From Lakes to Lake

Last Sunday I spent the day at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s new reserve at Fishlake Meadows on the edge of Romsey. The reserve is so new that we don’t yet have a reserves officer in post, but it is good to have some presence on site, so for the day I got to swap Blashford Lakes for Fishlake.

The site is around 60ha of abandoned farmland that has flooded to produce a mosaic of open water, reedbed and fen, wonderful habitat for a wide range of species. At present views across the site are limited by rapidly colonising willow and bramble, but tantalising glimpses can be had across the area from the old barge canal that runs north from the town.

The day was much finer than had been forecast and instead of dodging showers I got to enjoy a huge range of insects enjoying the flowery fen vegetation. One species that I was very pleased to see was the yellow loosestrife bee. This species is dependent upon the yellow loosestrife, not for nectar or even for pollen, but for its oil. Why would a bee need oil? That is the really clever part of the story, the bees collect the oil from the flowers on special hairs on their legs and use it to waterproof their nest chambers. This allows them to make their nests in areas that are prone to flooding, so they can nest close to the flower rich fen rather than having to nest elsewhere and waste energy flying in.

yellow loostrife bee

Yellow loosestrife bee, nectaring on creeping thistle.

The huge number of flowers attract lots of different bees and I saw many species, although identifying them is a bit of a challenge. I think this one is a patchwork leafcutter bee, but I could be wrong, also nectaring on a thistle, this time a spear thistle.

patchwork leafcutter bee female

Patchwork leafcutter bee

I also saw lot of wasps, these are even more of a challenge to identify and I have not even tried with this one.

parasitic wasp

parasitic wasp

There was an osprey on site when I was there but I managed very skilfully to miss it entirely.

Just Another Day on (and off) the Reserve

I assisted Ed with the wildfowl count today and it was plain that there have been some recent arrival of extra birds over the last week or so. Overall numbers are still quite low, we saw just over 2600 birds in all, but they are picking up. Ed saw 2 pintail and numbers of wigeon were up generally, although gadwall remain quite scarce and some of the shoveler actually seem to have left since last month. There were a few highlights along the way, including the return of the ferruginous duck, as in previous years it was on the hardest of all the lakes to view, Kingfisher Lake. I think I have observed before that although the bird has all the plumage features of a drake ferruginous duck the overall structure looks a little robust to me, the neck a bit thick, the head shape rather round and large as is the bill. I am not sufficiently familiar with the species to know how much they vary, but is it a lot less delicate looking than some others I have seen.

The duck was not the highlight of my counting day though, this was not actually a bird at all, but a mammal. As I parked at Ibsley Bridge to walk over to Ibsley and Mockbeggar North Lakes I spotted a line of bubbles in the river, it was an otter!

Otter at Ibsley Bridge

Otter at Ibsley Bridge

It was a dog otter, diving close to the bank and catching lots of small items, I think it was hunting and finding signal crawfish, but I cannot be sure as I could never see exactly what was being eaten. I know there are a good few otter on the River Avon, but actually seeing them from the public highway is not always that easy.

Other notable birds were the great white egret, which was again on Mockbeggar Lake, along with 5 mandarin duck. On Ibsley Water 4 goldeneye, including one adult drake and single common and green sandpipers. Oh, and the Franklin’s gull was reported gain at the end of the day. All in all a pretty good day.