From all Corners

There were birds from all over the place on the reserve today. All the way from Siberia; the yellow-browed warbler was again near Ivy South hide as I opened up, giving good views until it disappeared before our very eyes. It makes astonishingly fast changes of direction which mean that following its movements for very long is incredibly difficult.

From North America we had; lesser scaup, a drake near the furthest shore of Ibsley Water, probably last winter’s bird returned by popular demand. These duck are similar in appearance to the greater scaup which is much more familiar in Europe, but smaller, around the size of a tufted duck.

From all over northern and eastern Europe we had all the other wildfowl and a good few other birds too. Arrived from the Alps and now to be seen on the shores of Ibsley Water are the water pipit, I got a mediocre picture of one today.

water pipit

water pipit from Tern hide

And finally from just up the road somewhere we have the rest, including this adult female peregrine, seen here in another iffy picture!

peregrine

adult female peregrine

Other birds to be seen out and about on the reserve today were the bittern at Ivy North hide along with Walter the great white egret. Other birds to be seen on Ibsley Water included green sandpiper, pintail and in the gull roost several yellow-legged gull and three Mediterranean gull. 

However the reserve is not just about birds, today there was also cake and lots of it, with another successful day for the pop-up cafe.  I also took some non-birdy pictures, largely due to a failure to get very good ones of the birds. There are quite a few fungi about now, scarlet elf-cup are just starting to appear in numbers as are lost of Turkeytail.

turkeytail

Moss, fern and Turkeytail

The bare trees make it possible to appreciate how much lichen some of them have on their branches, the willow near Lapwing hide are especially heavily festooned.

lichen on willow twigs

lichen on willow twigs

Other species grow on the trunks of trees.

lichen on birch trunk

lichen on birch trunk

Lichens are a mash-up of alga and fungus, although it now appears it is probably rather more complicated than this.

The reserve was busy today despite reduced parking due to the ongoing levelling works near the Centre, but hopefully this work will be completed by the end of the coming week and things will be slightly closer to normal again, at least for a time.

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It’s a Small World

Boxing Day was quite busy at Blashford, with a fair few visitors on the reserve, most who were prepared to spend the time waiting saw the bittern at Ivy North hide. Whilst they waited good views were to be had of water rail and Cetti’s warbler.

From the hides on Ibsley Water the black-necked grebe could be distantly seen along with at least two water pipit and near Tern hide, at least 85 linnet. An adult female marsh harrier crossed over the lake a few times and a sparrowhawk was seen trying to hunt the small starling roost int he late afternoon. The starling roost has evidently relocated having dropped from tens of thousands to a few hundred. I could also find no sign of any great white egret, even at dusk when I looked at the usual roost site, none could be found.

linnets

Part of the linnet flock on the shore beside Tern hide, there are lots of them but they are hard to pick out!

I had a look through the gull roost and there were good numbers of lesser black-backed gull and black-headed gull, but only 14 common gull, two yellow-legged gull and no sign of the ring-billed gull or Caspian gull. Obviously I could not check all the gulls present but conditions were very good, so I was disappointed not to find either species.

Away from the birds I came across an oak branch with a remarkable habitat growing across it, just one branch had it’s own forest of lichen, moss and fungi, small in scale but extraordinary.

lichens

lichen and moss on oak branch

lichen and moss 2

More lichen and moss

hair lichen

hair-like lichen

fungus

A small fungus (I think)

It might be only just after Christmas, but signs of spring were to be found. I saw snowdrops pushing through the ground and the hazel catkins are opening.

hazel catkins

hazel catkins

I also heard singing mistle thrush and great tit as well as the year round singers like robin and Cetti’s warbler.

A Dull Day Brightened Up

It was strangely warm today, at first misty and then just very, very dull. The damp grey conditions were livened up by quite a good showing of fungi around the reserve. The logs beside the track between the Centre and Woodland Hide are particularly good, many have clusters of turkey-tail fungus.turkey tails

The moss covered, more rotted ones sometimes have candle snuff.candle snuff

There are also increasing numbers of scarlet elf-cups, a species that is always around in greatest numbers in late January.scarlet elf cup

I also found a few more conventional “toadstools”, one group on an old alder stump.fungi on alder stump

Also these tiny pale ones on a moss covered willow trunk.small fungi

The fallen branches often have various fungi on and one had a brightly coloured fungus  encrusted all along it.sheet fungus

Some fungi live in association with algae to produce lichens, spore production brings out their fungal side.lichen

With all this emphasis on fungi you might think it was autumn, but there was a distinct feel of spring with the first few of the wild daffodil near the Woodland hide already in flower.wild dafodil

You may have noticed that these pictures were taken using a flash, this was because it was so dull today that I could not get a picture of any of these without it!

Out on the reserve the bittern was at Ivy North on and off all day and out on Ibsley Water the usual black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe had hundreds of duck for company. I counted exactly 200 pintail, my highest count so far this winter.

In the late after noon the gull roost was joined by the first winter Caspian gull which stood out on the shingle spit to the right of the Tern hide for all to see, including me, which was pleasing as I had previously failed to catch up with it.

 

 

 

 

Wildlife stars in abundance!

Blashford is at least as lovely place a place to work as it is to visit… although unfortunately time spent necessarily, although very reluctantly, in the office, does mean that we staff often miss out on sightings that some lucky visitors enjoy. Yesterday this included an otter (watched for 10 minutes swimming around Ibsley Silt Pond, the small lake just north of/behind Lapwing Hide) and a bittern (first reported sighting of this season, observed in the usual hot spot in the reed bed by Ivy North Hide).

Of course being here every day there are other “stars” whom we are privileged to see very regularly and even, dare I say it, take a little bit for granted at times; birds like kingfisher (had a lovely view of one perched/fishing in front of Ivy South Hide this morning) and, of course, the great white egret. Christened Walter White by Ed (for reasons known only unto himself!), this lovely picture of it in flight by Tern Hide earlier in the week, was sent in by David:

 

Great white egret by David Stanley Ward

Great white egret by David Stanley Ward

Perhaps of less interest to some, but even more interest to others, is this moth which I recorded in the light trap this morning. Obviously a footman, it was larger than I am used to and I have identified it as a (male) four-spotted footman. Don’t worry about the lack of spots, it is the female that bears those! It is possible that I have misidentified it, but if not this is, according to the book, a nationally scarce moth with a small population in the New Forest (and other small populations else where in southern England and west Wales). The caterpillars of this species feed on tree lichens, of which we certainly have plenty on the reserve.

Four-spotted footman?

Four-spotted footman?

Speaking of lichens, I did take a picture of some on the lichen heath this morning, for no other reason than they looked quite stunning in the wet, grey and overcast weather:

Lichen on the lichen heath

Lichen on the lichen heath

As is often the case, the photo does not really do it justice! They do seem to be doing well this year; possibly as a result of the particular weather conditions, or possibly associated with the small reduction in visitors which the weather has bought about, and an associated decrease in trampling by the same, as we know that they do not fare well with regular trampling and this is why the footpaths across the reserve all skirt around the lichen heath.

Also flourishing in the warm wet conditions this month are fungi:

I mentioned the earth stars that have come up in a previous blog, but was unable to take a picture at the time. I have now recovered the camera and couldn’t resist photographing this very lovely specimen this morning:

Earth star

Earth star

This nearby shaggy ink cap was also particularly impressive:

Shaggy ink cap

Shaggy ink cap

Unfortunately the picture is not great, but, with my binoculars in-situ for scale, I hope you can appreciate the awesome majesty of this fungus, which has to be the largest example of this particular species that I have ever come across!

 

A Rainy Night in Ringwood

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoldeneye 1 pair, common tern 7.

Very little bird news today, although I was only on site briefly first thing I had still expected a few birds given the brisk south-east wind and occasional very heavy showers, the kind of conditions that I associate with migrants dropping in at sites like Ibsley Water. The rain of the last few days have given the reserve a very green look with many trees coming into leaf and the ground getting rapidly covered with a fresh growth of nettles, lords and ladies and ground-ivy, among many other plants.

path beside Ivy Silt Pond

The reserve is a good site for a wide range of lichens and the rain has allowed them to soak up water and look their best, the lichen heath is obviously a good site but there are many growing on the trees as well.

lichen on twig

On the heath they grow with mosses and a range of tiny higher plants.

lichen and moss on the heath

I am pleased we have finally had some rain, although I doubt we will have enough to make the sand martins safe, for that we would need enough to get the lake up over the dry shore below the nesting bank, a rise of 20cm or so. A couple of years ago the level was something like 75cm above the present level, I needed waders to get along the base of the nesting bank then!

Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve, as many will know, actually belongs to two water companies, Sembcorp Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water, they too will be happy to see some rain falling, although it will take some months of above average rainfall to make them really happy. The problem for both water companies and wildlife habitats is the drop in ground water levels that a prolonged dry spell produces. It reduces river flows and dries out ditches, ponds, bogs and marshes, all habitats with specialised wildlife dependant upon a good water supply. More rain will help but taking less for human use will also play a part. For more on this see:  http://www.wessexwater.co.uk/water-and-sewerage/twocol.aspx?id=8052 One thing that surprised me when I heard it recently, was that we are actually using less water per head today than we were ten years ago and that usage is still falling. I get so used to hearing that despite knowing that resources are finite we cannot take this in as a reality and go on consuming at an ever greater rate. This water use story significantly bucks this trend. just maybe we can learn to live within the planet’s means after all.