Birds, Birds, Birds

Blashford Lakes are a great place to see lots of birds. Both Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake have large numbers of duck at present with each often having over one thousand wigeon on most days recently.


drake wigeon

There are also hundreds of pintail on Ibsley Water, they have been attracted up the Avon Valley along with a lot of the wigeon due to the flooding of the fields. These ducks tend to spend the day resting on the open water, only going out to feed in the valley after dark. By contrast most of the gadwall will be found feeding on the lakes during the day, with fewer flying out at dusk.


drake gadwall

Ivy Lake is home to a large cormorant roost, these fly in at dusk to perch high in the trees around the lake shore, so far this winter I have managed to count only about 150 birds, but this roost can get to over 200.

cormorant roost

cormorant roost

For really large numbers of birds the time to visit is just before dusk, if you stand on the viewpoint at the back of the Main Car Park, from where you can see several thousand gulls fly in to roost on the water and tens of thousands of starling. Last evening the starling roosted in two locations, most to the north of the lake, but several thousand also to the west.


Starling murmuration

The birds were making impressive shapes in the air as they were being chased by at least one peregrine and we also saw a marsh harrier fly past. We could also see goosander flying in to roost on the lake and as it got dark a load of cackling greylag flew in to spend the night on the water.

The reserve is not all about birds though and as I locked up in the morning there were three roe deer feeding in the reeds just beside Ivy North Hide.

roe deer

Roe deer in the reeds

If you are visiting, I can now report that the Main Car park is open as usual as the flooding has now receded.



Ducks, ducks, ducks

The recent drop in temperature has resulted in a considerable increase in duck numbers around the lakes. I did not have the chance to do complete counts but when I opened the Tern hide this morning I did a quick count of what I could see from there and got to at least 149 pintail and 208 shoveler. On Ivy Lake I saw at least 80 more shoveler and there will have been others elsewhere. There were also hundreds of wigeon on both lakes, no doubt moved here from further north where some waters will have frozen completely. There is a good chance that a lot will stay for a while as there is good feeding locally both on the lakes and out in the Avon valley now that it is partly flooded.shoveler

I was off site for most of the day, but from reports received it seems at least one bittern was seen from Ivy North hide, both the black-necked and Slavonian grebe were on Ibsley Water and in the afternoon the first winter Caspian gull, the ring-billed gull and a Mediterranean gull came into the roost there. The great white egret was also seen on Ivy Lake for a time, although had gone by the time I got there to lock up. I also heard a report that a ring ouzel had been seen with blackbirds feeding on the grass beside the road at Gorley Cross, just up the road from the reserve, something I did not get a chance to follow up before it got dark.


Today we had a “50 Bird Challenge” event at Blashford, essentially a short walk around part of the reserve with the objective of seeing 50 species of birds. We met up at the Tern hide at 10 o’clock and got off to a storming start with views of the ring-billed gull, perched on the osprey pole. We quickly added coot, wigeon, tufted duck, cormorant, shoveler, pintail, little grebe, great crested grebe, Slavonian grebe, Egyptian goose, lesser black-backed gull, mallard, goldeneye, greylag, herring gull, jackdaw and magpie. We then headed out of the hide and as we walked across to the southern part of the reserve we saw robin and dunnock in the brambles around the car park and along the path through the woods song thrush, blackbird, a group of goldfinch, we had a good view of a feeding female bullfinch and several goldcrest, a wren and a treecreeper. Before we had got to the Centre we had added woodpigeon, black-headed gull and chaffinch. By the side of the Centre car park there were blue tit and great tit. On the lichen heath we saw 2 crow and a mistle thrush. We looke din at the Ivy North hide and saw mute swan, but the bittern was not showing so we decided to return later. Heading on to the Woodland hide we saw, or rather “spotted” a great spotted woodpecker and several long-tailed tit, from the hide had excellent views of nuthatch, greenfinch, siskin, collared dove, brambling, lesser redpoll and coal tit. From Ivy South hide there were lots of waterfowl including good numbers of gadwall, pochard, teal and we saw a single green sandpiper distantly on the far bank.

Now on 49 species, we headed back to Ivy North in the hope of getting to fifty with a bittern, it had been seen but all we added was moorhen and a nice kingfisher en route at the silt pond. Returning to the main car park we finished off with the black-necked grebe on Ibsley Water and several lapwing on one of the islands. If I can add up correctly we ended with 53 species in just over our allotted two hours, a rather good variety of species and most of them seen rather well in good conditions.

The observant of you will notice a lot of “missing” species, we saw no birds of prey, nor starling, green woodpecker, wagtails or meadow pipit, to name but a few. One of the great pleasures of Blashford Lakes is the range of species and the often very good views to be had. We do sometimes get rarer birds, but it is still often the Woodland hide that provides the highlight of many visits, where it is the sheer number of common birds so close that binoculars are unnecessary that really impresses.