Moths and Birds and no Snowberry

Despite the autumnal weather the moth trap continues to catch a reasonable range of species, Friday’s catch included two of the bigger wainscots, the large wainscot,

large wainscot

large wainscot

and the bulrush wainscot.

Bulrush wainscot 2

bulrush wainscot

Neither of them particularly colourful species, unlike the frosted orange.

frosted orange

frosted orange

I know I have already posted this species a few times, but they are very fine and this one was very fresh. Autumn moths tend to be either bright yellow, orange or very dull indeed and the deep brown dart is certainly at the dull end, at least in terms of colour.

deep brown dart

deep brown dart

Despite the extremely dull weather today there were some birds to see, the ruff remains on Ibsley Water and there were also 2 green sandpiper and a common sandpiper there too. A sign of the changing season is the slowly increasing number of wigeon, I saw at least 25 today, but there were also something over 75 hirundines, mostly swallow but also a number of house martin and even a few sand martin.

Recently the Goosander hide has been attracting  allot of photographers trying to get shots of a fairly cooperative kingfisher. It also seems to be good for quiet a few other species too. I was especially pleased to see  the trees that we leaned into the lake there being well used as perches by a range of species, including today, Walter, our returning great white egret.

Walter

Walter, our returning great white egret, you can just make out some of his rings.

The perches near the Goosander hide are being used by lots of birds, the rails I put up  a few years ago were very popular with cormorant today.

cormorants

A “drying-off” of cormorant.

Large numbers of cormorant have been mass fishing in Ibsley Water recently, something they only do when there are very large shoals of fish, of just the right size, on offer. This year there seem to be large numbers of perch and rudd to be caught, to judge from the many pictures we have been sent of cormorant with fish recently.

These same rails are also popular with gulls and I saw three different yellow-legged gull on there this afternoon, including this first winter bird.

Yellow-legged gull 1st W

Yellow-egged gull, in first winter plumage (or if you prefer 1st cy)

It was the first Sunday of the month and despite unpromising weather four volunteers turned out for a task this morning. For several years I have been meaning to get around to removing a patch of snowberry near the Ivy North hide, it has not spread very far but is a garden plant that really should not be in a semi-natural woodland. Finally today we got rid of it, or at least of as much of it as we could dig up, next spring we will see how much we missed!

I will end with a sure sign of autumn, a fungus, the reserve has  a lot of fungi just now, I really struggle to identify them, but I think I know what this is, until someone puts me right, a fly agaric – this one complete with flies.

Fungus Gnat Agaric

fungus gnat agaric

 

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Recent Reports and a Trip North

The last week has been very busy at Blashford Lakes, lots of work getting done around Ibsley Water, up the road at Linwood as well as several large education groups.

On the wildlife front the birds have been rather few, although reports of a brambling at the Woodland hide were interesting as I don’t think we have had one at the feeders in October before, perhaps we are in for  a “Finch Winter”. On this note there have been large flocks of siskin about with 70 or more around the Centre this week. On a slightly more mundane note 3 house sparrow by the Tern hide on Thursday were unusual as was a red-legged partridge there on Friday.

The wildlife highlight of the week, without doubt, has been the many sighting of otter in Ibsley Water, mainly from the Goosander hide, but also from Tern hide and from the descriptions it would have been visible from Lapwing hide several times too. There are pictures, but I don’t have any of them at present.

On Friday Ed and I had a trip north, well up to Winchester at least. WE went to look at the trust’s excellent Winnall Moors reserve and look at the grazing management for breeding waders and other species. It also enabled us to catch up with a little piece of Blashford.

The entrance to Winnall Moors made from a fallen Blashford oak.

The entrance to Winnall Moors made from a fallen Blashford oak.

The reserve is grazed by part of the herd of British White cattle that the Trust now uses to manage much of the grazing on our reserves. They do a wonderful job of grazing and browsing, produce very good beef and are easy to find, thanks to their white colour.

British White cattle on Winnall Moors

British White cattle on Winnall Moors

It was a beautiful, misty morning and as the mist burnt off it left droplets handing on every bit of vegetation and cobweb. Winnall Moors is a wetland site with many channels and lots of sluices that control the flow of water around the reserve.

Sluice at Winnall Moors

Sluice at Winnall Moors

As we walked round we were looking at how it might be possible to improve the habitat for nesting waders, such as lapwing and redshank. I suspect redshank may be gone for the foreseeable future as their fortunes, especially inland do not look good. Lapwing might be tempted back, but they often nest on spring ploughed arable land and to specially manage the herb rich wet grasslands at Winnall might result in more being lost than gained, so as with much land management balancing different interests will make for difficult decisions.

The afternoon saw us back at Blashford and making plans for more work on Ibsley Water, hopefully we will cut the main nesting island next week to stop trees and brambles growing on it and maybe prepare an extra area for terns to nest next year.

All in all a very fine autumn day, and as though to emphasise the season, I found this very smart fly agaric.

fly agaric

fly agaric

Season of Mist and a Feeder Frenzy

The harsh sting of autumn, with forebodings of  winter, struck home this morning as I  scraped the frost from the car windscreen before setting off to get here. Such conditions can, however, have their compensations, imbuing  even some of the most familiar views with a  magical mystique as here, where the mist seems to be boiling off the lake.

Misty view over Ivy Lake

It also makes plain some of the activity of often overlooked wildlife with the drapery of icy droplets on  this spider’s web.

Spider’s web outside Ivy South Hide.

It’s also the season for fungi in abundance and we are not under-endowed here at Blashford,  just don’t ask me to name them all,. Here are a few that I’m prepared to stick my neck out on their names,  seen as we opened up the hides this morning.

Candle Snuff fungus

Lycoperdon species – I think

Fly Agaric

This last one is so distinctive as to be unmistakable, a much-loved fungus by the illustrators of children’s books.   These particular fungi do, however, have other connotations. Their common name refers to  use as an insecticide  to poison flies.   They grow in close association with birches and are, therefore, very common in the dense birch forests of northern Scandinavia.   The toxin, which is  presumably the agent that kills flies, is,  in small amounts, a psychoactive agent causing hallucinations (so I’m told!).  One version of  folklore (other versions are available) suggests that in the long dark and boring nights above the Arctic circle the fly agaric would be introduced into the food for the domesticated reindeer (they normally eat lichen and fungi anyway).  Drinking the fluid that the reindeer excreted would deliver a ‘safe’, diluted  dose of the toxin and give the drinker a ‘high’ including feelings of being able to fly.  So if we mix all these factors together, something ( someone!)  red and white , reindeer and flying, in a land near the North Pole gives us —-well I’ll let you think it through, answers by Christmas.

The colder weather has increased the amount of bird activity around the feeders, especially the one close to the Centre. I mentioned, in Thursday’s posting, that we were in the process of adding some more feeders.   At the time we lacked the necessary low tensile wire on which to hang the feeders, but that has now been supplied, thanks to one of our volunteers, Rex, who, with Pete, put up the posts on Thursday. The result looks a lot like this :-

New feeding station by edge of Centre car park

Only two feeders at present, we’ll probably add more as the season progresses and the number of birds increases. Gratifyingly within a couple of hours there were several birds making use of the new facility, including a robin and this great tit.

Great tit investigating the new feeder

Even more satisfyingly, for the present at least, an inquisitive grey squirrel made an exploratory foray to try to get at the seeds, but failed.

In anticipation of a busy winter we used the opportunity of the warm sunshine to set-to and clean about a dozen feeders that had been put away over the summer, but which needed cleaning before being used again.  At the moment the usual collection of tits including a couple of very smart coal tits, together with nuthatch, greenfinch and a selection of siskin, goldfinch and the occasional redpoll with, I’m assured by at least two visitors, a brambling have been our guests at the  feeders.

Although cold overnight, this hasn’t deterred a few insects from strutting their stuff.  A slightly disappointing collection of only four moths in the light trap,  but two of these were rather smart Angle Shades

Angle Shades – one of only four moths in the light trap

Of the other insects, a pair of Southern Hawker dragonflies were seen by some visitors, but for me this  Common Darter seems epitomise the innate optimism of an evolutionary process that pushes to the boundary the idea of a sensible time to shift from a growing phase  to a  reproductive stage in what is the fag-end of the warm season.

Common Darter – resting up whilst its wings harden

Our attention was drawn to this insect  by the brightly glistening wings, which I’ve always taken as a sign that it’s not long emerged. There is also a definite red colour to the veins in the wings, but I don’t think it’s a Red-veined Darter –or is it??

Closing down tonight was a delight. The last duty is to close the Tern Hide and we spent about 20 minutes enjoying good views of the, mostly, Black-backed gulls coming to roost, a number of waterfowl  including good numbers of coot, tufted duck, shoveler, a few wigeon and teal and a single female goosander,  shades of things to come.  A buzzard, sitting on the recently cleared peninsular to the right of the hide, mysteriously disappeared when we took our eyes off it for a few seconds, but a couple of Egyptian geese hauled themselves out in much the same area that the buzzard had been. Could they have frightened him off????

Count

Bird News: Ibsley Watergreen sandpiper 2, dunlin 1, black-necked grebe 1, goldeneye 9, goosander 41, yellow-legged gull 7, chiffchaff 2. Mockbeggar Lakegreat white egret 1, little egret 33. Ivy Lakewater rail 2, chiffchaff 2.

We did our monthly waterbird count today, conditions were pretty good as I started my part of the count just after first light at the Lapwing hide. The black-necked grebe was showing well and I saw the last few goosander as they left the roost, but I knew I would count them at the end of the day as they returned. Ibsley Water is very busy at present, with birds more or less right across the whole Lake in good numbers. Most numerous are coot, I counted 975 out of a total across all the lakes of 1904. The most “important” species at Blashford is the gadwall, today there were 570, just short of the 600 that constitutes 1% of the NW European population.

There was no sign of the bittern today, but a total of 4 chiffchaff were of interest, it was only recently that they turned up for the winter. One of these was in a favourite spot just outside the Lapwing hide where I surprised a cock pheasant which flew up into a thin willow sapling.

cock pheasant

The birds were not the only things of interest though, I saw one butterfly, a red admiral, I think there would have been more if the sun had ever come out. However it was the fungi that were the most impressive, lots have appeared all over the reserve and beyond.

fly agaric

Towards dusk I went to the Goosander hide to count the roost, 41 goosander flew in and the gull roost included at least 7000 lesser black-backed gull, 2200 black-headed gull and at least 7 yellow-legged gull.

dusk over Ibsley Water

Goldeneyes and Agarics

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoldeneye 6, curlew 1. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1.

The six goldeneye I saw from the Tern hide as I opened up were a sign of a continuing, if slow, arrival of wildfowl. They looked like four drakes and two ducks, there has been a young duck and a young drake for a while but I think the others have come in over the last two days. The second duck seems to be an adult but the others are probably all youngsters. Otherwise it was a fairly quick dash round to open up before heading off to today’s meeting. I did hear a Cetti’s warbler singing at the Ivy North hide, I am still not sure if the same bird is also in the reeds in the Ivy silt pond, so there could be two around.

View from the Tern hide.

The recent damp weather, combined with very mild temperatures have resulted in a flush of fungi.

Fly Agarics

This group of fly agarics have been quite heavily munched, presumably by slugs and snails. These are very poisonous fungi with strong effects on the nervous system. As such they have been used by traditional societies to induce the altered states associated with Shamanism. Presumably slugs are unaffected, if not one can only struggle to imagine what they experience.

Lycoperdon perlatum

There are also several new groups of a type of stemmed puff-ball fungus, I think it is Lycoperdon perlatum the round body of the fungus is covered with a forest of tiny spikes. These are usually common from early autumn, but this year was so dry that we have not seen that many.