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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.