First Migrants

For the last few days it has been feeling distinctly spring-like and I have been expecting the first sand martin, little ringed plover and singing chiffchaff of the spring. So far I have been disappointed, but yesterday visitors to the reserve were reporting chiffchaff singing near Ivy North hide and a little ringed plover on Ibsley Water. Chiffchaff will over-winter on the reserve, although this year none were seen after the New Year so I don’t think there is any real doubt this was a new arrival.

As the summer visitors start arriving many of the winter visitors are leaving, this is especially noticeable on Ivy Lake where there were around a thousand wildfowl only a couple of weeks or so ago, now there are little more than a hundred. Some winter visitors are still with us though, brambling can be seen regularly around the feeders and at the last ringing session four were caught.

brambling male in the hand

Male brambling in the hand

One of the most obvious signs of spring is the changes in plants. Bluebell laves are now well up and wild daffodil are in full bloom.


Wild daffodil

Often one of the very first flowers of many years is colt’s foot, although this year it has only started flowering in the last week or so.

colt's foot

colt’s foot

Yesterday while out working with the volunteers they spotted a brimstone butterfly, often the first butterfly of spring, although these days red admiral usually beats them due to their rather shallow hibernation.

The change in the season means the end of the winter work and the last couple of weeks has been busy with tidying up around areas we have been working in during the winter. Our next big task will be preparing the tern rafts so they can go out when the common tern arrive sometime in mid April.

I will end with a mystery, or at least something that is a mystery to me, I am hoping someone will be able to help me identify it. On Sunday I was looking at a clonal patch of young aspen trees and noticed small clusters of something I took to be lichen on the lower stems of several very small suckers. This was surprising as the trees were just a hand full of years old, rather a short time for lichens to get going. Looking closer I don’t think it is lichen, but I don’t know what it is, does anyone have any idea?

lower stem of aspen

Lower stem of aspen, about 10cm above ground – but what is it?


A Clear(er) View

On Thursday the volunteers cleared the annual vegetation from in front of the Tern hide, we do this each year for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that it improves the view of the nearest shore from the hide. Another is that it clears the ground for the nesting lapwing and little ringed plover next spring. There are also always some seedling bramble, birch and willow that need pulling out before they get established.


The shore before we started


and after a couple of hours of hard weeding

Looking out from the hide today this did not make much difference as visibility was seriously reduced due to persistent heavy rain. Despite this there were some birds to see, including at least 800 sand martin, 3 swift, 2 dunlin, a little ringed plover, 3 common sandpiper, 33 mute swan and 3 pochard. Ivy Lake was quieter with just a few coot, gadwall and great crested grebe, there are also still two broods of two common tern chicks on the rafts.

Today was not a day for invertebrates, but I do have one more picture from Thursday, spotted in long grass as I went round locking up, a wasp spider, my first of the year.

wasp spider

Wasp spider female with prey.


A Few Moths (at last)

Although it is still very quiet for moths an increase in the overnight temperature has resulted in a few more species emerging. Today I saw my first May highflyer and poplar hawk of the season.

poplar hawk moth

poplar hawk moth

There were also a couple of species that are now coming towards the end of their season, although both were in quite good condition, perhaps because the cold April delayed their emergence. These were a brindled beauty,

brindled beauty

brindled beauty

and a great prominent.

great prominent

great prominent

The Tuesday volunteers were in today and we spent most of the time preparing some more materials for the common tern rafts. We have already put out six rafts and so far we have about eight to ten pairs looking settled, hopefully there will be more to come. I had hoped to put two more out on Thursday but calamity struck at the end of the day, when I got a flat tyre on the trailer as I was taking materials down to the shore of Ivy Lake. Unfortunately it will need a new wheel, so we may not be mobile in time for Thursday.

Generally bird sightings were rather few today, a single common sandpiper on Ibsley Water and a hobby high over the Centre as we ate lunch were the highlights.



Lots of Insects, Thankfully

A very hectic day started with the usual opening up and set up for the invertebrate course, all of which had to be done quickly as I was then off to the southern end of Ivy lake to meet a group from Ringwood School to do some birdwatching after their early morning Himalayan balsam pull. Being at the southern end of the lake gives a slightly better view of the common tern rafts and I am pretty sure there are twenty-one pairs there now, with at least nine pairs on the eastern raft.

common terns on raft

The reeds we planted along the southern shore of the lake a few years ago have done well and are now providing habitat for several pairs of reed warbler and reed bunting.

reed bunting male

I could not stay long with the school group though as the course started at 10 o’clock. I had intended to do an indoor introduction, but the weather was so good and a warm sunny day has been such a rarity this year that we just went out and looked for invertebrates. We were rewarded with what, for this year, was a really good day, lots of things seem to have been waiting for the sun to come out as much as we were. I saw more species of dragonflies than I have managed all year, five species in all: four-spotted chaser, scarce chaser, emperor, southern hawker and downy emerald. I also saw my first meadow brown butterflies of the year, I sometimes see them in May! We found adult mottled grasshoppers, although the field and meadow grasshoppers were all just large nymphs. Near the Centre someone spotted a four-banded longhorn beetle, then another one and another, they are not rare but I don’t remember seeing several in a small area before.

four-banded longhorn beetle

We were using several different techniques for finding invertebrates, we looked at moth trapping, sweep-netting, and just simply looking, but one of the more unusual was using pheromone lures. We put out several designed to attract clearwing moths, the lure is an artificial chemical synthesised to be similar to the natural attractant produced by the female moth. At first we did not have great success but then, moving to a new area attracted a magnificent male red-tipped clearing. All in all a good day and I was so pleased that the weather was with us as looking for insects int herain is both difficult and not my idea of fun at all.