September’s End

Another fine day although with more of an autumnal feel that yesterday. There was still mist over the lakes as I opened the hides, from Tern hide the highlight was the unringed great white egret flying past the hide, heading south.

I made the most of the cooler conditions to go and do some path trimming, in places the bramble growth has pushed the path almost completely off the gravel surface. I was working near the southern end of Ellingham Lake  and the hedge there has some large ivy growths, some of it now flowering and on these I saw a few of the ivy bee Colletes hederae. This is quite large for a solitary bee and flying so late in the season is very obvious, so it seems extraordinary that it was only described as new to science in 1993, since when it has been found over much of Europe. It was first found in the UK in Dorset in 2001 and has now spread as far north as Norfolk.

ivy bee

Ivy bee Colletes hederae

In the late afternoon I went over to Goosander and Lapwing hides. In the reedbed and willows there were a few chiffchaff but no other migrants. From Lapwing hide I saw 2 green sandpiper and at least 1 common sandpiper. The screens overlooking the silt pond behind Lapwing hide proved worth a look with 2 mandarin and 2 snipe on show and some bullfinch in the willows.

At Goosander hide there has been a feeding frenzy going on for many days now. The cormorant seem to have got a large shoal of small carp hemmed in the bay near the hide and they are attracting everything that can swallow a small fish. There were the cormorant of course along with little egret, a great white egret (Walter this time), grey heron, great crested grebe, little grebe, black-headed gull and even mallard. The mallard and gulls are mostly steeling dropped fish, but a lot of the cormorant seem not to be bothering to eat everything they catch. Sometimes the cormorant are coming up with large perch or even pike, these are also in on the hunt for small carp, but run the risk of becoming a meal themselves in the process.

Goosander hide feeding frenzy 2

Cormorant flock fishing for carp

The cormorant dive for the fish which are driven into the weedy shallows in an attempt to escape, where they then run into the line of heron and egret.

Goosander hide feeding frenzy

Grey heron, little egret and great white egret waiting to the carp to be driven near to the shore

Finally, as I locked up the tern hide right at the end of the day I was delighted to see the reported wood sandpiper just in front of the hide. It was a juvenile, with fresh yellowish spangled feathers looking very splendid in the golden glow of the setting sun. To add to the scene the grey phalarope flew in and landed some 100m away, despite trying I could not see the juvenile garganey that was also seen earlier, but tomorrow is another day.

 

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Fishing in the Rain

The last two days have not been the best, I think it rained, even if only lightly, for the whole time I was at Blashford on Sunday. It did not put of the monthly volunteers, or at least not completely, four stalwarts came in and spent nearly two hours pulling nettles from along the paths and around the wild daffodil bank. The rain did stop everyone from coming to my planned “Late Summer Wildlife” walk though and so they all missed the two black tern that spent the afternoon over Ibsley Water and the thousand or two of house martin and swallow too.

Iblsey Water has had a lot of fish eating birds on it lately and Sunday was not exception with both grey heron and great crested grebe hunting close to Tern hide.

grey heron juv

Juvenile grey heron

There have been well over 70 grey heron on a number of days recently and my maximum count was late last week when I saw 153!

GCG in rain

Great crested grebe in the rain

I have also made some of my highest counts of grebes for  along time recently, today I saw at least 57 from Tern hide alone. There have also been at least 6 little egret, Walter the great white egret and as many as 193 cormorant, so life for smaller fish has been difficult, but equally there must be  a lot of them to have attracted the attention of so many predators.

Pinion and Thorn

More warblers today, with chiffchaff and blackcap firmly established and the Cetti’s warbler( at least two on the Reserve) giving rise to their splendidly piercing song.  Four or more reed warbler, two seen in reeds at southern end of the settlement pond and at least one each by the Ivy North and South Hides.  Although not yet seen  (or reported as seen ,anyway)  cuckoo have been heard at various locations across the reserve as were the songs of willow warbler in two different areas.

One lucky visitor saw a sparrowhawk flash past him and land briefly on the ground, then fly off with a prey item.

Out on Ivy Lake a pair of great-crested grebe were performing their courtship dance with head shaking and bobbing, whilst nearby, on one of the large buoys, a couple of common tern were pariently waiting for our tern rafts to be deployed.  It’s a delicate matter to decide when these rafts are to be put out again  each spring. They need top be there to encourage the terns to stay and breed, but if they are put out too early they’ll be colonised by black-headed gulls. If there are enough terns around they are, collectively, aggressive enough to see-off the gulls.

The ‘catch’ from the moth trap, although still relatively small in number, has started to provide a little more variety, this time in the form of an Early Thorn and a Pale Pinion.

Early Thorn

Early Thorn

Pale Pinion
Pale Pinion

 Fairly quiet in terms of visitor numbers (where are you all?), we took the opportunity to remove and replace a few seed feeders and cleaned them and a couple of niger seed feeders as well.  Not one of the most romantic of tasks, but it needs to be done on a fairly regular basis.

Spring?

Willow catkin

Willow catkin

Despite another miserable, wet day, as the subject title suggests there are at least glimmers of hope that spring might be on the way!

One of these is the growing number of  “pussy willows” (pictured above) whose catkins have opened and are now ready to service the needs of hungry insects including early bee’s and butterflies and even birds such as blue tits have been known to feed on this rich supply of early nectar. You can try it yourself if you want, though you may get a few odd looks; simply pop the open catkin in your mouth and suck for a little sample of the sweet nectar. Just take care to only pick “fresh” looking flowers as bedraggled, damp ones may have recently been tried by someone else reading the blog! If the weather carries on like this you may as well try a few because there will certainly be no insects to pollinate the flowers until the weather improves.

Elsewhere around the reserve there are a few other signs that spring is around the corner – chiff chaffs are in full song and good numbers of and a number of swallows were feeding over Ibsley Water today and though there are not yet signs that the martins have begun excavating nest cavities in the sand martin bank other birds are certainly “in the mood” – a pair of great crested grebes were diligently constructing a nest outside Tern Hide this afternoon and I caught a pair of tufted duck “in the act” as I opened it up this morning too. 

Though far from being in full leaf the hawthorn hedges have now got a very obvious “fuzz of green” about them and other tree leaf buds are swelling and will soon be emerging too.