So long (almost!) and thanks for all the wildlife…

I haven’t managed to blog much over the past year, but this blog sadly will be my last.

I do really enjoy writing them and sharing either what we’ve been up to with regular groups or on other events, alongside all the wonderful wildlife Blashford has to offer (a really good excuse to go for a walk around the reserve) but sadly since reducing my hours with the Trust there generally haven’t been enough hours in the day to fit everything in. I also like to share lots of photos, which take an age to upload at Blashford over our rubbish internet connection…

I am though now off to pastures (almost) new. Some of you will be aware I took up the part time role of Education Officer for the Watercress and Winterbournes Landscape Partnership Scheme with Wessex Rivers Trust last March. The scheme is hosted by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, so although I am employed by Wessex Rivers Trust I am still working closely with colleagues within the Trust.

I have now been offered more hours with Wessex RT to oversee the educational elements of a number of other projects, so whilst I will really miss Blashford – Jim, Bob and Chloe, our lovely volunteers, the regular (and less regular!) visitors and of course all the amazing wildlife (I have learnt SO much over the last almost eight years) – I am excited to be heading over there full time.

So, I thought I’d finish off now with some wildlife and nature sightings – my last day at Blashford is next Monday, but I doubt I’ll have time to blog anything else between now and then, I still have admin tasks to finish off and more importantly, one more Wildlife Tots…

Thank you all very much for reading my blogs, especially the super long ones!

___________________

There are signs of spring all over the reserve. The snowdrops are still putting on a good display by the Education Centre, the wild daffodils by the Woodland Hide are flowering, the primroses are out and some of the scarlet elf cups are huge:

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Wild daffodils

Wild daffodils

Primroses

Primroses

Scarlet elf cups

Scarlet elf cups

If you look really closely at the hazel, you might be lucky enough to spot one of the tiny female flowers. Hazel has both male and female flowers on each tree, but the flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. The tiny pink flowers are female, whilst the male flowers are clustered together to form catkins.

Hazel flower

Pink female flower on Hazel, with the male catkins in the background

Lesser redpoll are still visiting the feeders by the Woodland Hide along with siskin and reed bunting. I haven’t managed to get a photograph, but I’ve seen sparrowhawk at or near to the Woodland Hide the last few times I’ve walked past.

Reed bunting

Reed bunting

Reed bunting 2

Reed bunting

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

We’ve had recent sightings of otter both on Ibsley Water (by Bob, I think from memory he said last weekend) and today on Ivy Silt Pond by a lucky visitor. Kingfisher have also been showing really well on Ivy Silt Pond and in front of both Ivy Lake hides – last night when I locked up one was sat on the great reedmace (more commonly known as bulrush) in front of Ivy North Hide:

kingfisher by Ivy North Hide

Kingfisher by Ivy North Hide

A mute swan has also been busy constructing a nest in the reedbed to the right hand side of Ivy North Hide:

swan on nest

Swan constructing its nest

The bittern was seen again today so is still present, it was about 3m to the right of the swan’s nest.

It’s also time to look out for great crested grebes pairing up and displaying with their elaborate courtship dance: pairs will swim towards each other, sometimes with an offering of weed, before rising up out of the water and shaking their heads.

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe from Ivy South Hide

A number of cormorants continue to roost in the trees around the edge of Ivy Lake.

Cormorants roosting

Cormorants roosting

Goldeneye, goosander and the ring-billed gull are also still frequent visitors to Ibsley Water. If you’re planning a visit soon and we haven’t shared any recent wildlife sightings, it’s always worth having a look on the Go Birding Hampshire website where you can search for sightings by site. I tend to look there to keep up with what’s been sighted recently, where I’m not at the reserve much, but having said that we haven’t had a huge amount reported for Blashford over the last few days.

I will finish off with some great photos sent in by David Cuddon from a visit earlier in the month, on the 7th February – apologies David for not sharing them sooner.  

Wigeon by David Cuddon

Wigeon by David Cuddon

Siskin by David Cuddon

Siskin by David Cuddon

Long-tailed tit by David Cuddon

Long-tailed tit by David Cuddon

Kingfisher by David Cuddon

Kingfisher by David Cuddon

Goldcrest by David Cuddon

Goldcrest by David Cuddon

Bittern by David Cuddon

Bittern by David Cuddon

Back to Blashford

Last Monday I helped Bob put a couple of tern rafts out on Ivy Lake, something he had been hoping to do for a while but needed someone on site whilst he went out on the water. So when I say ‘help’, I do mean it in the loosest sense of the word as I kept an eye on him from the comfort of Ivy South hide.

Ivy Lake 3

The view from Ivy South hide – the spiders have moved in and the vegetation is taking over!

Luckily, two of the rafts were still on the edges of the lake, so they just needed moving out into position in the middle and securing in place. By the end of the day there were six common terns interested in one of the rafts and this number has gradually increased over the course of the week. In wandering down there today there were at least twenty either on the raft itself or flying around overhead, with a few black-headed gulls. We would usually put out more rafts but without volunteer support to make them and move them (not a job that allows for social distancing) they will have to make do with these two instead.

Ivy Lake 2

A blurred Bob out on Ivy Lake with two tern rafts (I liked the foreground!)

Whilst waiting for Bob I listened to the reed warblers with their distinctive chatty song and watched a pair of great crested grebes out on the water. I also noticed lots of newly emerged damselflies, yet to develop their full colours and markings, on the stems growing outside the hide. It takes a few days for them to develop their colouring, a useful survival mechanism as at present they are not quite ready to fly so blend in rather well with the vegetation. Lower down you could make out the cast skins or exuvia clinging on to the vegetation following their final moult and emergence as an adult.

Bob has also been busy strimming step asides into the edges of some of the footpaths, where it has been possible to do so, to create areas for people to pass each other more easily and aid social distancing when walking around.

In addition we have been busy planning extra signage for some of the footpaths and will be making some routes one way, again to aid social distancing and enable people to visit safely. Crossing the stretches of boardwalk safely will be particularly difficult, so people will be directed over these a certain way. We hope to begin putting signage up this week, at the entrances to the reserve and also at path junctions, so if and when you do visit please keep an eye out for them. Hopefully we will have ironed out any snags by the time we are able to open a car park, which fingers crossed will not be too far off now, we will keep you all posted…

It has been nice to spend a bit of time out on the reserve – I was back just in time to experience the bluebells along the Dockens Water, although they are going over now, and also heard my first cuckoo of the year this week. I wasn’t sure I was going to hear one this spring. There is also still some greater stitchwort flowering along the Dockens path:

On Ibsley Water the large raft is mainly occupied by black-headed gulls, although there were a couple of common tern on there early last week. It’s lovely to see the common terns back again for another summer.

By the Centre there has been plenty of insect life around the pond, with beetles, bees, dragonflies and damselflies making the most of the sunshine:

On Wednesday Bob and I were sat having lunch when the female mallard he had noticed on the new Education Centre pond made an appearance, followed by 13 ducklings. We watched them topple off the boardwalk into the water, one or two at a time, and enjoyed their company whilst we finished eating. Later on that afternoon they moved over to the original centre pond but I haven’t seen them since, so I hope they are ok.

It has also been really nice to be able to rummage through the moth trap again, although with a few cold nights it has been quite quiet. Here are some moth highlights:

There have also been a number of cockchafers in the light trap. Also known as May bugs or doodlebugs these large brown beetles also fly around at dusk.

May bug

Cockchafer, May bug or doodlebug

On Thursday I found the exuvia or final moult of a hawker dragonfly in the pond and fished it out to take a closer look:

Dragonfly exuvia

Dragonfly exuvia

Leaving it out in a sunny spot to dry out I completely forgot about it, only remembering once I had driven home that evening. By this morning though it had found its way onto my desk, so Bob must have spotted it too!

I have also visited the meadow a couple times, the oxeye daisies are looking beautiful now they are coming into flower, rivalling the gorgeous pink display of ragged robin by the Welcome Hut which Jo shared a photo of last week. The common vetch and buttercups are also flowering and there are a few common blue butterflies on the wing.

The beautiful green beetle above has many names, it is known as the thick-legged flower beetle, false oil beetle and swollen-thighed beetle. Only the males have thickened hind legs, I might have to visit the meadow again in search of a female.

Summing up…

The past two weeks hasn’t all been about the current improvements at Blashford, we have been in search of reptiles and amphibians on two Wild Days Out, run a busy family pond dip session (distinctly lacking in newts, we must have scared them all off the week before!) and woven some very pretty Easter baskets using materials found on the reserve.

And the reserve is looking lovely! It is getting greener by the day, although some trees are suffering more than others from the ever increasing number of munching Alder leaf beetles. This Crab apple in particular is being stripped bare:

There are plenty of wildflowers out, including Germander speedwell, Ground ivy, Cuckoo flower, Moschatel, Primrose, Cowslip and Common Dog-violet. Lesser celandine is carpeting the woodland floor near the reserve entrance and the Bluebells will soon be following suit, with some already flowering.

The warm sunny weather has bought the butterflies out in force, with Brimstone, Orange-tip, Speckled wood, Small white, Comma and Peacock all on the wing.

Large numbers of Sand martin have been investigating the holes in the Sand martin wall in preparation for nesting and Swallows are also back, although currently in much smaller numbers. Three Black tern spent most of today over Ibsley Water and as I left all three had alighted the Osprey perch out in the lake. Little ringed plover have been on the shoreline and Lapwing continue to display overhead.

P1140678

Sand martins

David Stanley-Ward sent in two very fine photos recently, one of two fighting Coot taken from the new Tern Hide and the other of two Great-crested grebes displaying in front of Goosander Hide.

Coots

Fighting Coots by David Stanley-Ward

Great-crested Grebe

Great-crested Grebes by David Stanley-Ward

If you have visited recently and would like to share your wildlife sighting with us, please do email them to BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk along with whether you are happy for us to use them on the blog and on other promotional material and how you would like to be credited. We don’t always manage to post images straight away, but do always enjoy seeing them, so thank you David for sharing these.

The woodland is full of bird song, with Chiff-chaff and Cetti’s warbler in particular standing out with their more striking calls. Blackcaps are seen frequently although they do not stay in one spot for long and Willow warblers are also present whilst Brambling and Reed bunting continue to feed in front of the Woodland Hide. Sedge warbler and Reed warbler can also be heard in the reedbeds by Ivy North Hide and Ivy Silt Pond.

P1140586

Brambling

And finally back to the events! On our Wild Days Out Amphibian and Reptile Rambles we managed one young grass snake, the same snake in the same spot on both days. This really isn’t the best photo, but if you look in the centre you might be able to make out the tip of it’s tail as it disappeared into the undergrowth.

P1140225

Spot the tiny grass snake’s tail!

On both days the weather was fairly cool so we failed to spot an adder, but both groups enjoyed a longer walk over to Goosander Hide and the older children managed to make it as far as Lapwing Hide.

Back at the pond we had more success, catching a number of newts, and we also found some under the logs in the woodland. Both days were enjoyed by all, even if the reptiles were a bit thin on the ground!

And last but not least, on Wednesday morning a very satisfying two hours were spent weaving in willow wood, with a number of children creating some very striking Easter baskets using materials collected on the reserve and a wooden disc base prepped by volunteer Geoff. We used rush, sedge and larch as well as the willow, with a couple of the older children even having a go with fresh bramble. One of the girls stripped the bark off some of the willow leaving the inner white of the rod on show. They all looked amazing!

The last couple of weeks have been very varied, but with the weather warming up it has been lovely to be out and about on the reserve. Spring is definitely here!

February round up

We’ve had a busy half term, with Winter Craft themed Wild Days Out, an evening under the stars (of which there really were many!) with the Fordingbridge Astronomers and our usual Young Naturalists monthly meeting.

Our Wild Days Out saw the children getting very messy in the clay pit, den building, fire lighting, creating dream catchers and baskets from willow and ice art sculptures. Lots of arty and hands on activities that involved natural materials! We even attempted to make burn out bowls in the fire, using hollowed out pieces of elder as straws. It was a slow process…

Our Young Naturalists did a great job making bird boxes, using a plan to mark up their planks of wood, cutting up the individual pieces and nailing them all together. The bird boxes along with a number made by the volunteers will replace some of the older ones on the reserve which are a little past their best, and will be a welcome addition. Thank you guys for all your hard work!

We also spent quite a while watching the kingfisher catching newts from the Education Centre pond – a very good distraction! The pond has become a favourite hunting spot for at least two birds, which are best viewed from inside the Centre as they don’t hang around for long when disturbed – hopefully they will leave a few newts for us to catch over the summer!

kingfisher

Kingfisher by the Education Centre pond

The wild daffodils by the Woodland Hide are probably now at their best and definitely worth a visit, adding a welcome splash of yellow to the woodland floor.

daffodils

Wild daffodils near the Woodland Hide

The feeders at the Woodland Hide are still being visited by three brambling and at least one lesser redpoll, whilst a number of reed bunting have been foraging around on the ground.

Goldeneye, black necked grebe and goosander are still present on Ibsley Water whilst lapwing numbers are increasing, with some beginning to display over the lake with their distinctive flip-floppy flight. The water pipit has also been viewed from Tern Hide.

We’re expecting the bittern and great white egret to leave us any day now – if indeed they are still here! The bittern was seen on Sunday whilst Jim’s most recent view of the great white was last Wednesday.

A tawny owl has also decided to roost at the southern end of Ivy Lake, best viewed from the last window in Ivy South Hide. Noticed on Sunday, it has been there most mornings and still there some evenings so it’s definitely worth a scan of the trees on the lake edge.

Finally, thank you very much to Dave Levy for sharing with us this sequence of photos of a pair of great crested grebe displaying on Ivy Lake. Spring must definitely be here!

 

Weaving willow for birds

Today our Young Naturalists were back at Blashford for their December session and we began the day with a quick look in the light trap. It really was a quick look, with only two moths present, a December moth and a Red-line Quaker:

We then headed over to our willow wood for a morning of pollarding the willows and turning our cut stems into a number of simple platforms for nesting birds. In particular, Bob has Little egrets in mind, so fingers crossed they may be tempted by our creations! Little egrets tend to nest in colonies, with coastal birds preferring small colonies or even nesting alone. Their nests are usually small platforms made of sticks, 30-35cm wide and 10-15cm high. Hopefully our platforms will be a good starting point for nest building once they have been carefully positioned out on the reserve.

We began pollarding one section while volunteer Geoff carefully strimmed another part of the area, so we would be able to see all the hidden holes and dips in the uneven ground.

edie-and-poppy-pollarding-willow

Edie and Poppy pollarding

will-and-jackson-pollarding-willow

Will and Jackson pollarding

geoff-strimming

Geoff strimming

We then used some of our cuttings to weave the nesting platforms, trying out both a round and circular design. I’m not sure which, if any, the birds will prefer!

round-platform

Weaving a round platform from the pollarded willow

nesting-platforms

Three of our finished platforms

We will have to see what the birds, and Bob, make of them, but they’re a good start!

After lunch we visited Goosander, Lapwing and Ivy North hides and were rewarded with a good mix of birds including a kingfisher, a number of goosander and flocks of siskins jingling around the tree tops in search of seeds. Sadly there was no bittern to be seen, but one was seen yesterday.

great-crested-grebe-tf

Great crested grebe by Talia Felstead

 

tufted-duck-tf

Snoozing Tufted duck by Talia Felstead

Thanks everyone for your hard work today and to volunteers Geoff and Nigel for helping out.

Our Young Naturalists group is generously supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust. Do visit their newly re-launched website to find out more.

Print

Just a few Birds

I know Ed’s been really busy and hasn’t had the opportunity lately to post much in the way of pictures from the Reserve so I’ll share a few images of some of our more common species, taken last Wednesday and today.

The long view from the Tern Hide to the far side of Ibsley Water was distinctly autumnal

Across the water from the Tern Hide

Across the water from the Tern Hide

A few of the ‘regular’ birds using the feeders around the Woodland Hide were considerate enough to perch up on the nearby branches before dashing in to take a few seeds.

Male chaffinch

Male chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

Collared Dove - normally a bird of more open areas, these have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

Collared Dove – normally a bird of more open (park and garden) areas, but at Blashford they have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

and a seasonal favourite…………..

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

Although most of the tit family only lingered long enough on the feeder for me to take their picture

Great tit

Great tit

Among the other birds seen around the woodlands are wren, nuthatch, blue and coal tits, siskin, dunnock, goldcrest and chiffchaff.  On the water there are increasing numbers of duck of several species including gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, shoveler, pochard, goldeneye and goosander, as well as the now regular long-tailed duck.  Great crested, little and black-necked grebe are all present on Ibsley water. Here also the early evening spectacle of large numbers of lesser black-backed, herring and black-headed gull  together with smaller numbers of great black-backed, common and yellow-legged gull coming to roost continues to attract birdwatchers. The starling murmuration has lost some of its previous  splendour with reduced numbers and more distant view, but on clear days, like today, can still be quite impressive.

On Ivy Lake at least two bittern have been seen and a couple of water rail were scrapping, chasing one another around outside the Ivy North Hide earlier today.

Visitors often ask where they might see particular birds around the reserve. In my experience the species most often sought is kingfisher, but I usually have to resort to rather vague advice of looking from one or other hide where a bird has been reported (but not personally seen by me!!). So it was gratifying to be privy to views of these birds perched openly and close(ish) to the Ivy North Hide, even allowing me to capture some half-decent images.

Kingfisher in reedbeds to right of Ivy North Hide

Kingfisher in reedbeds to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

 

 

 

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

 

Thunderous start to a beautiful day

As I pulled up outside the road entrance to Tern Hide this morning there was a flash of lightning followed almost immediately by a clap of thunder. Although it wasn’t raining at that point I very quickly unlocked the gate and the next one and in the short interval of time it took to do that and park up ready to open Tern Hide the heavens had opened. After dashing for the sanctuary of the hide I decided that there were unlikely to be any early visitors wishing access to the hides and car park over the road and therefore opted to sit it out and hope that it passed.

The rain really was very heavy and the poor birds did not look very happy at all! It was interesting to see how the different birds responded to the down-pour – the geese all sat/stood bolt upright, necks outstretched and facing into the rain (seemed a bit daft to me, but then I’m not sure that geese are thought to be one of the smarter birds…!), the great crested grebe adopted a neck outstretched, head down and just above the water low profile position  and the tufted duck spent as much time under the water as they possibly could, just emerging to take a quick snatch of air before diving for cover underwater again. Meanwhile the coot all seemed to be too busy bickering with each other to take much notice!

Tufted duck - the only one of several pictures where I was actually able to grab a shot between dives!

Tufted duck – the only one of several pictures where I was actually able to grab a shot between dives!

Unsurprisingly there were no grass snakes outside Ivy South Hide this morning, although they soon did show themselves later in the morning and lived up to current expectations for the rest of the day. What did catch my eye was what I could only assume was a black headed gull chick on one of the buoyancy aid rafts that have been put out as artificial nesting islands for birds like great crested grebe and coot. Not content with muscling in on the tern rafts several pairs have been apparently sitting on these smaller rafts but today was the first time that I had seen a chick – Blashford regular, birder and ringer Kevin Sayer, confirmed later that he had seen 3 chicks on one of the floats and 1 on another. Not sure how they’ll fare as they grow and wish to stretch their wings, but they seem to be doing surprisingly well so far!

Black headed gull and chick on one of the floats intended for grebes.

Black headed gull and chick on one of the floats intended for grebes.

Fortunately, for all it was very heavy, the storm passed over very quickly and the sun was out by mid-morning in time for the “Pond and River Dipping for Adults”. Unfortunately the weather does seem to have put people off as only half the people who had booked on actually attended, but it has to be said that those who did come were rewarded well for their effort – including a marvellous flyby by a kingfisher on our route down to the river. Juvenile bullhead, a minnow, freshwater shrimp, flatworms, caddisfly larvae, stonefly and mayfly nymph were all caught and identified:

Inspecting the river catch

Inspecting the river catch

Afterwards the pond revealed its secrets, with highlights including some very large dragonfly nymphs, lots of smooth and palmate newts and a couple of great diving beetles. For my part, I was astounded again by the number of swimming caddisfly larvae in the catch – for whatever reason they are having a remarkably good year in the centre pond this year and are “starring” frequently on the pond-cam at the moment. Also of particular note today was the sudden emergence of Daphnea (water fleas) which were absent when I last dipped the pond a week ago and which are now one of the most common, if not the most common, invertebrate in there.

Pond dipping

Pond dipping

 

 

 

 

A happy (and a not so happy) ending…

A beautiful day drew in a steady stream of visitors to the reserve throughout the day – with great views of bittern (from Ivy North hide) and kingfisher (on Ivy Silt Pond) and also reports of the red crested pochard (from Goosander Hide). Much of the wildfowl was concentrated around the eastern side of Ibsley Water so the best views were always going to be from Goosander and Lapwing Hides, but I took this picture of wigeon and coot when I opened up Tern this morning:

View from Tern Hide this morning

View from Tern Hide this morning

I failed (again!) to see bittern, but the early morning sun gave the reed on Ivy Lake, where one would be seen later in the day, quite beautiful  and almost ethereal:

Ivy Reed beds

Ivy Reed beds

Nothing out of the ordinary was to be seen from Ivy South either, but still worth a picture of a nice assemblage of wildfowl, including wigeon, coot, tufted duck, gadwall and great crested grebe:

View from Ivy South Hide

View from Ivy South Hide

Given the recent mild (and dry) weather I decided to run the light trap last night as it had not been run for weeks, if not months – and of course it cleared overnight to a frosty start this morning! None the less I am able to report 3 species as having been on the wing last night (albeit only 5 individual moths actually caught) – December moth, mottled umber and scarce umber. Pictured here are the December moth and mottled umber, both quite attractive species, the December moth especially so with it’s warm “woolly coat” and heavily feathered antennae, necessary to help keep the insect insulated against the winter cold!

Mottled umber

Mottled umber

December moth

December moth

 

A close up of those remarkable antennae!

A close up of those remarkable antennae!

As for the blog title? I’m delighted, and more than a little surprised, to report a happy ending for a mute swan that Ed and Adam retrieved from Ivy Silt Pond by boat a few weeks ago following reports of a swan in difficulties and apparently ensnared by fishing line. In fact it had swallowed the line as well as been trapped in it and really looked to be on it’s last legs. Fortunately our local wildlife rescue experts, Joel and Mike, from “Wildlife Rescue” who operate from Moyles Court, were able to take the swan in and in turn then passed it on to specialist swan rescue centre near London. Fortunately for the bird it seems that it was rescued in the nick of time and despite having swallowed a massive length of line all the way into its gizzard, there was no hook on the end of it and after several days on a drip she has made a  remarkable recovery and was released onto Ibsley Water this afternoon:

Ready, steady...

Ready, steady…

..GO!

…GO!

In less than a minute she had made new friends and was off. Aah!

In less than a minute she had made new friends and was off. Aah!

Hats off to Mike, Carla and Joel who give an inordinate amount of their time to rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife and do an absolutely remarkable job  for little or no reward other than the satisfaction that they receive from helping injured animals. Sadly I’m sure we will be in touch with them again before too long, but we at least are extremely grateful for their work – and the fact that they are so close!

On my way back across to the centre I came across another animal whose end was was not quite so happy; glancing into the river as I crossed the footbridge I saw this (once) lovely sea trout washed up in the shallows of the Dockens Water:

The untimely demise of a sea trout?

The untimely demise of a sea trout?

It isn’t ever so clear in the picture, but when I headed down the bank for a closer look it soon became apparent that the trout had actually been predated – with a big chunk of its belly missing, almost certainly the work of an otter, though it maybe that mink also leave similar tell-tale signs. It’s been a little while since we had enough rain to bring the sea trout up river with the spate conditions, so hopefully it had spawned before becoming someones dinner.

Words and Birds

Hello again.  It’s been a while (three weeks) since I posted on this blog, having been away and then, last week, after spending a time trimming back seed heads from buddleia to prevent them overrunning the reserve, and afterwards not feeling inspired enough to write anything.  I was berated, earlier this week,  by one of our regular volunteers and reader of the blog (you know who you are!!!) for not writing anything last Sunday, so I thought I’d better make an effort today.  Those of you who do any writing will probably recognise the problems of either  not feeling they have anything to say and/or struggling to find the words.     Along those lines,  I remember the tale of one professional writer who couldn’t think of a particular word for two weeks – but then it suddenly came to him….’fortnight’!!!

Having said all this, I guess most of you will want to read some news from Blashford, so here goes.

The bittern(s) is still in being seen regularly from Ivy South Hide, but has also been viewed, in its more usual habitat, in the reed beds outside Ivy North Hide. Whilst closing the reserve last Sunday,  I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this bird in the left hand side of the reeds, far off to the right side of the Ivy North Hide. As no one else has posted any pictures of this bird yet, I’ll start with this rather poor, distant image, taken in low light conditions ( getting all my excuses in first!!)  as evidence that the bird is here. P1460717 bittern Recent addition to the avifauna n the form of a ferruginous duck reported yesterday from Ivy South Hide. Otherwise the red-crested pochard is still around as are good numbers of many of the other ducks such as  mallard, shoveller, gadwall, wigeon, teal, pochard, goldeneye and tufted duck. A few green sandpiper  are scattered around the margins of the lakes.

For the gull fans (I know there are a few of you out there) up to nine yellow-legged gulls were seen coming in to roost on Ibsley Water yesterday.  Roost time can also produce increased numbers of goosander as they fly in from the Avon Valley to spend the night here.  Also in residence in and on the water, in roughly decreasing size order, we have mute swan, Canada goose, greylag goose, Egyptian goose, great-crested grebe, lapwing, coot, moorhen and little grebe. 

The alders are providing enough food to keep a regular flock of siskin in and around the Woodland Hide area.  This abundance of natural food means that many of the  winter visitors to our seed feeders haven’t yet put in much of an appearance although some lesser redpoll have been reported.  otherwise the usual collection of tit species including marsh tit as well as nuthatch and treecreeper are being seen from the Woodland Hide.  A water rail was seen, by some lucky visitors,  feeding on a fish (the rail feeding, not the visitor!), just outside the Ivy South Hide for about twenty minutes in the mid-afternoon.

A party from an RSPB local group have chosen Blashford for a day trip. One of the party reported seeing a large bird of prey flying low over the heath and going into the trees, from the description one of ‘our’ buzzards.

To finish here is a picture of what must be one of but maybe not the last ‘summer’ flowers to be seen on the reserve

red campion

red campion