From Lakes to Lake

Last Sunday I spent the day at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s new reserve at Fishlake Meadows on the edge of Romsey. The reserve is so new that we don’t yet have a reserves officer in post, but it is good to have some presence on site, so for the day I got to swap Blashford Lakes for Fishlake.

The site is around 60ha of abandoned farmland that has flooded to produce a mosaic of open water, reedbed and fen, wonderful habitat for a wide range of species. At present views across the site are limited by rapidly colonising willow and bramble, but tantalising glimpses can be had across the area from the old barge canal that runs north from the town.

The day was much finer than had been forecast and instead of dodging showers I got to enjoy a huge range of insects enjoying the flowery fen vegetation. One species that I was very pleased to see was the yellow loosestrife bee. This species is dependent upon the yellow loosestrife, not for nectar or even for pollen, but for its oil. Why would a bee need oil? That is the really clever part of the story, the bees collect the oil from the flowers on special hairs on their legs and use it to waterproof their nest chambers. This allows them to make their nests in areas that are prone to flooding, so they can nest close to the flower rich fen rather than having to nest elsewhere and waste energy flying in.

yellow loostrife bee

Yellow loosestrife bee, nectaring on creeping thistle.

The huge number of flowers attract lots of different bees and I saw many species, although identifying them is a bit of a challenge. I think this one is a patchwork leafcutter bee, but I could be wrong, also nectaring on a thistle, this time a spear thistle.

patchwork leafcutter bee female

Patchwork leafcutter bee

I also saw lot of wasps, these are even more of a challenge to identify and I have not even tried with this one.

parasitic wasp

parasitic wasp

There was an osprey on site when I was there but I managed very skilfully to miss it entirely.

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A Leech You Would Not Want to Meet

A much better day at Blashford today, with no more than the lightest of rain for a few minutes and a fair bit of warm sunshine. I made the most of the conditions and got outside for part of the day. As ever being out does rather increase the chances of seeing interesting things and when I was over at the Tern hide I saw a very smart adult female honey buzzard, it was flying steadily westwards over the lake being chased by 2 common tern. I was looking at the potential route of the new path that will connect the main car park with the Goosander and Lapwing hides, a development that we hope to put in place in time for the coming winter.

I went round the path as far as the Lapwing hide to check for any trees or branches down as I never made it there yesterday. There were none but close to the Lapwing hide the show of hemp agrimony and fleabane is superb and attracting lots of insects.

fleabane and hemp agrimony

fleabane and hemp agrimony

There were several species of butterflies, including very fresh speckled wood.

speckled wood

speckled wood

And green-veined and small white.

small white

small white

Walking back I could hear several Roesel’s bush-cricket, although I find they are no where near so loud as once they were, a sign of advancing age I’m sorry to say, but at least I can still hear  them. I eventually found one rather worn male of the long-winged form.

Roesel's bush-cricket

Roesel’s bush-cricket

I took a look at some of the temporary ponds we made a few years ago and was delighted to see that where they were once infested with the invasive plant Crassula helmsii  this has now all but disappeared. I also found a lesser marsh grasshopper on the bare ground in one of the pools.

lesser marsh grasshopper

lesser marsh grasshopper

I then returned to my office work, but the interesting wildlife did not end there. Blashford was hosting a “Wild Day Out” today and this included pond-dipping during which one of the children caught  a largish leech.

leech

leech

Looking closely we could see that it seemed to have a “hairy” underside.

leech with "hairy" tummy!

leech with “hairy” tummy!

In fact these were tiny little leeches, the offspring of this adult leech. Now I confess that leech identification is well outside my usual area but I think it might be Protoclepsis tesselata which is a leech that lives in the nasal passages of wildfowl, surely an unpleasant lifestyle even for a leech!

Thistle Do(wn)

Hi(low)light of the day was an injured young greylag goose which some visitors saw being hit by a car on Ellingham Drove. Fortunately they  managed to catch it and bring in to the centre. We don’t have facilities or expertise to deal with injured wildlife, but there is a gentleman living close by who is able and prepared to give his time to rescuing wildlife and was willing to look after this bird.

At this time of year the initial frenzy of bird breeding activity has largely abated, many adults will no longer be holding breeding territories and are not so vocal. As they start to moult their plumage they will be less nimble and need to keep under cover, away from predators and birdwatchers.  A larger number of the waterfowl are now spending time simply loafing about on the lakes. For instance some 400 coot have been counted on Ibsley water.  I was asked to count them today, but unfortunately didn’t have a telescope with me.  Some birds, though, are easier to see as were the little egret and grey heron.

Little egret - note the yellow foot

Little egret – note the yellow foot

 

Grey heron

Grey heron

More a time for insect and wildflower interest at the moment. Trolling up to the seasonal path to check on the ponies we have grazing the reserve,  I noticed a profusion of pink, yellow and purple from hemp agrimony, fleabane and a mixture of spear thistles  and creeping thistles.

Hemp agrimony

Hemp agrimony

The flowers look sort of ‘washed out’ from the side view, but are magnificently intricate and olourful from above

Top view of hemp agrimony flower

Top view of hemp agrimony flower

Fleabane flowers are, perhaps,  one of the the richest yellow colours on the reserve,

Fleabane

Fleabane

especially where they occur in large clumps,

P1520842

whilst the delightful purple shades of  spear thistle are a welcome attractant to many insects.

hoverfly (Volucella inanis?) on spear thistle

hoverfly (Volucella inanis?) on spear thistle

even without accompanying insects the plants are a captivating structurally

spear thistle

spear thistle

although an awful lot of the creeping thistle have now set wonderfully fluffy seed heads

creeping thistle seed heads

creeping thistle seed heads

When I took this shot I was unaware of the small tortoiseshell – a sort of bonus really.

As I hinted above, there are plenty of insects around, but the heat is keeping most of them fairly active – so tricky to photograph, but I was quite pleased with this shot of a common blue damselfly.

common blue damselfly perched on a nettle leaf

common blue damselfly perched on a nettle leaf

The light trap is now in more regular use, following a period when a bird (robin I believe) was using it as a larder.  Pick of today’s ‘catch’ were this almost butterfly like moth, a  large emerald.

Large emerald

Large emerald

not to be outdone by an impressive garden tiger moth,

garden tiger moth

garden tiger moth

and an equally impressive tanner beetle.

tanner beetle

tanner beetle