project that he had been planning for some time, this was to put up a tall perch well out in Ibsley Water. As Ibsley Water is mostly between four and seven metres deep this was going to be quite a task.

transporting the perch

transporting the perch

After a bit of searching around for the right spot and the application of specialist perch placing skill the job was done.

the perch in place

the perch in place

All we have to do now is wait for the first osprey to land on it! So far all I have seen are common terns.

terns on the perch

terns on the perch

It was my turn to man the reserve on Saturday and despite mostly attending to office work it was a surprisingly varied day. It started with seeing a very smart adult summer plumage turnstone in front of Tern hide.

turnstone - almost a good shot, I knew we should have weeded the shore!

turnstone – almost a good shot, I knew we should have weeded the shore!

It was around all day and I am sure there will have been many good pictures taken of it, but this was my best.

turnstone

turnstone

In recent days there have been several reports of an adult Arctic tern at the Tern hide, apparently it had a ring on one leg. I photographed this one which fitted the bill in that it has a ring and a, more or less, all red bill, however this is still a common tern.

common tern, ringed adult

common tern, ringed adult

At this time of year many adult common terns bills have reduced black tips, or even no black at all, so you need to check other characters as well. In this case these are easily seen as it is perched so close to the hide. The characters to look for are: dark, almost black outer primaries (the long pointed part of the wings), on a common tern these feathers are old and very worn by now, on an Arctic tern they would be much paler grey. The legs of common tern are also longer as is the bill, but these features are of less use unless you have seen lots of Arctic terns. Sadly this shot shows none of the letters or numbers on the ring, but if anyone else gets pictures of this bird it would be great to try and see if we can read the ring and find out where it has come from.

There were also several of the fledged juvenile common terns around as well, soon these will be leaving so it is good to enjoy them whilst they are still here.

common tern, juvenile

common tern, juvenile

As I said I spent much of the day in the office, but got out on various errands as well, one was to respond to a call to say there was a mute swan stuck on the path alongside Rockford Lake.

swan on the path

swan on the path

Swans that land on Ivy Lake get attacked by the resident pair and if they fail to fly off get pushed up the bank and end up on the path where they are unable to get into Rockford Lake due to the fences. After a brief bit of swan wrestling I got the better of it and was able to lift it over the fence to join the non-breeding flock on Rockford Lake.

It was a great day for insects with lots of butterflies, dragonflies and other creatures out and about. I briefly saw a clearwing most but frustratingly failed to either get a picture or identify it before it flew off. It had been nectaring on a burdock plant at the Centre, which also had lots of tiny picture-winged flies on the flower heads.

picture-winged flies

picture-winged flies

The butterflies included lots of comma and this silver-washed fritillary.

silver-washed fritillary

silver-washed fritillary

Dragonflies included brown hawker, common darter, emperor, a probable migrant hawker and this black-tailed skimmer, which I found eating a damselfly.

black-tailed skimmer

black-tailed skimmer, female

How long will it be before the first osprey lands on the new perch? I for one will be very disappointed if there has not been at least one by the end of August.

Other bird sightings during the day included the great white egret on Ivy Lake, a green sandpiper on Rockford Lake and common sandpiper, dunlin, juvenile redshank and a report of a wood sandpiper all on Ibsley Water. I would be keen to hear more about the last record as only one person seems to have seen it despite there being lots of people about all day, it would be good to know a few details as we don’t see many of them at Blashford.

Pleasant morning for a stroll…

Coming towards the end of what has been a busy summer for the education team, and making the most of a short lull before things pick up again in the autumn, I decided to take advantage of that, and the warm (but not too hot!) weather to reacquaint myself with some parts of the reserve that I have been neglecting whilst busy with teaching or catching up on the administration that goes with managing the centre, and at the same time trim back some brambles and nettles and make sure that the ponies grazing the Ibsley Water shore were still okay.

Small white, green veined white, speckled wood, red admiral and comma butterflies were all in evidence across the reserve, but the most common insect by far seemed to be common darter – these two were photographed in tandem between Lapwing and Goosander Hide:

Common darter

Common darter

As I have missed them earlier in the year I also had a quick look for cherry plums and thought I was going to be disappointed, but did find a couple of late fruiting tree’s which obliged me with a handful of tasty fruit. Earlier in the summer there was much more in the way of windfalls which the badgers apparently adore. Even with much less fruit available to them, they are obviously still snuffling them out as this quite fresh, stone filled, dropping clearly demonstrates:

Badger dropping - note the plum stones.

Badger dropping – note the plum stones.

However with the fruit now a bit more scarce than it was there was also evidence of them turning to other food:

Badger excavated wasps nest

Badger excavated wasps nest

Wasps often build their nests underground in old mouse or vole holes and badgers do love to munch on the larva. I know the wasps are probably a bit dopey when the badgers dig them out but I can’t help thinking that those larva must really taste divine for the badgers to risk the stings to their snouts and mouths that they must surely be subject to. Either that or they like their food “spicey”!

Other notable sightings included hobby over Ivy Lake and a common sandpiper on Ibsley Water. The wet weather and decidedly autumnal change in temperatures has also seen a few different species of fungi emerge, some of which I do not know, but which do include parasol fungus, shaggy ink cap and chicken of the woods.

The light trap had no surprises, though a reasonable selection of common moths, including a very worn poplar hawkmoth and this, pictured here because I am not entirely sure what it is, but think it may be a flounced rustic?

Flounced rustic?

Flounced rustic?

The commonest catch in the trap by far was actually a shield bug of which there were 9 individuals  –

Red-legged shield bug

Red-legged shield bug

Finally a plea for help:

We are lucky at Blashford Lakes, certainly compared with other more urban reserves, to avoid much in the way of vandalism or other inappropriate behaviour, although it does happen from time to time and sometimes/something’s more regularly than others. One such incident is that of people, presumably young people, and no doubt young men at that, using Tern Hide car park for reckless driving and pulling “doughnut” stunts – potentially dangerous for them and other visitors, but not necessarily harmful to the reserve. This summer however there have been a number of incidents of people driving across the lichen heath outside the water treatment works adjacent to the lower car park and this is massively damaging to what is a very fragile and rare habitat. A couple of weekends ago due to the damper conditions, a lot of damage to the invertebrate, flora and lichen populations was done:

Evidence of irresponsible idiots.

Evidence of irresponsible idiots on the lichen heath.

We know that this occurred during the day, we think on the Sunday, but did not see anything and nor was anything reported – and this is where you come in. If you do ever see any behaviour on the reserve that you do not think should be happening, be it fishing, trespassing off the footpaths,  fungus harvesting (and by that I don’t mean the odd mushroom here and there, but wholesale gathering of everything, which, sadly, does happen), dangerous driving, or anything else, please do take a note of whatever details you can, including registration numbers and model/makes in the case of a vehicle, and let us know so we can do what we can to reduce or prevent such incidents in the future – thank you!

Bank Holiday blues

Welcome, from a soggy Blashford Lakes Reserve. As is customary we have another damp and dismal Bank Holiday Monday (10mm of rain overnight and it hasn’t stopped raining all day), but there are a few folk here making the most of the situation.

Not terribly inspiring for bird watching and most self respecting insects are keeping well out of sight today, so I’ll just share a few pictures, taken last Friday, when covering the Butterfly Survey transect on the south of the Reserve.

Green-veined white butterflies were the most common on the transect and arguably THE most common butterfly in the U.K. with a wide geographic range (absent only from Orkney and Shetland) and having two or even three broods (in good years).  An innocuous butterfly, its caterpillars don’t damage cultivated cabbages, unlike their close cousins the large white  and small white, but lay their eggs on wild relatives of these plants. An active butterfly its quite difficult to identify from small white when in flight, I’m guessing that many ‘non-butterfliers’  probably wouldn’t even have heard of them – I know I hadn’t before taking more interest in these insects.

Most common butterfly - Green-veined White

Most common butterfly – Green-veined White

Green-veined white butterflies are very much a species of damp and marshy places near hedgerows and woodland edges, so the Reserve is ideal habitat for them – especially today.

Overall the number of butterflies to be seen has dropped off lately as the temperature falls  and sunshine has decreased with only 21 butterflies of four/five species ( including ‘unknown’ White) seen last Friday, although I believe the transect on the north side of the Reserve was more productive. The brightest and  most colourful was this Comma.

Comma - so named from the tiny white 'comma shaped' mark on the underside of the hind wing

Comma – so named from the tiny white ‘comma shaped’ mark on the underside of the hind wing

The common name of this butterfly, and even the scientific name Polygonia c-album, refer to this tiny mark (if my rusty knowledge of Latin is correct c-album = ‘ white c’), but it’s really quite inconspicuous unless you know to look for it.  I guess the naming dates back to the time when collectors could study these things at their leisure as it was  ‘O.K.’ to catch these beautiful insects and handle them, before killing and mounting them in collections

In greater profusion than all the butterflies were common blue damselflies which were just about everywhere, gently skimming over the tops of shrubbery and settling, usually briefly, before being disturbed by another damselfly. The males were most conspicuous, with their electric blue colouration,  whilst the females were difficult to pick out, especially if motionless as they stayed perched up.  I’ll admit that I find it easier to identify the species of a male damselfly, like ducks as opposed to drakes, the females are more drably marked.

Dragonflies and damselflies are spectacularly visual insects, the relative size of their eyes is a bit of a give-a-way, so I’m guessing that males can easily identify their prospective mating partners from a mixed assortment of, to us, similar looking females of other species.  As a safeguard to prevent cross breeding  I understand that the claspers (anal appendages) on a male can only latch on successfully to the neck of a female of the same species to create the mating position called the ‘heart’ or ‘cartwheel’ position.  Whilst so engaged they are easier to photograph as they seem somewhat ‘distracted’ and less likely to fly off suddenly – can’t think why!

pair of common blue damselflies

pair of common blue damselflies in cartwheel position

Dragonflies were also out and about, hopeless trying to photograph them whilst flying (the dragonflies – not me!) with my little camera, but when they hang-up briefly there’s a chance of a quick shot.   Missed the southern hawker, but this migrant hawker was more obliging.

Migrant hawker

Migrant hawker

Common darter are living up to their name, by a) being quite common (20 plus seen easily – don’t know how many we missed) and  b) perching up and ‘darting’ out before returning to the same perch, making them relatively easy to photograph.

Common darter

Common darter

The butterfly transect should notionally take about an hour and a half, but we managed to stretch it to two hours, having been ‘distracted’ by some quite delicious blackberries along the way. Whilst engaged in this activity a strange bug hopped onto my hand and demanded to have it’s picture taken.

Dock bug?

Dock bug?

Searching the literature – and online – I think its a dock bug (Coreus marginatus) , though not a fully grown one, as these appear to have a more definite darker patch on their abdomen.  One of the family ‘Leatherbugs’ of which there are eleven species in the U.K. and five in the new Forest (Paul D. Brock : A photographic guide to Insects of the New Forest) this is apparently the most common and easily found.

I’ll close with an update from the rain gauge – 22mm (nearly an inch in real terms)  and rising!!

 

Season of Mist and a Feeder Frenzy

The harsh sting of autumn, with forebodings of  winter, struck home this morning as I  scraped the frost from the car windscreen before setting off to get here. Such conditions can, however, have their compensations, imbuing  even some of the most familiar views with a  magical mystique as here, where the mist seems to be boiling off the lake.

Misty view over Ivy Lake

It also makes plain some of the activity of often overlooked wildlife with the drapery of icy droplets on  this spider’s web.

Spider’s web outside Ivy South Hide.

It’s also the season for fungi in abundance and we are not under-endowed here at Blashford,  just don’t ask me to name them all,. Here are a few that I’m prepared to stick my neck out on their names,  seen as we opened up the hides this morning.

Candle Snuff fungus

Lycoperdon species – I think

Fly Agaric

This last one is so distinctive as to be unmistakable, a much-loved fungus by the illustrators of children’s books.   These particular fungi do, however, have other connotations. Their common name refers to  use as an insecticide  to poison flies.   They grow in close association with birches and are, therefore, very common in the dense birch forests of northern Scandinavia.   The toxin, which is  presumably the agent that kills flies, is,  in small amounts, a psychoactive agent causing hallucinations (so I’m told!).  One version of  folklore (other versions are available) suggests that in the long dark and boring nights above the Arctic circle the fly agaric would be introduced into the food for the domesticated reindeer (they normally eat lichen and fungi anyway).  Drinking the fluid that the reindeer excreted would deliver a ‘safe’, diluted  dose of the toxin and give the drinker a ‘high’ including feelings of being able to fly.  So if we mix all these factors together, something ( someone!)  red and white , reindeer and flying, in a land near the North Pole gives us —-well I’ll let you think it through, answers by Christmas.

The colder weather has increased the amount of bird activity around the feeders, especially the one close to the Centre. I mentioned, in Thursday’s posting, that we were in the process of adding some more feeders.   At the time we lacked the necessary low tensile wire on which to hang the feeders, but that has now been supplied, thanks to one of our volunteers, Rex, who, with Pete, put up the posts on Thursday. The result looks a lot like this :-

New feeding station by edge of Centre car park

Only two feeders at present, we’ll probably add more as the season progresses and the number of birds increases. Gratifyingly within a couple of hours there were several birds making use of the new facility, including a robin and this great tit.

Great tit investigating the new feeder

Even more satisfyingly, for the present at least, an inquisitive grey squirrel made an exploratory foray to try to get at the seeds, but failed.

In anticipation of a busy winter we used the opportunity of the warm sunshine to set-to and clean about a dozen feeders that had been put away over the summer, but which needed cleaning before being used again.  At the moment the usual collection of tits including a couple of very smart coal tits, together with nuthatch, greenfinch and a selection of siskin, goldfinch and the occasional redpoll with, I’m assured by at least two visitors, a brambling have been our guests at the  feeders.

Although cold overnight, this hasn’t deterred a few insects from strutting their stuff.  A slightly disappointing collection of only four moths in the light trap,  but two of these were rather smart Angle Shades

Angle Shades – one of only four moths in the light trap

Of the other insects, a pair of Southern Hawker dragonflies were seen by some visitors, but for me this  Common Darter seems epitomise the innate optimism of an evolutionary process that pushes to the boundary the idea of a sensible time to shift from a growing phase  to a  reproductive stage in what is the fag-end of the warm season.

Common Darter – resting up whilst its wings harden

Our attention was drawn to this insect  by the brightly glistening wings, which I’ve always taken as a sign that it’s not long emerged. There is also a definite red colour to the veins in the wings, but I don’t think it’s a Red-veined Darter –or is it??

Closing down tonight was a delight. The last duty is to close the Tern Hide and we spent about 20 minutes enjoying good views of the, mostly, Black-backed gulls coming to roost, a number of waterfowl  including good numbers of coot, tufted duck, shoveler, a few wigeon and teal and a single female goosander,  shades of things to come.  A buzzard, sitting on the recently cleared peninsular to the right of the hide, mysteriously disappeared when we took our eyes off it for a few seconds, but a couple of Egyptian geese hauled themselves out in much the same area that the buzzard had been. Could they have frightened him off????

Signs of Autumn

Bird News: Ibsley Watercommon sandpaper 1. Ivy Lakegreat white egret 1.

A few days since I have been able to post so a bit of a catch-up now. Yesterday I moved the lake camera to a new location which I thought might be better for birds this winter. I arrived this morning and turned on the tv in the lobby at the Education Centre and there just to the right of the centre of the picture was the great white egret, the first time I had “seen it” this autumn. I did see it in the flesh later, as it flew off towards Rockford Lake when I went to open the Ivy South hide. Opening the Tern hide there was a very smart juvenile common sandpiper on the shore near the hide, the picture does not do it justice.

common sandpiper

The moth trap was not busy but included a fine autumnal rustic.

autumnal rustic

There were also several very smart feathered gothic.

feathered gothic

And a single hedge rustic.

hedge rustic

It was my last Thursday Volunteer task today before I move off to pastures newish and old. Todays weather was a splendid as that for the Sunday volunteers the other day was dire. We were doing various tasks associated with this weekend’s events at Blashford, for which there are still places for anyone looking for something exciting to do with the family on Sunday. There will be pond dipping and a trail with loads of things to find, numbers are limited for come activities so booking is essential if you want to do some things (call 01425 472760).

The recent days have been very good for dragonflies and I have a few pictures. There have been lots of posing migrant hawkers.

migrant hawker

And common darter really do seem to be fairly common this year, although not as much so as they used to be a few years ago.

common darter

I hope to blog once or twice more before I sign off for good. In the meantime thanks to everyone who has made working at Blashford so enjoyable over the last six and a half years and to everyone who reads the blog and who have sent me comments, picture and information, please continue to do so as I’m sure Jim, Michelle and Steve will continue to post until my replacement arrives.

It’s not all Swanning around!!!

Quite  number of people who, when they find out what I do here as a part-time warden/caretaker, will mutter things like ‘ what a wonderful job’ and ‘that must be good fun’.   I’m guessing that, also, that many of the readers of this blog will get the impression that we spend much of our time simply enjoying the delights of the reserve. Well that might be mostly true for me, but Jim, Bob and Michelle have their work cut out managing the place and providing wonderful educational experiences for the myriad of youngsters who come here.

Just occasionally though even I get a reality check, and today it was in the form of a mute swan that had stranded itself on along the path between Rockford and Ivy Lakes.  Not an altogether unusual occurrence, but not something I have to deal with regularly (only twice before today).    I suppose it’s that much vaunted urban myth about ‘swans and broken arms’ that has imbued them with their fearsome reputation, but when approaching such a large animal it’s not easy to shake off an expectation of possible  personal injury. So having, as it were, girded my loins for the action, I set to in ‘rescuing’ the poor beast.  On the grounds that one picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let the images do the talking …..

Mute Swan on path

‘You looking at me????’

 

Just holding on

An undignified exit

‘Home’ even if not really ‘dry’

Elsewhere on the reserve there were plenty of  butterflies around the buddleia and on the marjoram around the pond  including plenty of Red Admiral and Peacock as well as these  Small Tortoiseshell and Small Copper

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Copper

To complete the somewhat ‘red/orange’ theme I’ll leave you with a picture of this smart-looking Common Darter

Common Darter