30 Days Wild – Day 1

It’s that time of year again and after a rather slack time for blogging I will try an pick up the baton again. Although we are moving close to Mid-summer’s Day, it actually still feels quiet spring-like, despite the weather having finally turned warmer. So I will start with bluebell, still in flower in lots of places at Blashford Lakes, although just starting to go over in places.

Bluebell

Ferns are a feature of the woods around the Centre, especially those self-sown on the old spoil heaps left by the gravel workings. Perhaps the least “ferny” is the hart’s tongue fern, which completely lacks the pinnatifid form that is normally associated with a fern

Hart’s tongue fern

Despite getting warmer the moth trapping remains very poor, but the trap does not only catch moths, one of last night’s non-moths was this rather cute looking brown lacewing, I am not sure of the species as they are rather difficult to identify in life.

Brown lacewing

Warm and dry conditions at this time of year can result in “snowfall” at Blashford, or at least that is what it can seem like, as the willow seed is shed in clouds and collects in drifts along the paths.

Seeding willow

Having said the moth trapping has been poor, I did catch one rarely seen species last night in my garden trap, a buttoned snout, not a lot to look at perhaps, but a new record for my garden. It had been though they were in steep decline, having been regularly found by earlier naturalists. However it seems our modern reliance on light traps for recording moths maybe to blame. They do not often come to light, so were considered scarce, but if you look for the caterpillars, as entomologists did before they had light traps, it turns out they are not so hard to find. How you look is important, especially if you want to infer change.

Buttoned snout

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