The Cutting Crew

Recent visitors to the reserve may have noticed that there has been a lot of work going on in the area between the main car park and Goosander hide, where the concrete block plant used to be. We have been waiting for the site to be restored for some years as it will give us a path directly from the car park to Goosander hide and so a circular route around the reserve. It will also give us about 2ha of open ground potentially ideal for nesting lapwing and little ringed plover. It is not yet part of the reserve, but hopefully will be before too long and in anticipation of this we are working to make sure it can deliver as much as possible.

Today the Tuesday volunteers were cutting a huge bramble clump that covered the shore of the lake west of Goosander hide cutting the lake off from the open ground. The plan is for this bank to be grassland in the long run, although this is going to need a few years of hard work. Hopefully it will be good for both nesting lapwing and feeding wigeon. We got  a lot done today as the pictures below show.

before

before

As you can see, although I have labelled this “before” we have already done two days work in previous weeks.

after

after

The new banks that flank what will be the path from the main car park will be planted with willows and brambles to provide habitat for small birds and many of the open areas will have wildflower seed spread on them to provide nectar for insects.

When I opened up this morning it was noticeable that there were no swallows or martins over Ibsley Water. Scanning around I saw two of the three garganey and a group of small waders which proved to be 3 dunlin and a single little stint. Later we saw 5 pochard, the most I have seen in ages. Late in the day when I was locking up I again saw the great white egret on Ibsley Water along with all three garganey, a pair of Mandarin duck and an adult yellow-legged gull.

 

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A Day by The Sea

On Sunday I spent the day at the Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve open day. This annual event is run jointly by the Wildlife Trust, Hampshire County Council and the New Forest National Park. The marshes are famous for their wildlife and have been nature reserves for many years. The grazed marshes and fields are a county council owned reserve and the saltmarshes outside the seawall are a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reserve, together making a huge protected area.

Reserve Open Day

Reserve Open Day

The Open Day gives us a chance to promote the protection of the area with local people, many of whom walk around the reserve regularly without necessarily knowing just how important they are for wildlife. As usual there was a good turn out of local conservation groups, a range of walks and activities for younger visitors.

Bird ringing demonstrations are always popular and if you can catch a kingfisher to show people, all the more so!

kingfisher

kingfisher

I actually spent most of the day manning a telescope set up overlooking Normandy lagoon, allowing people to see a wide range of birds. In total we saw 58 species from the one spot during the day. It would have been a good few more if the wind had not got up making smaller birds stay low and out of sight. Species we did see ranged from little stint and curlew sandpiper to yellow wagtail, gannet and wheatear. I saw every species but one, and this was the bird of the day, a marsh harrier which flew over when I went to get a cup of tea! Perhaps the most unexpected sighting was a common seal that spent several hours just off the seawall and was seen by most who stopped to look.

Normandy Lagoon

Normandy Lagoon

 

 

 

 

Farewell

After the wet Bank Holiday Monday, Tuesday’s sunshine was welcome, however despite this it was a sad day at Blashford as we had to say farewell to Michelle. She has been an invaluable member of the Education team and a source of endless enthusiasm which has inspired far more than just those working on the educational side of things. She has been a source of many amazing ideas, a lot of which have turned into great activities and some of which were just amazing!

As befits our having to part with such a well loved member of the team we had to give her a send off and the volunteers stepped in with liberal supplies of cake, a parting gift and a traditional farewell walk around the reserve.

Michelle receiving her parting gift

Michelle receiving her parting gift (note the cake! all of it very good) 

On our walk we went to the Autumn lady’s-tresses I found on Monday and Jim promptly found another! The sun had brought out lots of insects and before we left there was a humming-bird hawk-moth by the Centre and out on the reserve lots of speckled wood and brimstone butterflies. I especially liked this one perched on a hemp agrimony plant, until I downloaded the picture I had not noticed the tiny wasp perched on the rear edge of the hind-wing.

brimstone and tiny wasp

brimstone and tiny wasp

The reserve staff stayed on after we had locked up and all went up onto the ridge that overlooks the valley from the east, from where you apparently get a fine view across the lakes and beyond.

The lakes have got to be here somewhere

The lakes have got to be here somewhere

Hopefully Michelle will come back to see us from time to time, she will be missed by staff, volunteers and visitors to the reserve.

Although the weather was improved most of Monday’s birds had gone, although the little stint was on Ibsley Water first thing in the morning. When we locked up the hides we counted a huge 120 grey heron on Ibsley Water along with 110 cormorant, they were all just standing around, I guess they had been flushed from the valley and come to the lakes for some peace and quiet. They may have retreated from the unexpected sight of a flock of cattle egret, which were reported flying up the valley earlier, although where they went remains a mystery.

Bank Holiday Birds with a Twist

A rainy August Bank Holiday and unsurprisingly Blashford was not very busy with visitors, although there were quiet a few birds of interest. When I opened the hides the great white egret was perched in front of Ivy North and at Ivy South 3 wigeon hint at the winter to come. I had hoped for a few waders or terns to drop in, rain often forces them down from their high level flights overland, but all Ibsley Water had to offer were a couple of common sandpiper. The rain had forced in a huge flock of hirundines to feed low over the water though, I estimated at least a thousand, roughly 40% swallow, 40% house martin and 20% sand martin.

Having just returned from holiday I had a backlog of office work to deal with, being in the office was not so bad when the rain was pouring down outside. Still by lunchtime I had to get out for a bit and went over to the Tern hide to see if anything had changed, the answer was yes. There were terns, only three but they were 2 adult common tern and a  juvenile Arctic tern. There were also more waders, I counted at least 4 and probably 6 common sandpiper, also a dunlin, a little ringed plover and a juvenile little stint. In addition 14 shoveler were flushed by a grey heron and flew over to Mockbeggar Lake.

The rain continued and I returned to the office. Luckily by mid afternoon it stopped and so before doing the round for locking up I went for a quick look on the edge of the lichen heath, in search of Autumn lady’s-tresses, a small orchid that seems to be having a good year. As far as I know it has only been recorded once at Blashford and that some years ago. I looked pretty hard, even using binoculars and was about to give up when I found one, only one, but a good size for this usually small species.

Autumn lady's tresses

Autumn lady’s-tresses

Admittedly not as big as it looks in the picture, perhaps 12cm high. Their Latin name is Spiranthes spiralis and it is easy to see how it got the name from the way the flowers twist around the stem. The recent rain has greened up the heath and caused lots of the plants to flower again, the blue fleabane being especially abundant.

blue fleabane

blue fleabane

When I closed up the Tern hide all I could find of the earlier birds was the Arctic tern and a couple of common sandpiper, so perhaps the improvement in the weather had persuaded the rest to move on. Even the hirundines has mostly gone leaving more or less just sand martin, although I estimated there were now over 300 of them.