Mouldy Old Day

On my way to open up the hides this morning I found another slime mould on a log near the Woodland hide. More regular readers will perhaps know I am rather fond of these bizarre organisms. This morning’s species was the coral slime mould Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa and it resembled a hoar frost in colour and shape.

coral slime mould

coral slime mould

I spent the day working with the volunteers continuing to develop the new area of grassland beside the path through the old concrete works. Before anyone asks, no I don’t have an opening date for the path yet, but I hope it will be reasonably soon. We were doing some cutting, but also a lot or raking up and it was remarkable how many young common toad there were in the area, certainly many tens and probably hundreds, clearly it is an important area for them. The seeding we did back in the spring has worked surprisingly well considering how dry it was, although it seems to be making up for that now. There are lots of young bird’s foot trefoil and ox-eye daisy plants coming up so it should look pretty good in a year or two.

At the end of the day I set off to lock up the hides and my eye was caught by something brilliant yellow, another slime mould! This time troll butter, it is almost dayglow in brightness.

troll butter and very small beetle

troll butter

It was only when I downloaded the picture that I noticed the tiny beetle.

 

 

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A Record Broken

We have been very busy mowing and generally cutting back before the winter birds arrive. Today it was the turn of the western shore of Ibsley Water to receive a haircut. We have been working for some years to get this shore into a largely grassy state. Much of it started out as 1.5m high ragwort, then it became dominated by nettle and now, after many years of mowing and grazing it is mostly grass. As I was mowing I saw lots of bank vole, several common frog and a few common toad. The sun was out and it was rather warm for late September, although the many red admiral were not unhappy.

Out on the lake this afternoon there was a large arrival of cormorant, there have been good numbers for a while now, with a few counts around the 200 mark, but today we reached new heights, these extra flock took the total to at least 308! and I am pretty certain there were some I could not see behind the islands. I am sure this is a new record count for the reserve.

The highlight of the day though was a juvenile garganey out on Ibsley Water first thing in the morning. although it did not seem to stay, as nobody else saw it all day.

Sunday Sun, (Eventually)

On Sunday I opened the moth trap for visitors to the reserve, the catch was actually not too bad considering how windy it had been overnight. The highlight was a micro species, Anania verbascalis, which I was only able to identify retrospectively, as far as I am aware it was new for the reserve as well as to me. Unfortunately it was very difficult to get half decent photographs as it was very dull and raining at times.

Luckily in the afternoon it did warm up and the sun came out. I had to mend part of the fence beside the sweep meadow and could not avoid admiring how good it is looking this year.

sweep meadow

sweep meadow

It often has a good show of ox-eye daisy, but I think it is the mass flowering of bird’s foot trefoil that really makes it look so good this year. Actually there are four different bird’s foot trefoils growing across the meadow and nearby lichen heath. In the wettest areas there is the tallest one, the greater bird’s foot trefoil, in the general grassland there is the “regular” bird’s foot trefoil, whilst as it gets drier there are patches of slender  bird’s foot trefoil and on the really dry sandy spots there is hairy bird’s foot trefoil. The rarest, at least in Hampshire is the slender bird’s foot trefoil, which seems to be having a very good year this year, with some large patches.

slender bird's foot trefoil

slender bird’s foot trefoil

As I finished repairing the fence I noticed a common toad crossing the path, no doubt tempted out by the morning rain.

toad

common toad

As the sun warmed the insects came out in force. I came across my first bee wolf of the year, in fact several on a sandy patch beside the entrance track.

bee wolf

bee wolf

These wasps capture honey bees to provision their nests, which they dig in the sand, to provide food for their larvae. I also saw several other digger wasps, I only a picture of one and so far I have failed to get a positive identification of it.

digger wasp

digger wasp

 

Moth-er’s Day

A two-in-one posting today, as I didn’t get round to one yesterday.

The diminished activity of bittern has been one feature of the last two days. Although there have been some good views of one,  seen regularly throughout the day from the Ivy North Hide, there is little evidence of more than one being around.   Having said that, to my certain knowledge there were at least four people who had their first ever views of bittern today and another visitor (from Kent , where they have breeding bittern!)  ventured to say that he’d had his best views ever and added that he’d had one of his most memorable days of birdwatching with  excellent views of brambling and  lesser redpoll  from the Woodland Hide, which he described as ‘magic’.

With the bittern, by way of diversion, there was a snipe, hunkered down in what remains of the now somewhat ragged and tatty remnants of reeds and reedmace. A kingfisher was also seen from Ivy North.

A range of waterfowl species are still present, but in smaller numbers.  Goosander have given a number of visitors a great deal of pleasure and many of the drake  goldeneye,  gadwall , wigeon, teal and even mallard are looking particularly smart at present.

Another  measure of the somewhat chaotic temperature regime of late was the presence of a singing chiffchaff close by the Lapwing Hide yesterday.

It’s also that time of year when amphibians and reptiles are desporting themselves in any available small bodies of water.  I always think it’s amazing that they are inspired to such ‘passion’  whan the prevailing temperature has many of us reaching for the thermal underwear. Even so there have been mixed ‘flocks’ of common toad and common frog spawning in some of the wet areas close to the Woodland Hide and yesterday it  was warm enough to tempt an adder out to bask on the path close to the Lapwing hide.

As most people cannot have failed to realise, given the commercial pressures these days, today is Mothering Sunday – or to give it its now more familiar North American epithet “Mother’s Day”.   As those of you who know me will testify, I have a tendency to  mis-interpret some words for comedic effect.  Prompted by this, and a request from ‘she who must be obeyed‘ , I set out the light trap overnight to see if we could capture a few nocturnal lepidoptera.  Unfortunately given the time of year and the cool conditions it wasn’t conducive to producing the most spectacular array of moth species, but Blashford is used to attracting some very different characters including this Hebrew Character, though I don’t think they come here from Israel!

Image

Hebrew Character – named, I believe, from the shape of the prominent dark markings on each wing.

The only other moth in the trap was a Small Brindled Beauty.    The female of this species doesn’t have wings and like many (all?)  moths attracts a mate by releasing pheromones which the male detects with its large feathery antennae visible here.

Image

SO not the most dramatic or impressive array of moths caught in our overnight trap, but it does give me the excuse for wishing you a happy Moth-er’s Day……

The End of the Picture Gremlins

scarce merveille du jour

Here it is at last, that moth picture that would not load, the gremlins have hopefully ben banished.

A fine day at last today, but of course it was Thursday so it was perhaps to have been expected. Seventeen volunteers came out and we were once again pulling ragwort along the eastern shore of Ibsley Water. We have not been able to do the grassy promontory between the Goosander and Lapwing hides as the lapwing there has at least two chicks, the only ones I have seen on the lake this summer. We made good progress north towards the Lapwing hide and on the way saw a variety of insects including marbled white, meadow brown, emperor dragonfly, mint beetles, a white plume moth and lots of cinnabar moths and their caterpillars.

Having lunch back at the Center int he by now very warm sunshine it was again insects that caught the eye, a cream spot ladybird on the table was first for a picture.

cream spot ladybird

Dragonflies are still rather few and even damselflies are not as numerous as would normally be expected. The large red damselfly is usually the first species seen in spring, sometimes from late March and they usually are over by the end of June, so to see several still flying around now was perhaps an indication of how late the season now is.

large red damselfly

The damselfly was beside the pond and just below it was a young toad, not one of the tiny ones just leaving the ponds but an older, but still sub-adult one.

small common toad

The surrounding vegetation offers various chances for sun-loving insects to bask and on one leaf a young dark bush cricket was catching some sun.

dark bush cricket nymph

Looking at Ivy lake as I locked up the hides it was clear that a fair few of the common tern chicks have now moved away from the colony, although they have been replaced by other newly fledged ones, I think at least 25 have now flown and several are still on rafts still too small to fly. I also increased my record count of mute swan to 38. The arrival of a flock of mute swans is a new thing for this lake as the pair that used to occupy it would never tolerate incomers, their replacements are just not able to keep the hoards away. There are also two broods of Canada geese on Ivy Lake, this despite that fact that none nested there, these seem to have walked in from Rockford Lake.

Canada geese

The adult geese are all flightless now having dropped all their primary feathers and will regrow them at the same time as the goslings grow theirs, so all should become able to fly at pretty much the same time.

 

 

Late Post

A late post from Saturday, somehow I did not get time earlier, for which apologies.

The day started quite grey, cool and windy and when I opened the Tern hide Ibsley Water was abuzz with low flying swifts and sand martins. A buzzard was causing consternation in the black-headed gull colony as it helped itself to another chick. I think it may also have been hunting further down the shore as well, the oystercatcher pair seem to have lost their one chick, a real shame as it was probably only a week or so from fledging. The oystercatchers on Ibsley water are usually very successful, but this year there will be no young raised at all now since the other pair also failed. There was also one other notable sighting, a pair of pochard, a fairly unusual sight at this time of year.

The moth trap was quiet, but it had attracted something interesting, a large female common toad was sitting beside it when I went to move it to look through the catch.

common toad

The day did warm later and tempted out a few insects, although not that many for mid-June. The hemlock water dropwort is a great lure for lots of insects including one of the first Volucella pellucens, one of the largest and most noticeable of all our hoverflies.

Volucella pellucens

Later in the day as I was locking the Ivy South hide it was good to see the common tern chick continuing to prosper, lots of pairs still seem to have three chicks, which is a full set as they will only have laid three eggs.

The best bird I heard of all day wa sa report of a red kite seen from the Goosander hide in the morning.

 

Black-necks, Yellow Horns and Carpet Moths

Bird News: Ibsley Water black-necked grebe 2+, Mediterranean gull 1. Ivy Lakebittern 1, Cetti’s warbler 1, Egyptian goose 2. Ivy Silt PondCetti’s warbler 1.

Another mild night and another good moth catch with yellow horned new for the year.

yellow horned

There were also several micro moths, they fly well on calm nights, including 2 Acleris literana, although they looked quite different, one very fine grey and black one and the other looking like it was made of carpet.

Acleris literana

 

Acleris literana, but made of carpet

Blashford was hosting a meeting of the Wildlife Trust’s Great and Good today, which is to say the trustees and vice chairs. Obviously it is always good to be able to showcase the reserve and we were quietly confident, but it is always a bonus when things actually work out. The weather was with us and our theme of the reserve as place to encounter wildlife was nicely exemplified with a good show by the bittern at Ivy North hide, allowing some their first ever sighting.

bittern fishing

I actually got this picture as I opened up the hide, when it was hunting. There was also a singing Cetti’s warbler there and a second was signing by the Ivy Silt pond. It would be good if they stayed to breed, I am sure they will one day.

I looked hard for a February sand martin, I have never seen one and still haven’t, but they can only be days away.

There were several common toads out and about today and smooth newts swam by on Pondcam. On Ivy Lakecam there was another TV “tick”, although perhaps not one I welcome, a pair of Egyptian geese.