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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Popping up

There was a proper wintery feel to things at Blashford today, a cool north-westerly breeze and bright sunshine. Working with the volunteers near the main car park we had to keep moving to stay warm. The sunshine brought out good numbers of visitors and most of them seemed to make use of the “Pop-up Café” which was set up in the Centre for the first time today (I had a slice of apple cake which was delicious). The café will be back throughout the winter on the first and third Sunday of each month, so look out for it if you visit the reserve.

After working with the morning I was told that Walter, our regular great white egret, had a companion pop in to join him. The second bird does not carry rings but they seemed to be associating all day and went to roost together at dusk. A good few years ago there were also two present but then they were almost never seen together.

During the afternoon I got out on the reserve for a bit and there are still lots of fungi around.

fungus-tuft

Sulphur tuft, on logs near the Woodland hide.

fungi-1

Honey fungus n a dead birch near the Ivy South hide.

little-fungus

A small, unidentified fungus near the Woodland hide.

The weather went downhill a little in the afternoon and by the time it got dark it was raining, but before that there were occasional patches of very contrasting light and dark, which made for quite attractive scenes.

ivy-lake-from-south-hide

Ivy lake, with cormorant roost tree.

Other sightings today included 2 drake pintail on Ibsley Water, where there were also 2 duck goldeneye and at least 18 pochard. On Ivy Lake there were several water rail near Ivy North hide and a singing Cetti’s warbler. On arriving at the reserve I was greeted by the sound of cronking as a raven flew over and I also received reports of both water pipit and rock pipit being seen from Tern hide and there were 2 or 3 chiffchaff around the main car park for most of the day.

 

It all Becomes Clear

A real misty autumn morning today, in fact so misty that I could only see a single mallard from the Ten hide first thing, it was the only bird near enough. Still as the mist thinned it did make for some very atmospheric scenes.

ivy-lake-misty-morning

A misty Ivy Lake

In fact the sun burnt through pretty quickly and just a couple of minutes after the shot above I took the one below on the walk to the Woodland hide.

misty-path

The sun breaking through

After several weeks of not working we got the television in the Centre back in action today and it is once again featuring “Pondcam”. When it first came on the picture was very blurred and I thought it was still not working, Jim was adamant it was just the lens that needed cleaning, I was not convinced, but went to clean it anyway,  Jim was right and we now have water beetles swimming around in the Centre lobby once more.

The reserve has fungi all over the place at present, I got pictures of a couple as I opened up the reserve, not identified as yet though.

fungus-1

A group on fungi on an alder stump

fungus-2

A couple from a large group growing near the yard.

As befits the date, the last two nights have seen large numbers of “November” moths attracted to the moth trap. The November is in quotation marks as I cannot identify these to species level, they are just Epirrita species or November moth aggregate. There are three similar species, the  November moth, pale November moth and autumnal moth, each one is variable and I strongly suspect we will get all three species at Blashford. I was also careful to say “attracted to” rather than in the moth trap as they majority of them are not in the trap but resting on the wall of the Centre, this morning there were at least 26 of them there.

This afternoon I spent a good while wading about in front of Ivy North hide cutting sight-lines through the reeds. When I locked up and had a good look from the hide it is clear that I have some more work to do, but at least there should be an improved chance of seeing the bittern now. We did not see any bittern but the great white egret was there, fishing just below the hide and we saw it catch a small perch. In one of the cut patches there was a water rail poking about and giving good views and all to the accompaniment of a singing Cetti’s warbler. In the Ivy Silt pond there was another singing Cetti’s warbler, perhaps they will stay the winter and remain to set up territories in the spring.

 

 

Autumn in Full Swing

Back from a short break over half-term and catching up with what has happened over the week. Most obviously the leaves have changed colour and started falling in quantity, especially annoying as the leaf-blower is still out of action. There are also masses of fungi all over the reserve, autumn is in full swing.

On Monday I had the October waterfowl count to do – just in time as it was the 31st. Numbers of wildfowl are still quite low generally, but perhaps they will pick up when the temperatures drop a bit. During the count I came across “Walter”, the great white egret on the shore of Rockford Lake. He was close to the path and quite relaxed. Almost immediately afterwards, looking across Ivy Lake from the screen, I saw the bittern sitting high in the reeds preening in the afternoon sunshine. I failed to see the goldeneye reported by several people on Ibsley Water -we usually see our first at the end of October, so it just made it.

bittern

A rather poor and distant shot of the bittern on Ivy lake.

I ended the day with a check on the roosting birds on Ibsley Water; the gull roost was large, although not as large as it can be. There were something like 6000 lesser black-backed gull and about 3500 black-headed gull. There were also a couple of thousand starling flying about, which appeared to drop into the reeds to the west of the Salisbury road. Not quite a murmuration yet but maybe in a week or two, who knows.

Today I was working with the ever busy Blashford volunteers, cutting and burning brambles from the lake shore adjacent to the old Hanson plant. The aim is to open up the shore to the newly cleared plant site, to maximise the area of habitat suitable for birds like nesting lapwing and little ringed plover. The open ground should eventually develop into grassland in parts and so provide habitat for a range of other species.

Unfortunately it is likely to take a good few years of hard work to get this old industrial site into a state where it can become a valuable and importantly, manageable habitat – but it will be interesting to see how it develops. These so called “Brownfield” sites can develop into very interesting habitats as they are often low in nutrients and have unusual characteristics such as variable pH and impeded drainage.

In addition it will provide an alternative route between the main car park and Goosander hide and create a circular walk around the reserve. Work on this is progressing well but it will be a while yet before it is completed.

A little bit of everything…

Yesterday our Young Naturalists were back at Blashford for a varied session in search of birds and fungi and a practical task in our camp fire meadow. Kevin and Jack, BTO bird ringers, were ringing at Goosander Hide in the morning so we headed straight up there to try and catch them before they had finished. Whilst we were there, we were lucky enough to watch Jack ring a robin and a chiffchaff and talk us through the process.

Thank you Kevin and Jack for taking the time to chat to the group and explain what you were up to and looking for, giving a great overview of bird ringing.

Whilst in Goosander Hide, Young Naturalist Talia took some great photos of some of the birds on Ibsley Water:

grey-heron-and-little-egrets

Grey Heron with six Little Egrets by Talia Felstead

It was then time to rummage through the light trap which revealed a really nice variety of moths for us to identify, including this lovely Feathered Thorn:

The most abundant moth by far was the November moth sp. but we also had the following:

Close to the Education Centre we found this fantastic Shaggy Ink Cap, which sadly by this morning had become too top heavy and is now in two bits! Unfortunately this photo doesn’t do its size justice, it was super tall!

shaggy-ink-cap

Shaggy Ink Cap – ‘Coprinus comatus’

After lunch it was time to do something practical and we spent the afternoon in our camp fire meadow, raking up the vegetation strimmed by volunteers Emily and Geoff in the morning. We also cut up some of our old den building poles to use as firewood, as these will be replaced with new poles cut over the Winter.

raking-the-cut-grass

Cameron and James raking the cut grass

cutting-shelter-building-poles

Cutting up the old den building poles for firewood

We finished our time in the meadow with more toffee apple cooking over the fire, with newcomers Gregory and Jodie having a go at fire lighting and old hands James, Cameron and Talia showing how it’s done.

more-toffee-apple-toasting

More toffee apple cooking!

With time left at the end of the session, we checked our mammal traps in the loft which revealed two wood mice, who had ventured into the building where the nights are now cooler.

mouse-photography

Two wood mice, being well photographed by the Young Naturalists

woodmouse

Finally, we went on a short walk to Ivy South Hide, spotting fungi on the way and a Red admiral butterfly making the most of the October sun’s warmth:

Our Young Naturalists group is funded by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

Wild and Autumnal Days Out

The October Half Term has seen our Wild Days Out have a very Autumnal theme, as we headed onto the reserve to enjoy the seasonal changes, discover how nature responds to the cooler weather and spot fungi.

We began by challenging the older children to a game of human knot, with a mycelium twist, demonstrating the outward growth from a spore once it has germinated underground and begins to send out branches, or hypha. As the hyphae repeatedly branch out underground, they assume a larger circular form which is noticeable when the fruiting bodies, or fungi, appear above ground as a fairy ring.

They had to stand in a small circle and reach their right arm in to the centre, taking hold of someone else’s hand but making sure it was not that of the person right next to them. They then had to put their left arm in, taking someone else’s hand, before working together to untangle the human knot without letting go, ending up in a larger circle, or fairy ring.

After an entertaining attempt at the human knot, we explored the woodland along the Dockens Water in search of colourful Autumn leaves, seeds and fungi, with the most exciting find being these Dead Man’s Fingers fungus, Xylaria polymorpha:

dead-mans-fingers

Dead man’s fingers!

Whilst many leaves are falling and the Autumn colours are coming through, the beech trees were still very green and leafy, casting a dappled shade in the woodland:

beech-leaves

Beech leaves in the woodland alongside the Dockens Water

After a squirrel nut hunt (there were some very sneaky squirrels!) and a hedgehog hibernation challenge we finished by collecting some firewood and team laying a fire before cooking some toffee apples :

cooking-toffee-apples

Cooking toffee apples over the fire

 

With the younger children we headed straight to our camp fire area, making leaf crowns and collecting Autumnal leaves on the way which we were going to preserve with a wax coating and turn into Autumn mobiles. After getting the fire going and snapping lots of candles, removing the wick, we watched the candles melt before very carefully dunking our collected leaves into the wax.

It was a lot of fun and gave stunning results!

They too baked toffee apples, carefully whittling sticks to bake them on first:

After embarking on a squirrel nut hunt we finished with a game of apple bobbing which was enjoyed by all, some got wetter than others!

 

A Dull Day Brightened Up

It was strangely warm today, at first misty and then just very, very dull. The damp grey conditions were livened up by quite a good showing of fungi around the reserve. The logs beside the track between the Centre and Woodland Hide are particularly good, many have clusters of turkey-tail fungus.turkey tails

The moss covered, more rotted ones sometimes have candle snuff.candle snuff

There are also increasing numbers of scarlet elf-cups, a species that is always around in greatest numbers in late January.scarlet elf cup

I also found a few more conventional “toadstools”, one group on an old alder stump.fungi on alder stump

Also these tiny pale ones on a moss covered willow trunk.small fungi

The fallen branches often have various fungi on and one had a brightly coloured fungus  encrusted all along it.sheet fungus

Some fungi live in association with algae to produce lichens, spore production brings out their fungal side.lichen

With all this emphasis on fungi you might think it was autumn, but there was a distinct feel of spring with the first few of the wild daffodil near the Woodland hide already in flower.wild dafodil

You may have noticed that these pictures were taken using a flash, this was because it was so dull today that I could not get a picture of any of these without it!

Out on the reserve the bittern was at Ivy North on and off all day and out on Ibsley Water the usual black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe had hundreds of duck for company. I counted exactly 200 pintail, my highest count so far this winter.

In the late after noon the gull roost was joined by the first winter Caspian gull which stood out on the shingle spit to the right of the Tern hide for all to see, including me, which was pleasing as I had previously failed to catch up with it.

 

 

 

 

The Sun and the Stars

I got to spend a Saturday at Blashford today, standing in for Jim who is now off on paternity leave. It was a very pleasant day and at times the sunshine was warm enough to tempt out a range of insects. I saw good numbers of speckled wood, several red admiral, of which this rather battered individual was one.

red admiral

red admiral

I also heard of someone seeing a peacock and I saw a clouded yellow flying south over Ibsley water. There were also still lots of common darter and a fair few migrant hawker dragonflies on the wing.

I walked the paths around the Ivy Lake hides with the leaf blower in the morning and could not help but notice the number of fungi all over the place. The earth stars continue to come up, with another new one opening.

earth star

earth star

It was one of a line of them each at different stages.

a constelation of earth stars

a constellation of earth stars

Later on I walked the northern part of the reserve an don the way along the Dockens Water path I heard a firecrest calling, I then came across a group of four “crests” chasing around the hollies, I only ever managed to get a good look at one at any time and it was a firecrest each time, but I cannot say for sure if I was looking at the same bird each time or a different one, so I still don’t know if there was more than one!

Up at the Lapwing hide, I looked for and failed to find the black-necked grebe, but did see 2 ruddy duck and rather a lot of Egyptian goose. The geese were already checking out the osprey platform as a nest site again.

Egyptian geese on osprey

Egyptian geese on osprey

One of the problems that Egyptian geese pose for native specie sis that they will start breeding very early in the year, perhaps in January and so occupy sites long before native species, often these are large tree holes and by taking them over so early they can displace birds such as barn owl for these sought after nest locations.

During my wanderings I came across many more fungi, I cannot identify most of them and even the ones I put a name to may well be wrong, but here are some pictures anyway.

Bolete - spongecap

Bolete – spongecap

parasol mushroom

parasol mushroom

amethyst deceiver

amethyst deceiver

My most unexpected sighting of the day was of 2 sand martin over Ibsley Water, I think my latest ever sighting of this species. I also saw a goldeneye, at least 374 greylag geese, a few goosander and 5 snipe.

At dusk the gull roost was quite large but not spectacularly so, I estimated about 3000 lesser black-backed gull, 2000 black-headed gull and a single adult Mediterranean gull. Earlier the regular adult yellow-legged gull was on the raft on Ivy Lake, it is almost certainly the same one that has been there each winter fro several years and it has a metal ring on the left leg, unfortunately it is too far away to ever be read.

A Touch of Frost

With three millimetres of rain and overnight temperature a low single figure, it certainly feels more like autumn now.

The final butterfly transects, we have been monitoring them now since early April, were completed this week. The surveyors haven’t been bothered by huge numbers of butterflies, although understand we still have quite a few speckled wood butterflies,

speckled wood

speckled wood

 

37 were seen on the north transect, plus a good number of comma (16) and five red admiral on the south section.

Other signs of autumn are the burgeoning numbers of fungi, like this troop, of I believe lycoperdon sp.(?),  I saw beside the path.

 

lycoperdon species?

lycoperdon species?

Whilst bird numbers aren’t particularly spectacular yet, the range of species is increasing slowly. One lucky couple saw what they are sure was a honey buzzard in the Ibsley Water area.  More prosaically I only managed a few of the more common species, like this lapwing

lapwing

lapwing

and a couple of young little grebe, or dabchick, with a coot.

coot and dabchick

coot and dabchick

 

A final flurry of, mostly fairly inconspicuous, flowers is providing a little colour around the place, but most are well past their best.

P1540544 geranium

cut-leaved geranium(?)

common storksbill

common storksbill

dark mullein

dark mullein

On the ‘light  trap’ front, we are still attracting hornets,

hornet

hornet

 

but a number of colourful moths as well.

pink-barred sallow

pink-barred sallow

 

frosted orange

frosted orange

angle shades

angle shades