Ringing the Changes

ox-eye daisy

ox-eye daisies

Perhaps the last of the warm days for a while so I thought I would start with a summery shot of the ox-eye daisies which are just starting to flower now. The good weather has been very useful to us as we have been resurfacing paths and doing much other refurbishment at Blashford over the last few days,. With this in mind I will mention that the car parking on the southern (Education Centre) side of Ellingham Drove will be closed tomorrow whilst the entrance track is being resurfaced. Hopefully we should be more or less back to normal on Friday, so everyone who has been putting up with the bumpy track should notice a significant change.

I had a moth trap opening public event this morning, there were not a lot of moths, but a better catch than we have had for a while. There was common swift, poplar hawk, alder moth, treble lines, light brocade, may highflyer, green carpet, brindled beauty, pale tussock,

pale tussock

pale tussock

silver Y, clouded border, white ermine, buff-tip, common carpet, common marbled carpet, spectacle, pale prominent, sharp-angled peacock, fox moth, flame shoulder and Apotomis betuletana (a micro moth that looks like a bird dropping).

buff-tip

buff-tip

Yesterday I found a dead bird on the path as I went to open up the Ivy North hide, it was not freshly dead, so I am not quite sure why it had appeared there now.

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a very dead bird!

As you may have spotted, it is interesting as it has a metal ring on the leg. Although there is not much to go on I think it is a chiffchaff, the ring is one from the British ringing scheme run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), it could be one ringed at Blashford or maybe it is from elsewhere, I will find out soon.

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The ring on what might be a chiffchaff

The ringing of birds tells us a lot about where they go to and how they get there, how long they live and much more. With this in mind I have a challenge for all the photographers out there that visit Blashford Lakes. At present there is a pair of oystercatcher with two chicks near Tern hide, one of the adults has a ring, but I cannot read it properly, I have three of the numbers but need more to find out where it came from, if you get a picture that shows any of the numbers or letters please let me know, we may just be able to piece the number together. I have also noticed that two of the common tern have rings, if they ever land on the posts near the hide we may be able to get the numbers off these too. What I know for sure is that neither was ringed at Blashford as we have never caught one at the reserve.

Of Mice and Wren

With a calm, overcast night last night I was hoping for a reasonable range of moth species in the light trap. One of  my first activities on arriving is to disconnect the light and cover up the trap before going round to open up the hides, Today, however, there was what I can only describe as a ‘scuttling’ sound as I moved the light – our resourceful, moth eating wren was back.  Scrambling to free the bird, I lost a few of the moths as the wren retreated deeper under the egg boxes before eventually flying out into the nearby bushes. From the few loose moth wings and bird poo in the trap, I think a few moths had succumbed to the wrens appetite, but nevertheless there were still  over forty moths representing fifteen species.

I know Jim had a couple of Sallow moths yesterday, so I thought I’d add a picture of their cousin – Barred Sallow

Rather well-marked Barred Sallow

and a fine example of a rather richly marked Common Marbled Carpet

Common Marbled Carpet

Light traps are a little indiscriminate in what they attract and as well as moths there are usually huge numbers of midges and often some beetles. Today’s prize for the most colourful one goes to this Sexton Beetle.

Sexton or burying beetle

I very gingerly tapped this out from the egg box in which it was nestling  as previous experience has taught me that heavy handling of these beetles makes them exude the most disgusting odour – similar to that of the corpses that they locate, by smell, and then bury. I think they either eat the corpse or use it to provide food for their offspring, by laying their eggs on them.

Other insects were ‘out and about’, but the slightly lower temperature and lack of sun meant they weren’t quite so active. Fortunately this meant that those that were about would sometimes ‘hang-up’ conveniently to have their pictures taken, as was the case with this Golden-ringed Dragonfly, which was spotted by a visitor on a log at the side of the Centre car-park.  (N.B. the dragonfly, not the visitor, was on the log ).

Golden-ringed Dragonfly on log by Centre car-park

Apart from the wren, another unwelcome ‘guest’ or guests are the mice that from time-to-time inhabit the loft space of the centre. As they might chew through wiring or otherwise damage items in store, we regularly set out a baited, humane trap so that they can be captured and released some distance away from the centre. This can be a fairly regular procedure , but whether it is the same few mice involved or a continuous stream of ‘new’ ones isn’t clear. If it’s the same ones I  wonder whether they have become habituated to being ‘transported’ in exchange for some easy pickings of food from the trap. This then starts to pose the question of whether the mice would be there if weren’t for the food in the trap to attract them – but we wouldn’t know they were there without the trap to catch them….and so on!!!…. Surely this way lies madness!

Several months ago I published an image of one mouse just before it was  ‘releasd back into the community’, with a fanciful caption indicating that it was apparently begging for its freedom. Today’s mouse looked rather plaintive as well!!! 

Another pleading mouse

Bird interest is starting to pick up after the usual late summer downturn. Plenty of hirundine (swallow and house martin) activity over Ivy Lake as I opened up. Numbers of duck are increasing as gadwall start to return, I also caught a grey heron, in reflective mood, behaving more like a wader- up to its thighs in water.

Grey heron – in reflective mood.

On Tuesday I’ll be standing in to lead a walk called ‘ Going for Gold’ with the subtitle ‘a 50 bird challenge’. So tomorrow I think I might just do a recce to check where we might find them all — watch this space for news.