Oh Deer!

I was doing a waterbird count today, but despite this my main memory of the day was of deer, they seemed to be everywhere. On my way to open Ivy North hide a muntjac sauntered across the path in front of me, strictly they are Reeve’s muntjac and were introduced to the UK from the Far East. They are now widespread across much of England aided by being able to breed at as early as seven months! The muntjac was to quick for me to get a picture, or rather I was too slow to get the camera ready. A few metres further on a roe buck was on the lichen heath, but he headed off at speed. However by the Woodland hide there were two young roe and they wandered slowly to the side of the path before stopping to look back at me.

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roe deer near Woodland Hide

On my way to Lapwing hide I disturbed a groups of fallow deer, these are less desirable as they go round in large groups and can do a lot of damage to our coppice and even pollards, as they will stand up on their hind legs to reach growth as high as 1.8m. This group of fallow is a real mixed bunch with typical spotted ones, white, beige and even black individuals.

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fallow, just beside the path “hiding”

I did count the wildfowl, but I have to say numbers are pretty poor this winter, well below the five year average for almost all species apart from pochard. I found at least 21 goldeneye, but this included only four adult drakes and I know there were six earlier on, so perhaps I missed some, or they have already moved on. Other birds of note were 2 water pipit and two great white egret or just possibly one twice.

The only other thing that really caught my eye was a group of fungi, so far I have failed to get close to a name, so if you have any ideas I would be glad to hear from you.

fungus

unknown fungus

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Another Year

What a great start to the New Year, a beautiful morning and the reserve was busy with visitors and birds for them to see. So busy in fact that the Pop-up cafe ran out of cake! This may also be because word is getting around that the cakes are exceedingly fine so people get in early, they will be back next Sunday though, so all is not lost.

A New Year means a new “list” not that I ever manage to keep one going to year’s end, but a good start for me at least, with 78 species recorded, 75 of them at Blashford.

Ibsley Water featured at least two (although I think there must be more) water pipit, seen from all three hides during the day, the black-necked grebe, typically near the north-western shore, a fly-over by the dark-bellied brent goose (rare at Blashford), a marsh harrier, green sandpiper and all the usual wildfowl. In the afternoon the Caspian gull was in the roost along with about 10 yellow-legged gull.

Meanwhile Ivy Lake had the bittern on view on and off for much of the day at Ivy North hide along with a supporting caste of Cetti’s warbler, chiffchaff and water rail, joined later by first one and then two great white egret which stayed to roost with the cormorants.

At Woodland hide the regular woodland birds have now been joined by a few reed bunting, but there is no sign as yet of any redpoll or brambling, but it is early days. More widely around the reserve a firecrest was at the road crossing to Goosander hide and several more chiffchaff were in the reeds and willows on the walk to Lapwing hide, where there was a reed bunting giving brief snatches of song, they usually don=t start until well into the spring.

Despite recording 75 species on the reserve, I never saw a greenfinch! and there were a few other species missing that are generally not that difficult to see.

I saw just four mammal species (not counting humans) all day and two of those were non-natives, grey squirrel, fallow deer, roe deer and a wood mouse, live-trapped in the loft. Meanwhile the year’s moth list got off to a roaring start with a single mottled umber, although by convention moths are recorded as being on the previous day as most fly just after dusk, so this is when they are attracted to the light.

mottled umber

a very well marked mottled umber

 

Caught on Camera

It has been a busy week at Blashford Lakes with volunteer work parties on four days, despite unpromising weather we actually got a lot done. On Sunday we repaired some damaged sections of the boardwalk, Tuesday saw us felling some non-native grey alder trees, Thursday’s task was scrub clearance to increase habitat connectivity for reptiles and today we were clearing the shore of Ibsley Water to improve habitat for nesting lapwing next spring.

About ten days ago the apprentices put out a trailcam and today we got it in to look at the images. There were not a great many but the range of species captured was impressive. There was one shot of a passing fox, several of fallow deer and grey squirrel. Bird were fewer with one shot each of blackbird and blue tit, but several of tawny owl and on more than one night too. The picture quality was not great but the owl was landing in front of the camera, possibly to take small invertebrate prey.

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tawny owl caught on trailcam

Throughout the week I have been checking the roosting great white egret on Ivy Lake when I go to lock up the hides, I suspect there are as many as five around but still have yet to see more than four together, this evening there were three.

The rain today caused the Dockens Water to flood into Ivy Lake and it is now filling at last, hopefully the reedbed in front of Ivy North hide will have enough water for the bittern to favour this area soon, one was seen from there on Wednesday.

A feature of this winter is the unusual number of pochard on the lakes, or at least unusual for recent years. This morning there were 109 on Ivy Lake and at dusk at least 150. It appears that they gather on Ivy Lake in the late afternoon before flying off at dusk in groups of ten to twenty, probably to feed. At the same time the tufted duck, which used to roost on Ivy Lake also leave, I am not sure where they go but I did notice a lot fly in just as it got dark when I was counting the goosander from Goosander hide on Tuesday, I suspect they go to roost there rather than to feed. Walking back from Ivy South hide after locking up usually happens more or less in the dark at this time of year and a feature has been the squeaking calls of mandarin duck gathered on the silt pond, in the gloom I have just been able to make out as many as ten drakes displaying on some evenings.

The black-necked grebe has been seen daily on Ibsley Water as has at least one water pipit and green sandpiper. The grebe has been favouring the western shore to the north of the low islands, the water pipit and sandpiper the shore near Tern and Goosander hides. However for many visitors it has not been the rarer bird that have attracted to interest but the starling roost. The numbers are not exceptionally large but they can put on quiet a good show looking west into the last light of the setting sun. this evening they were especially spectacular, climbing high into the air in an effort to avoid a hunting peregrine.

Starlings 1

Starling murmuration starting to form over the trees west of Tern hide

Starlings 2

The gathering twisting to avoid a peregrine, there is a small group coming int to join them towards the top left.

Starlings 3

Some of the flock trying to funnel down into the roost site

Starlings 4

The peregrine was keeping the main flock high in the air but the draw of the roost was strong and they were falling down in a column whenever they could risk it.

Starlings 5

One group broke away in an exceptionally tight ball of birds and just dropped like a stone from the spiralling flock.

The starlings had all gone to roost by about 16:15, so if you want to give them a try I would try to arrive by 16:00 at the latest, viewing is good from the high point at the back of the main car park and possible, but sometimes less easy, from the Tern hide.

Goosander Hide Highlights

The Goosander hide has been attracting people from far and wide recently, especially photographers in search of that illusive kingfisher shot. However, as is often the way, the kingfisher does not always play along, luckily it is not only a place to get kingfisher shots and we have been send a selection of great images taken from there recently by Mark Wright, here are a few of them.

There have been lots of herons around recently and they do not always get on well.

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Grey herons having a disagreement by Mark Wright

Of course not all herons are grey.

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“Walter” the great white egret by Mark Wright

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Little and Large, “Walter” with a smaller companion by Mark Wright

Since my observation of Walter taking a fish from in front of a cormorant he seems to have developed a limp, it could be the cormorant had a go at him as they can be quite aggressive. Hopefully he will recover  soon and continue on.

Not all the birds are large, there have been a number of grey wagtail close to the hide recently.

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Juvenile grey wagtail by Mark Wright

And not all the wildlife there is birds.

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Fallow deer doe by Mark Wright

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young fox by Mark Wright

Then of course there are always the occasional opportunities to get shots of kingfisher as well.

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Kingfisher by Mark Wright

Many thanks to Mark for sending us such a great series of shots.

Oh Deer!

Recently we have been donated some fallen apples and I have been putting them out at the Woodland hide, where they often disappear within a couple of days. It is obvious that they are not being eaten by birds, but what is eating them? There is a badger sett nearby, so perhaps they like apples, the way to answer this was to deploy a trailcam, so I did. Here are some of the results:

fallow eating apple

Fallow deer eating apples

But it was not just fallow deer,

roe and fawn by day

Roe deer with fawn

It also turned out they were coming at all hours.

roe and fawn at night 2

Roe deer, doe and fawn visiting after dark.

At least one of the fallow had a fawn accompanying it, so the love of apples is getting passed on down the generations. Fallow deer have a single fawn, but roe almost invariably have twins, the doe visiting the apples had only one, so I suspect something had happened to the other twin. Both deer species will rut in the autumn and have their fawns in the spring so you might think that both species have a similar gestation period. In fact roe deer, being much smaller have a shorter gestation, but rather than having their fawns in the winter egg implantation is delayed to make sure they are born in the better spring conditions.

30 Days Wild – Day 26: In the Woods

A day of meetings for me today, but at least one of them was in a woodland on a small reserve where we are looking at some works to rejuvenate a mire that is getting shaded out by willow, birch and pine. The area has a lot of fallow deer and although we saw only a couple of adults we found two fawns lying up in the bracken.

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fallow fawn

There were a few butterflies out including meadow brown and ringlet, but it was reptiles that stole the day. We saw a very large female grass snake and as we were leaving a fine male adder.

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adder

I had to wait until I got home to see my other highlight of the day, when I checked the moth trap it contained a small elephant hawk-moth, one of my favourite species.

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small elephant hawk-moth

 

Wellies recommended for gull watching…

The Franklin’s gull continues to roost on Ibsley Water and continues to attract a steady stream of visitors keen to spot it amongst the thousands of other gulls – no mean feat in the gloomy evening light of the last few days. As I write this blog entry more hardy (optimistic?) enthusiasts are braving the weather for their own glimpse of this rare North American vagrant – many are no doubt also hoping for a view of the grey phalarope that turned up unexpectedly and gave good views for much of the day yesterday, but, as far as I am aware it has not been reported today and the driving rain of this afternoon and lumpy, choppy waters of this morning will not have made sighting such a small bird easy even if it was still present!

The heavy rain of this afternoon, on top of the wet weather earlier in the week, has unfortunately overcome the soak-aways in the main reserve car park and therefore if you are planning a visit tomorrow be aware that wellington boots maybe required if the levels do not subside over-night:

Wellies required!

Wellies required!

Having said that I think the level had already dropped when I took this photograph compared to the reports from visitors earlier in the day which had led me to investigate conditions in the first place. It was nice to see that the regular winter roost of greenfinch is back in the poplar and cherry laurels opposite the entrance to the car park:

Greenfinch roost

Greenfinch roost

In other bird news, the great white egret, still occasionally seen on Ibsley Water, seems to have decamped onto Mockbeggar Lake, water rail and at least one bittern are still being seen at Ivy North Hide and kingfisher are still attracting plenty of attention across the site!

I’ll finish with a selection of fine photographs e-mailed in to us (blashfordlakes@hiwwt.org.uk) over the last few days. As you might expect, the selection includes more kingfishers! Some submitters were even embarrassed to be sending “yet more” kingfisher images in, but let’s face it, they are a lovely bird and not always so easy to see or photograph!

Kingfisher by Andy Copleston

Kingfisher by Andy Copleston

Great crested grebe by David Cuddon

Great crested grebe by David Cuddon

Kingfisher by Andy Britland

Kingfisher by Andy Britland

Kingfisher by Andy Copleston

Kingfisher by Andy Copleston

Kingfisher by Russ Tofts

Kingfisher by Russ Tofts

Fallow-Deer by David Cuddon

Fallow deer by David Cuddon

Water Rail by Andy Britland

Water rail by Andy Britland

 

A Ton of Goosander (almost)

Bird News: Ibsley WaterBewick’s swan 5, pintail 17+, black-tailed godwit 1, shelduck 1, yellow-legged gull c10, ruddy duck 1, goosander 98. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1, bittern 1. Woodlandbrambling 1.

I arrived just early enough to see the Bewick’s swans before they left their roost on Ibsley Water, they must be the same as I saw ten days or so ago despite some “differences”. When I first saw them it was coming into roost and I thought they were four adults and one juvenile, however today it was obvious that there were two juveniles. My error had been pointed out by John Levell who had seen them in the Avon Valley, to make my excuse it had been pretty close to being dark when I saw them. Perhaps as significant was that the two juveniles are of quiet different shades, one much paler than the other. That fact and the behaviour of the group suggests to me that the group are a pair with one juvenile and a single parent with the other. Later in the day I was briefly at Harbridge and I could see them up the valley, north of the “usual” field, but still visible form the bridge. Also on Ibsley water first thing was a single black-tailed godwit, at least 17 pintail, a drake shelduck (sheldrake), an adult yellow-legged gull and the now regular drake ruddy duck.

At the Woodland hide I heard, but could not see, a brambling in the tree tops. Later I paid a quick visit in daylight, a rare treat, and there were several siskin and lesser redpoll. At the Ivy North I had a good view of the Cetti’s warbler and heard reports of the bittern having been seen flying over to the right of the hide. For whatever reason there have been a lot of sightings of bittern flying this year, I hardly remember more than a handful over the last few years.

lesser redpoll on feeder

Towards the end of the day I decided to make the most of the conditions and get a count of the goosander roost and perhaps get a few gull ring numbers into the bargain. The gulls did not play ball and apart from about 10 yellow-legged gulls of various ages and 3 common gull there was not much to report. The goosander did not disappoint though, by the time it got too dark to see I had counted at least 98 into the roost, I am pretty sure there were actually 100, but there was quite a bit of movement at the time and I could not be sure how many had flown in. Still a good count as it is still quite early in the season and we are still to have any proper cold weather.

The view from the Goosander hide was not only of roosting birds however, north of the hide along the bank, as dusk fell, the fallow deer emerged. There were two bucks, neither yet in their prime, a normally coloured one and the white one. There was also a very pale sandy coloured pricket and three or more does.

I see the new blog has now passed fifty followers, many thanks to all those who came over from the old one and a warm welcome to any of you who are newcomers.