30 Days Wild – Day 25!

The moth trap was surprisingly quite for such a muggy night, perhaps the recent poor weather means there are just not many moths flying. I posted a plume moth the other day and mentioned their odd wings, although the one I showed had wings folded, here is a white plume moth showing the wing structure.

white plume moth

A new moth for the year was a festoon, a moth of oak woods that is surprisingly scarce at Blashford.

festoon “moth on a stick”

After drizzle early the day brightened and the dragonflies came out, this male scarce chaser was by the Education Centre pond at lunchtime.

scarce chaser “dragonfly on a stick”

It was a day of odd jobs either in the office or out on the reserve and after a bit of path trimming and making a new Hampshire gate, I was off to Fishlake Meadows for the first time in a while. This is a fabulous site, a wetland that has established itself on former arable farmland when the pumps which kept it dry were turned off. Not only is it an amazing bit of habitat but it is more or less in the town of Romsey, or at least a short walk for most of the town’s residents. It has an osprey more or less resident for the summer, marsh harrier, hobby and red kite regularly flying over and warblers in abundance.

blackcap one of several “birds on sticks”

I saw juvenile warblers all over the place with blackcap, whitethroat, sedge and reed warbler and lots of Cetti’s warbler.

Cetti’s warbler juvenile

There has also been a pair of stonechat breeding this year and I found one of the juveniles preening in a small bush beside the path.

stonechat juvenile

The real joy of the place is the extensive shallow water and fen vegetation it has developed, this is what supports all the insects that in turn support many of the birds. Lots of teh marsh and fen plants have “frothy” flowers and none more so than meadow sweet.

meadow sweet

Running it pretty close though is meadow-rue, something of a specialist in more alkaline wet areas than the less fussy meadow sweet.

meadow-rue

Lots of flowers attract lost of insects and I found another chafer beetle, I think my third species of the #30DaysWild this year.

garden chafer

When I got home the sun was still out and I took a quick look in the garden mini-meadow and found a meadow brown, I like to think it was born and bred in our meadow, but even if it has flown in, it is making a home in our meadow.

meadow brown

Rather rarer in gardens, although not in ours as we have a colony close by, is silver-studded blue, this was the first in the garden this year and unlikely to have been reared here.

silver-studded blue

30 Days Wild – Day 26 – Seeking the Sleepy

A very hot day, which caused me some problems when trying to choose a task for the Tuesday volunteers. We have a lot of mowing to do at this time of year, but working for long periods in such hot sunshine is not safe or sensible. What we did was spend a short session clearing nettle and bramble regrowth from the western shore of Ibsley Water, but with five people working we still got a good bit done.

The aim of this work is to establish grassland along this shore and in particular along the earth bank put up to screen the gravel digging and later lake from the busy A338 Salisbury road. The difficult with such earth banks is that they are deep soils with lots of nutrients they grow great crops of nutrient hungry “weedy” species, so this bank was initially dominated by a huge growth of ragwort. We got on top of that and then the area became dominated by nettles with bramble. Repeated mowing can get on top of this and eventually grasses will replace them but it is hard work and ideally the cuttings are raked up and removed. In fact what we are doing is trying to establish a herb-rich grassland by removing nutrients, exactly the principle of hayfield management.

We stopped for an early lunch and then headed for some shade to put up some dormouse boxes. We had a report of an animal seen in a small willow a few weeks ago which sounded quiet good for this species, but which we have not certainly recorded on the reserve. So we have put out five boxes in a suitable area and see if we can confirm them as present. Dormice will sleep during the peak of the summer so I don’t expect we will get any signs of occupancy for at least several months, possibly even until next year.

When I was locking up I saw my first common tern chick attempting to fly, it ended in a splash-down in the lake but this is not normally a problem for them unless they have been very prematurely forced from the raft. Tern chicks swim well and we have refuges for them to climb out onto. Also on Ivy Lake it was interesting to see two new coot nests, it seems very late for them to be starting here, but this has been an odd season for coot. In the spring all the coot left, just when they would normally have been starting to nest and they only really returned around six weeks ago and then seemed only interested in feeding.

At home my moth trap had caught another small elephant hawk-moth, a pine hawk-moth, buff arches and 2 festoon.

What’s in My Meadow Today?

Although the grass is high one of the interesting elements to a hay meadow is that the mix herb species means that the structure is many layered. There are flowering plants with their head above the top of the grass stems, but also low down just a few centimetres above the ground level. One of the ground floor residents and a very good nectar source is selfheal, which is coming to the end of its flowering season now.

selfheal

selfheal

I confess I had never looked very closely at the flowers of this common plant before, so had never noticed the “spines” on the tops of the flowers. I do not know their purpose, but perhaps they are to encourage insects to use only the open “front door” to the flower, which is where they will pick up the pollen that the plants wants transporting to the next flower.

Not many of the  “30 Days” left now and day 27 will be spent in meeting, so wildlife might be in short supply!