Lots and Lots of Birds

I was filling in at Blashford today, but it was a good day to be there with mostly good weather and lots of birds to see. It started misty, but was clearing as I opened up the hides. Outside the Ivy South hide there was  a very obliging female tufted duck diving around the fallen tree trunks just below the hide.

female tufted duck

female tufted duck

When I got back to the office there was a message to say that there was a long-tailed duck on Ibsley Water. I was planning to go up to the Lapwing hide in the morning anyway so this was an added incentive. The sun was breaking through and the day looked very promising, perhaps there would be late dragonflies as well as birds to see. After a little while attending to a few things I set out for the Lapwing hide, heading along the Dockens Water path the sun seemed a little less bright and as I headed north along the path from Ellingham Drove it was plain that the fog was rolling in, by the time I got to the Lapwing hide I could make out just a few hazy shapes on the nearest part of the lake, there was no chance of seeing a long-tailed duck somewhere in mid-lake. So I headed back towards the Centre, the reedbed area east of the Lapwing hide is looking very good and is already flooded again and is clearly home to several very noisy water rail. Looking across Mockbeggar Lake I saw the great white egret preening in a tree, I had seen it earlier in the tv screen in the Centre when it must have been on Ivy Lake, so I knew it was about today.

Eventually the fog cleared and the day became very pleasant, although not as sunny as it had briefly been, I never did see any dragonflies, but I did see a red admiral and at least one other was also seen. Later in the afternoon I went over to the Main Car Park where a moderate crowd was gathering in the hope of seeing the Franklin’s gull. The hide was soon packed and I decided to stand on the bank to the south of the car park from where there is a very good panoramic view of the lake and valley. I finally spotted the long-tailed duck, a rather drab looking juvenile bird, off to the west of the Tern hide, then I saw the black-necked grebe and 2 ruddy duck drakes. The gull roost was starting to build and news came through that the Franklin’s gull was near the Goosander hide and most of the gathering in the Tern hide decamped. I stayed on the bank and watched the gathering mass of starlings. At times they came right over our heads.

starlings

starlings

More usually they were over the trees near the A338, more distant but the swirling effect was more impressive, as the numbers increased the light dimmed and this was the best shot I could get of the main flock.

starling flock

starling flock

I estimated about 25000 birds were present, although the flock often split making more than a very rough estimate very difficult.

The Franklin’s gull eventually swam out of the bay and was also seen well from the bank and the Tern hide, so I think everyone was happy with the views they got. The day was rounded off with a tawny owl calling as I locked up the car park. By the end of the day I had recorded 73 species of birds, not at all bad for Blashford.

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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