Meanwhile, Back at Blashford

Whilst Tracy was off roaming the southern side of the Forest with the Young Naturalists, I was back at Blashford where Sunday was very pleasantly sunny and warm. As the week ahead looks grey and damp, it was likely to be the best day of the week for butterflies and a good opportunity to get the transects done. Although numbers of butterflies are declining as the spring species decline there are a few summer ones starting to appear, the last couple of days have seen the first common blue and brown argus on the wing. Thanks to Blashford’s brilliant volunteers for organising and doing the butterfly transects.

brown argus

The first brown argus of the year (well my first at least).

I also finally saw my first grass snake of the year too, perhaps not strictly my first as I did find a freshly dead one a couple of weeks ago, probably killed by a buzzard. This live one was rather unexpectedly crossing the open gravel behind the Education Centre.

grass snake

grass snake on gravel

Although it has been sunny recently it was still quite cool in the persistent north or north-east wind, this changed on Saturday and the extra warmth seemed to prompt large numbers of damselflies top emerge, I must have seen many hundreds on Sunday, mostly common blue damselflies, but including large red, azure and beautiful demoiselle.

common blue damselfly

common blue damselfly (male), still not quiet fully coloured up.

It is very pleasing to see that two of our projects are showing signs of success again. The tern rafts are used every year, but it gets harder each year to stop them all being claimed by gulls, timing in putting them out is the key. By Monday there were at least 20 common tern on the rafts so hopefully this will be enough to fend of the gulls. The other project, the sand martin wall, has had more mixed fortunes. After a few years of success to start with it fell out of favour with none nesting for several years, but this year they are back! Not in huge numbers but a visit to Goosander hide is well worth the effort.

A number of people have asked me recently when the “new” path from the main car park to Goosander hide will open, regular visitors will have noted that the work was completed some months ago now. Unfortunately the answer is still “I don’t know” but rest assured I will make it known when it is open. The hold up is not of our making, but to do with the process of transfer from previous occupiers via our landlord and the meeting of various planning and other requirements.

The change to more south-westerly winds has reduced migrant activity, but the reserve has still seen a some waders passing through in the last few days, on Sunday a sanderling with a peg-leg was by Tern hide and today a turnstone was on Long Spit (as I have decided to christen the new island we created to the east of Tern hide this spring). Both these are high Arctic breeders and only occasional visitors to Blashford.

Would you like Lime with that?

We over-wintered some pupae, mostly of emperor moth, but also a couple of others. I confess I did not know for sure what they were. One looked like a hawk moth and it turned out that it was a female lime hawk moth, as it emerged yesterday morning.

lime hawk female

lime hawk moth female

The moth trap was very quite, with only five moths, but these included a freshly emerged male lime hawk moth and a very brightly coloured one.

lime hawk male

lime hawk moth male

Although there were not many moths in the trap I did find a very beautiful, tiny moth running about on vegetation beside the Centre pond, remarkably I managed to get one, more or less in focus shot of it, although I have yet to be happy I have identified it.

micro moth

micro-moth

Out on the reserve there has been a lot going on recently. The volunteers have been hard at work building a whole new fleet of tern rafts thanks to funding from the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS). By the end of Thursday we had eight rafts in two sets and I am pleased to say that we already have ten pairs settling on them with others about. So far I have  had no chance to get a picture of them, but I will try again over the weekend.

Although Blashford’s tern colony is one of the smallest in the county, it is consistently the most productive, with each pair regularly fledging more than two chicks each year. Over the last ten years we have produced about 450 chicks to flying stage, since our colony is still only about 25 pairs, so most of these must now off nesting elsewhere, probably topping up struggling coastal colonies.

Other news is that the next stage of work on the former Hanson concrete block works has started, eventually this area will be absorbed into the reserve allowing direct access from the main car park to the Goosander and Lapwing hides without crossing the road or significantly doubling back on yourself. We hope to have the access open by the autumn.

I am still trying to identify be many bees that can be seen around the reserve using the excellent new guide, some are difficult though. One thing that looking at a different group of creatures does, is open your eyes to just how many there are, once you start looking there are bees of lots of different types all over the place! Below is a picture of a very small one I came across yesterday, still not sure if I will be able to identify it though.

little bee 2

small bee sp.