Could you be a Wildlife Watch-er?

Pond dipping with Wildlife Watch at Blashford Lakes today

Pond dipping with Wildlife Watch at Blashford Lakes today

 

The Blashford Lakes Wildlife Watch group were in this morning – and following what has been a bit of a theme for the week so far, they were pond dipping!

140412BlashfordWildlifeWatch3 by J Day_resize

The children’s favourites were undoubtedly the large dragonfly nymphs in the catch, but mine was this intriguing sub-aqua caterpillar which I can only assume is some kind of caseless china mark moth, but more learned readers of this blog may be able to tell me otherwise or more precisely what it may be:

A china mark moth caterpillar?

A china mark moth caterpillar?

In no way connected to the pond dipping, or the suspected moth caterpillar, afterwards we had a look through the light trap. Surprisingly it wasn’t a great catch last night, (clouded drab, Hebrew character, common quaker, pale brindled beauty, herald and nut-tree tussock; pictured below), but the children (and accompanying parents!) enjoyed seeing them none-the-less:

Nut-tree tussock

Nut-tree tussock

Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts and the UK’s leading environmental action club for kids. If you care about nature and the environment and want to explore your local wildlife – this is the club for YOU!

There are 150,000 Wildlife Watch members around the UK (and the Isle of Man and Alderney too) and hundreds of local Watch groups where young people get stuck into environmental activities. Taking part in Wildlife Watch is an exciting way to explore your surroundings and get closer to the wildlife you share it with.

Watch groups are run by registered leaders who enjoy working with children and have an enthusiasm and concern for wildlife and the environment.

 There are five principles which underpin all Watch activity:  

 • increasing understanding of our whole environment
• fostering awareness and feeling for the world we live in
• encouraging a caring attitude towards wildlife and participation in conservation
• creating factual, informal, fun ways to investigate our surroundings
• ensuring that young people’s environmental concerns, ideas and opinions are recognised and developed, and opportunities are created to act upon them.

 Across the UK hundreds of adult volunteers are dedicated to running Wildlife Watch groups where children can meet and enjoy exploring their environment. Going regularly to a group, along with their peers, enables young people to have lots of fun and make new friends whilst they develop real understanding and commitment.

 Watch groups give children opportunities to discover local wildlife and get stuck into practical activities likely to encompass anything from environmental artwork and waste recycling, to barn owl surveys, pond dipping and wildflower fun days. All groups operate within a monitored framework of child welfare and safety and all Watch leaders undergo a thorough recruitment process to check their suitability to work with young people.

And why am I telling you all this? Because the popular and successful Blashford Lakes Wildlife Watch group needs more Leaders! The current leaders, Carol, Imogen and Jaime do a brilliant job (the group has even been “Wildlife Watch Group of the Year Regional Winner and even UK Runner Ups several times in recent years!), but at times they can be stretched, especially if someone is ill or on holiday and they are therefore looking for volunteers to join them as Group Leaders.

If you’ve read this blog this far then you’ve obviously got some interest  in wildlife and in helping children learn more about our natural world, so go on, take the next step and find out more about becoming a Wildlife Watch Leader!

For information about the Blashford Lakes group specifically e-mail Imogen (imogen_fidler@yahoo.co.uk) or if this blog has piqued your interest but you would like to find out if there is a Wildlife Watch group nearer to where you live (or even find out how to set one up if there isn’t!) contact Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Watch Co-ordinator, Dawn Morgan (dawn.morgan@hiwwt.org.uk). You won’t regret it!

Alternatively if you love the sound of Wildlife Watch for your own children you can be sure of a welcome at the Blashford Lakes group (and all of the others too I am sure!) – for details of the next group meeting see the website or get in touch with Imogen or Dawn!

 

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More than a fuzz of green now

It is noticeably greener day by day - even in the drizzle!

It is noticeably greener day by day – even in the drizzle!

This is my favourite time of year – the evenings are longer, the birds are singing and you can see the natural world changing before your eyes, particularly as the leaf buds on the tree’s and hedgerows open and unfold. Last weekend there was a general “fuzz” of green about the place, today it is most definitely green and getting greener. And for all that it has been grey and wet all day it has been surprisingly mild, with the thermometer recording a low of 10C and a high of 15C overnight and during the course of the day. Therefore perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a grass snake “basking” on top of the dead hedge near Woodland Hide this afternoon – but I was surprised, and therefore didn’t get a picture unfortunately!

Sticking with the green theme momentarily a frosted green was a nice find in the light trap this morning:

Frosted green

Frosted green

It was one of 30 moths in total and 9 species, including this, a herald:

Herald

Herald

As the daffodils fade and spring moves on we are moving steadily from the season of yellow flowers to that of purple, with a few early ground ivy flowering and some lovely carpets of dog violets along the woodland edges in places:

Dog violet

Dog violet

Bird wise a ruff that was on Ibsley Water yesterday was absent today, but at least a couple of little gull were present, as were the pair of little ringed plover who (hopefully) are establishing a territory somewhere between the Tern Hide and across to the large peninsula.

There was some excitement over what was perceived to be a drake American wigeon this morning, but by mid-afternoon it was generally accepted that what had initially been thought to have an exciting record was in reality an unusually marked, or hybrid, wigeon.

 

What’s This Ear then!!

A slightly frustrating day, I’d planned to give a few minutes of my attention to adjusting the lock on the Tern Hide. The problem is that all the recent hot dry weather has caused the wood to shrink a little, just enough to mis-align the lock with the striker plate – on Thursday the door would not stay shut.  This morning there didn’t appear to be a problem, but I thought I’d have a go at moving the plate a little downwards to free things up a bit.  Having assembled all the tools I thought I’d need and toddling across to the hide i then found – isn’t it always the way – that I hadn’t packed a chisel, which I would need to pair away some wood to make the necessary adjustment!!! Ho hum. Looking more closely, however, I realised that even if I had a chisel, by moving the plate downwards the top screws could not be put back. Time to re-think!!!

The second frustration for the day was, earlier today, not being able to upload pictures for this posting. A situation which has now been resolved, but has meant a later posting and a slightly shorter blog.

Well so much for my caretaker role.  As far as the reserve and its wildlife go, things are a little more cheerful. The early overcast conditions gave way to very pleasant conditions and dragonflies and butterflies in abundance. The buddleia is nw doing its stuff and Sheila counted eight Peacock butterflies on just one of our buddleia bushes at one time.

Peacock on buddleia

Peacock on buddleia

Despite the somewhat cooler and wetter conditions overnight, I’m pleased to say that Jim’s dire prognostications about the state of the light trap weren’t realised and there were some interesting moths. A new one for me, despite the fact that the field guide I normally use indicates that they are common throughout the U.K. was this Peach Blossom.

Peach Blossom

Peach Blossom

Another slightly unexpected find was this Herald, a moth which I have seen before, but usually in springtime. I’d always thought that the name was in some way meaning a ‘herald of spring’ as they re-emerge from hibernation in March.

Herald

Herald

One of the strangest named moths are the ‘ears’, there are a number of different ones, but I’ve only ever seen these, with their rather distinctive white markings

Ear moth

Ear moth

Moss, Moths and a Herald (of Spring?)

There are times when I think that I must have been walking around with my eyes shut for the first half of my life.  I was quite oblivious of most of the bird life around  me, let alone the smaller stuff like butterflies and dragonflies.   The problem for the most part, and something that I suspect many of us ‘suffer’ from, is that we just don’t know how to look for these things. Once some things are pointed out to you you can start to ‘get your eye in’ and you then wonder how you missed these things before.

I had one such experience last Thursday when one of the volunteers pointed out a mossy bundle in a hedge. Closer inspection revealed what is probably an old (last year’s) long-tailed tit nest which with the lack of leafy covering was now visible. In truth it has probably been visible for many months.

Long-tailed tit nest

Long-tailed tit nest

Having had this pointed out to me I mentioned it to one of our regular bird ringers, who wanted then to see it, so we set out to re-find it.    Now being in the company of someone who knew what to look for, we found a number of other nests nearby, as well as a couple of nest boxes that had long been forgotten.

I’ve sometimes remarked in these ramblings of the strange names that have been given to moth species.  Today’s collection of inmates in the light trap this morning included Common Quaker and Small Quaker , presumably named for their peace loving  nature(?).   Although not one of the most inspiring of moths when first seen, the Clouded Drab does have a subtle richness to its markings – its also a moth that has a name reminiscent of a British weather forecast!

Clouded Drab

Clouded Drab

Also appropriately named from its re-appearance, after the winter months, is this moth – the Herald

A Herald -------of Spring?

A Herald ——-of Spring?   Unfortunately not a pristine specimen-  probably because it has overwintered in its adult state

Ground-hopper Day

Bird News: Ibsley Watergreen sandpiper 1, osprey 1. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1.

Yet another day with temperatures of over twenty degrees and butterflies all over the place. The volunteers were in and the tasks today were finishing off some dead hedging and getting the seasonal path ready for opening. As I will not be back at Blashford until Sunday I decided to open the path today, it is open from the start of April to the end of September, so this year there will be a couple of bonus days.

The continuing warm conditions are good for the moth catches and last night I had two new species for the year. The first was a rather splendid herald.

herald

These moths over-winter as adults so this one might be five months old already and could fly into May. The second new species was rather less impressive, a powdered Quaker.

powdered Quaker

After lunch I had a quick look at a small patch of habitat not far from the Center that is unique on the reserve. It is an area of acid bog, with bog myrtle, royal fern and patches of Sphagnum moss. It is not large but an interesting addition to the habitat range on the reserve.

Sphagnum moss, possibly S.palustre

The area is also good for ground dwelling invertebrates and I found lesser marsh grasshopper there last year, a new reserve record. At this time of year there is no point looking for grasshoppers though. That does not mean there are no Orthoptera to be found, hunting around I came across at least two slender ground-hoppers. I really like these tiny relatives of the grasshoppers, they come in lots of colour forms and over-winter as large nymphs so are adult in spring before all the other Othopteran species. They can swim and even dive under the surface! There are three species of ground-hoppers in Britain, of which two have been found on the reserve and I am seeking the third and rarest, so watch this space.

slender ground-hopper

I saw at least 3 grass snakes today and heard of an adder being seen to the south of the Ivy South hide, an area that is well away from their well-known haunts on the reserve.

The bird of the day was undoubtedly the osprey that flew north over Ibsley Water in the mid-afternoon, unfortunately I did not see it and I don’t expect it will be back as spring birds are in a hurry to get to their nesting territories. In the autumn they will sometimes hang around for a week or more feeding up before crossing the Channel.