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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Edie and Poppy pollarding

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Will and Jackson pollarding

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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!

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Weaving a round platform from the pollarded willow

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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.

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Great crested grebe by Talia Felstead

 

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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.

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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

A Beautiful Day

Despite the overnight rain and a rather soggy start to opening up the day turned out to be quite sunny eventually.  Dockens Water was running high as you can see here in this view from one of the bridges.Image

I didn’t open up the Tern Hide car-park first thing as the level of water was such that it was only accessible to anyone wearing Wellington boots – this eventually drained partly and so was opened later.

Next Sunday I’m due to lead a walk looking for ‘ Spring Firsts’ and when these things are planned and put in the events diary it’s always done with the hope that the weather will be kind and that nature will conform to the ‘normal’ pattern of seasonal progression.   Having had a short walk around this morning I’m quietly confident there will be things to see, but can’t promise what the weather will be like…

Many trees are starting to show signs of the changing season including  willow catkins.

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Catkins just starting to burst out – note the flooded Tern Hide car-park in the background

On the ground the leaves of many plants are pushing through the soil, including lots of wild arum (Arum maculatum) like this rather delicately spotted leaf found under some trees by the path.

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Arum is a fairly common and widespread plant with a distinctive flower spike (spathe)pushing up inside a cup-like leafy structure (spadix) and it has many alternative old country names including ‘cuckoo pint’ and ‘lords and ladies’. It is, perhaps, better known from the stage once the bright red berries have formed.

Woodpeckers have been drumming regularly, lapwing displaying and giving their characteristic ‘peewit‘ call and at least one pair of great crested grebe have been engaged in courtship display.

Around the feeders in the Centre car-park area both siskin and lesser redpoll  are using the feeders and taking food off the ground.

Redpoll on feerer P1390218

Lesser redpoll on niger seed feeder

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Fine male lesser redpoll taking advantage of spilled food on the ground – probably been on the reserve for some time – note metal ring on right leg

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Siskin waiting in a tree before flying down to the niger seed feeder

There are still a few brambling around and one of our regular visitors has reported seeing a hawfinch in the same area on more than one occasion. This bird is rather shy and has only been seen from some distance, so don’t expect it to be as obliging as the siskin and redpoll.

Worryingly one visitor reported hearing the sound of mating mink, it’s apparently a high-pitched screaming, just outside the Ivy South Hide .

A warm welcome at Blashford Lakes

130209Blashford2 by J Day

I mentioned the general increase in bird song a few blog entries ago, and this trend has continued. The last couple of mornings it has been this song thrush that has been particularly making itself heard, not least because it is favouring a song post in an old elder immediately above the entrance gate that we unlock every morning. A warm welcome in the morning indeed.

130209Blashford1 by J Day_resize

Bittern continue to cavort across Ivy Lake and the surrounding environs, the green-winged teal has been showing well, this morning at least, and wigeon, like those pictured here outside Ivy South Hide continue to dominate the wildfowl.

As promised, I did run the light trap last night, though I had not anticipated the rain that fell and which sadly kept the catch down. So pictured here is the catch in its entirety! One pale brindled beauty and one Tortricodes alternella (thanks to Hants Moths for my identification of the latter):

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Pale brindled beauty

130209Blashford4 by J Day_resize

Tortricodes alternella

130209Blashford1 by J Day_resize

I spent the morning finishing off the reconstruction work to the upper Dockens Water debris dam that was started with the Thursday volunteer team – here’s the end result, unfortunately I missed the “before” photo. Originally constructed as part of a river restoration project in 2006 the constant and extreme flood conditions of the last few months had wreaked havoc, punching a fair-sized hole through that was flowing down the old canalised channel even at normal water level. We have now completed a willow “fedge” in front and behind the original log jam that will allow water to flow through for the time-being, but prevent the situation from worsening and then trap silt, sticks, leaves and other water-borne debris in the autumn, thus effectively re-sealing the gap.

After a short talk to a visiting group after lunch I headed out to see what else the volunteers have been up to in the willow scrub/reed bed on the way up to Lapwing Hide. I was impressed! Continuing the willow clearance begun with Bob last winter they have cleared significantly more over the last few weeks:

Before:

 130209Blashford2 by J Day_resize

After!

 130209Blashford3 by J Day_resize

The clearing that results will hopefully encourage a re-growth of reed and/or flowering plants, which, sheltered by the surrounding tree’s will in turn favour invertebrates and reptiles. The cleared willows themselves have been formed into a very neat (and photogenic – see below!) dead-hedge which will provide cover for both those animals, small mammals and birds. As it decomposes the dead wood will also provide suitable conditions for deadwood fungi and invertebrates.

130209Blashford4 by J Day_resize

On the way back to the centre I stopped off to look for green-winged teal unsuccessfully, but did catch up with visitors who had seen redhead smew on Ivy Lake (from the southern-most screen). I missed that too, but was delighted by both views of a kingfisher fishing, first in Rockford and then Ivy Lake and by this view of great crested grebes courting:

 130209Blashford5 by J Day

An awful picture of a special sight, which included the full-blown neck stretching, head shaking, weedy gift proffering, body-up-out-of-the-water dancing courtship works!