30 Days Wild – Day 13 – A Swarm of Bees

Out early this morning, or fairly early at least, to get in a breeding bird survey at one of our smaller reserves before work. Most of the birds were unremarkable, the typical birds of a New Forest wood, but I did get a calling crossbill in a willow tree, probably a dispersing bird that had just stopped for a rest and a hawfinch. I have long thought hawfinch could be at this site but had never previously recorded one there. I have failed to find redstart this year though and it is my impression that there are not so many  in the Forest generally this summer.

Then to was off to Blashford, where I had run two light traps overnight. Despite this the rather cooler, clearer conditions meant that the catch was considerably lower than yesterday. There was a clear highlight though, a blotched emerald, not a rare species but one I don’t see every year. The various green moths fade very quickly and so catching a fresh, near perfect individual is a treat.

blotched emerald

blotched emerald (male)

Although it was trapped in the office rather than in the trap the tiny moth that Tracy spotted was the emerald’s only competition for the title of “Moth of the Day”.

Ypsolopha sequella

                     Ypsolopha sequella           

This striking little moth has caterpillars that feed on field maple and sycamore, it is not rare but I don’t see them very often. To take the picture I moved it from the window to  rather more photogenic surroundings.

I spent the day split between mowing and desk work. I started work in conservation many years ago, at that time if you managed a nature reserve a desk was considered a decidedly optional extra. The day ended with a trip out on the water to visit the Gull Island to ring some black-headed gull chicks. We have been putting colour-rings on a sample each year for a number of seasons now. This evening we ringed 24 birds in about 45 minutes on the island. The trips need to be carefully planned for days that are not too windy, cool or damp and each visit needs to be short so as not to expose the nests to risk of cooling too much. The results of previous years have seen the chicks heading off, mainly south and west, sometimes very quickly, one made it to Somerset within two weeks and it could not even fly when it was ringed! Others have gone to the Newport Wetlands Centre in Wales, Nimmo’s Pier in Galway, Ireland and across the channel to France.

As I was transporting the boat to get us out to the island I noticed a groups of bee orchid, so on the way back I stopped to look at them. Although there were only about fifteen of them there was a great variation in the flowers.

bee orchid 2

A fairly typical bee orchid flower

bee orchid 3

A slightly oddly shaped flower

bee orchid 1

Paler and more elongate

bee orchid 4

With very pale flowers

bee orchid 5

The best marked and brightest one

An extraordinary variation in a small population, even for a variable species.

What’s in My Meadow Today? 

I have quiet a few cowslip in the meadow and they flowered well this spring and they will shortly be seeding, so I will probably have a good few more in the next few years. It is easy enough to plant things into a created meadow, what is probably the best test is which species establish and then start to set their own seedlings.

cowslip seedhead

cowslip seedhead

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Flowers, Ferns and Furry Nibblers

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoldeneye 3, black-tailed godwit 1, common sandpiper 1, peregrine 2. Ivy Lakereed warbler 3+, Cetti’s Warbler 1.

A very quiet day for birds and wildlife in general. The volunteers were in and made a number of small nesting rafts and dug a trench line. Hopefully we will be putting out the tern nesting rafts next week, assuming I have got the outboard motor back by then.

After getting off to a storming start the progress of spring has resumed a more sedate pace. The blackthorn blossom is just over and the very first few hawthorn flowers are starting to show, but the main flowering will not be for a little while yet, so the may should still be out in May. Also out now is Blashford’s pear tree, it has plenty of bloom, but unless there are good numbers of bees active there will not be much fruit.

pear blossom

In the Millennium Meadow the “cowslips” are flowering well, I put the inverted commas around them as many are of rather dubious origin. Several are very large-flowered, or orange and sometimes even red, this picture shows a few wild type ones next to a clump of larger flowered stems.

cowslips

In the foreground is a stem with the flower head bitten off, very probably by a deer as the meadow is now fenced to keep rabbits out. Elsewhere rabbits are the main grazers nibbling off lots of plants at ground level. This year is likely to be a good one for rabbits as they started breeding very early, many young were born in January and have been independent for several weeks now so will soon be breeding themselves.

Blashford bunny

Deer and especially the increasing numbers of fallow deer have a significant impact upon the reserve, especially their grazing of young trees and coppice stools. One way to reduce this is to pollard the trees so the growing shoots are high up and out of reach of the browsing deer, or at least out of easy reach.

willow pollards with remaining cut rods stacked below

The pollarded stems are now starting to grow vigorously and should produce a good crop of stem suitable for weaving and basketry, although there was rather little take up for the material this year, which was a disappointment.

When I went to lock up the hides I noticed that lots of ferns are starting to unfurl, at this stage of growth they form wonderful shapes and so not seem to suffer from the attentions of either deer or rabbits to any significant degree.

fern unfurling into a very fancy crozier

Others look more like furry snail shells.

ferns unfurling