All Change

After a cold and snowy end to last week,  Sunday saw me arriving to find almost the whole of Ibsley Water frozen over and Ivy Lake completely so.

frosty silt pond

Ivy Silt Pond on Sunday morning

Things actually started to thaw during the day on Sunday, so that by the end of the day there was more open water, at least on Ibsley Water.

goosander flock preening

a group of goosander preening near Lapwing hide

The cold resulted in a typical increase in the number of common gull in the roost, with over 400 reported and, more excitingly, the return of the ring-billed gull, probably it had come in with the common gull influx, but where has it been?

Even at dusk  on yesterday Ivy Lake was still frozen over and this seemed to put off the cormorant roosting flock, instead of the usual 150 or more birds there were just two! Others did fly in and around the trees but headed off elsewhere. A single great white egret, probably “Walter” roosted in the trees, but away from the two cormorant.

Today was quite different, mild and wet, a combination of snow melt and rain resulted in the Dockens Water flooding through the alder carr and into Ivy Lake, probably to the great relief of the bittern which was back in the reedmace at Ivy North Hide as I locked up this evening.


Bittern in the reedmace below Ivy North hide

I am pretty confident that every sighting of bittern that I have had this winter has been of the same bird, as have been all the pictures I have seen. On a couple of occasions I have seen threat behaviour that I would usually associate with there being a second nearby, but have never seen another bird. So reports of two seen on Friday were interesting, although the second bird could just have been displaced by the cold as they often are when lakes freeze. However today I see that two were seen in early January, so perhaps there really have been two all along! As they are territorial it may just be that the second is usually too far from the hide for us to see it, there is a good bit of reedbed off the west of the Ivy North Hide where it would be very difficult to see a lurking bittern.

By dusk this evening it was quite hard to see very much in any case, as the mist descended over the lakes.

misty Ivy Lake

Misty Ivy Lake (actually the bittern is in this picture, but I doubt you can see it!!)


Ice, Ice

Blashford was unusually quiet today, not really surprising as roads to the reserve were treacherous and the fog meant that seeing more than a few tens of metres was impossible. This is not to say that there was nothing to see however. At the Woodland hide there were at least 2 male brambling feeding with the chaffinch and from Ivy South hide the ducks were concentrated close to the hide, giving great views. However the real things to look at were the effects of the cold weather on the everyday things around the reserve, the heavy frost on the trees and grass and frosted seed heads. Best of all, in my opinion were some amazing iced leaves embedded in some of the frosted puddles.


Iced leaves

The mass of leaves looked good but some of the single leaves were even more impressive.


Ice leaf

I think the effect comes from little pockets of air trapped along the leaf veins, but I don’t remember seeing it before.

Today was also notable as the day our new apprentices started, they are working with us until the end of March as part of the “Our Past, Our Future” project with the New Forest National Park.

Brrrr Blashford

There was ice on some of the lakes this morning and some of it lasted all day, something that does not happen every winter these days. So far the cold snap does not seem to have resulted in many birds arriving as it might later in the winter, but it has seen a distinct upturn in the number of birds visiting the feeders at the Woodland hide.


frosty leaves

At Ivy North hide recently water rail have been much in evidence and we were sent the  picture below taken from there by John Hartley.


two water rail at Ivy North hide (by John Hartley)

Nobody seems to have seen the bittern for a couple of days, although great white egret was there today. I suspect the bittern might have moved a little to get access to open water as the reedbed by the hide is mostly frozen.

The gull roost this evening did show some signs of an effect of the cold snap in the form of an increase in the number of common gull, there were at least 60 this evening and I understand the ring-billed gull was seen again.





Sun Bitterns

Bird News: Ibsley Waterbarnacle goose 5, Caspian gull 1, pintail 14, peregrine 1. Ivy Lake –  bittern 3, water rail 2, Cetti’s warbler 1. Woodlandbrambling 1, lesser redpoll 20+.

I was going to post last night but fell asleep! So two days in one this time.

A party of 5 barnacle geese on Ibsley Water for the last two days are probably feral birds, but with cold coming in from the east we have had just the right conditions for the arrival of real ones. That said I have not heard of any others so perhaps caution should be excersised this time. Yesterday afternoon I finally  caught up with the adult Caspian gull on Ibsley Water. A notable feature of the cold spell has been the return of lots of gulls to the roost and the big rise in common gull numbers, perhaps we will get our own Iceland gull soon.

It was really cold overnight and driving up to the Centre this was made very clear when I looked at the Dockens Water which was frozen right across in places.

Ice on the Dockens Water

At the Ivy North hide I could make out 2 bittern standing high in the reeds on the lake edge about ten metres apart, they were in the first spot on the reed edge to catch the sun and the need to warm up had obviously taken precedence over their usual pugnatiouness, at least for a while.

The Woodland hide continues to attract more and more birds and I heard a brambling again this morning, there have been very few so far this winter and don’t expect many, even next month. The lesser redpoll and siskin numbers at the feeders are going up everyday as is the spend on nyger seed. The ringers were in again yesterday and caught sixty-five birds, including a couple of siskin and a lesser redpoll ringed at Blashford in previous years and a lesser redpoll ringed elsewhere. The weather yesterday was good for ringing, as it was for the volunteers. We were working in the small willow coppice patches near the Centre, where luckily we were nicely out of the easterly breeze and in the sun. Instead of dead hedging the cuttings were laid them on the ground around the cut stumps to try and deter the deer which completely stopped any regrowth last year, we will see how it works.

volunteers working in willow coppice

It was back to the Dockens Water this afternoon as we had a little job to do fixing some handrails. When we got to the site we found our first casualty of the cold snap, a redwing that seems to have landed on the ice, partly fallen though and then frozen to death.

frozen redwing

I am next in on Sunday, with the weather forecast as it is I wonder what will be in store, maybe some snow and almost certainly some new birds. Even if the snow does not reach us, the cold to the east will be pushing birds westwards, let’s hope it is not so cold that the lakes freeze. I will sign off for now with another Dockens Water shot, this time from towards the end of the day.

Icy Dockens Water