Bittern doing what bittern do best…

…hiding! There are bittern around the reserve this winter, but whether because of high water levels, or because the relatively mild weather so far this winter has kept numbers on the reserve down again this year, they are being seen consistently on a pretty much daily basis, but often only one sighting in a day from different locations. Andy Copleston kindly sent in this picture earlier in the week of a bittern in the reeds fringing the southern shore of Ivy Lake:

Bittern by A Copleston

Bittern by A Copleston

Yes, I know. I had to look twice too! Try double clicking the picture to open it and zoom on the mid-point. It is there honest!

When you do see a bittern like this it does make you wonder how many others are out there under your nose being overlooked!

Kingfisher are showing quite well at the moment, particularly from Ivy North Hide and over Ivy Silt Pond, the ring-billed gull and long-tailed duck are still about, as is the great white egret (usually on Mockbeggar, Rockford or Ivy Lakes). New to the Blashford winter scene this season though are redpoll with sightings of a couple of birds feeding on the alder with siskin near Lapwing Hide. They have yet to be seen from the Woodland Hide though, where siskin are also thin on the ground still, with the birds preferring the alder and silver birch seeds of which there is apparently still plenty supply. Brambling have been seen in the Forest, but as yet have not made it to Blashford this winter…

A lovely day in the end today, it was very icy first thing this morning, with black ice all along Ellingham Drove and particularly by the entrance to the reserve. Last year (and this year so far) were so mild it is easy to forget, but this particular spot is always nasty in a cold snap so please do take care as you slow down on the approach and also be aware that the main car park (Tern Hide) can at times be terribly treacherous and that staff may choose to keep the car park (and possibly Tern Hide itself) closed if we deem it too dangerous. Forewarned is forearmed!

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Thank you!

I’ve had my leg pulled by various staff, volunteers and visitors after my “rant” about roadside parking out side the gates to Goosander and Lapwing Hide, but, I have to say, parking there has decreased dramatically this week, even on a busy day like today, with just one car parked there when I had a look this afternoon (and that was leaving).

So, thank you to everyone who has taken heed! It is appreciated (and not just by me!).

The “bird of the day” I guess must be the Bewick swan that was reported flying onto Ibsley Water today – they are very thin on the ground in the valley again this winter (I am aware of one before Christmas). This one didn’t stick around either, having taken off flying south by mid-afternoon. Also still showing on Ibsley Water were the long-tailed duck, black-necked grebe and  ring-billed gull.

Having said that for a little while I thought there could have been something else new to report following the description of a number of mysterious very dark, black tailed duck like birds on Ellingham Pound by someone who shall remain nameless to preserve their dignity… It seems that they were actually just gadwall caught in silhouette against the glare of the water… Got me out of the office for a nice walk in the sunshine though!

Gadwall are still the most numerous duck on Ivy Lake, though compared to last weekend they have been joined by significantly more of other species. Woodland Hide was it’s usual treat this afternoon in the sunshine, with a constant flurry of feathered activity; nothing unusual, but a nice variety in reasonable numbers – far more than my photo implies!

Ivy Lake

Ivy Lake

View from the Woodland Hide

View from the Woodland Hide

 

 

How to Take a REALLY Bad Photograph!

My first day back at work today after the long Christmas break, of course the staff at Blashford have been here everyday apart from Christmas Day itself and it has been quite a busy festive period with lots to see. During the morning I was working in the office and had visitors trickling in with tales of a bittern at the Ivy North hide, great white egret on Rockford Lake and the ferruginous duck on distant Kingfisher Lake. So when it came to lunchtime I decided to eat it in the Tern hide and see what I could find. I quickly saw the long-tailed duck off to the west of the hide and the black-necked grebe well to the north. A flock of mixed geese included an escapee bar-headed goose, there were nine or more goldeneye, including at least 3 adult drakes and three goosander flew in from the direction of the river, not bad at all.

As there were already a fair few gulls I took a look through them and found the adult ring-billed gull, at first it was much closer to the northern shore but then it flew towards us and landed a good bit closer. It was then that the opportunity for a picture arose, a challenge that I decided to rise to and, as you can see below, utterly fail to achieve! You can, just about, tell it is a ring-billed gull, but it must rate as one of the worst pictures I have ever shared.

ring-billed gull (just about).

ring-billed gull (just about).

Later in the day reports came in of a firecrest, in an ivy covered tree near the entrance, so eye-stripes and crown-stripes were added to ringed-bills, long-tails, black-necks and barred-heads.

Blashford ltd and the goose with the goldeneye – Oh , and a great white egret

Isn’t digital photography wonderful!!

I’m old enough to remember when some of the first digital images were published, back in the 1960’s. At that time such technology was the preserve of ‘big science’ and military intelligence since it was used to get images back from space probes and satellites. Definitely one of those instances of necessity being the mother of invention because they couldn’t get photographic film back (and to the chemists!) from these remote vehicles. Also behind the original digitising camera it needed a computer the size of a car to process the data and produce the image

With the irrepressible march of technological progress and innovation these images have become more detailed and sharper over the years and now available to us all.  Having said all this though, its one of the features of wildlife (especially bird) photography that the target always seems to be far off and usually moving. Such was the situation today when the long-tailed duck on Ibsley water hove into view in  middle of the lake.  Winding my modest camera up to its full potential (72x zoom) and in less than bright conditions produced the slightly grainy, almost monochrome image, reminiscent of the quality of some of those early space-shot pictures.

long-tailed duck on Ibsley water

long-tailed duck on Ibsley water

Another benefit of computerised imaging is our ability to select and manipulate those parts of an image that  are of interest… so….

IMG_1601 ltd

image from above ‘cropped’ and ‘sharpened’

A little nearer than this, a group of three Egyptian geese were keeping close together but moving around from place to place on Ibsley water, occasionally coming close enough to picture.

Egyptian and Canada Geese - escapees from the goose fair??

Egyptian and Canada Geese – escapees from the goose fair??

Another advantage of this digital lark is that the concept of ‘wasted (and expensive) film’ no longer applies, so there is a tendency to run off lots of shots and sometimes this leads to unexpected and interesting juxtapositions as with this picture…..

Possible 'Bond movie' stars - The Goose with the Goldeneye.

Possible ‘Bond movie’ stars – The Goose with the Goldeneye.

Also on Ibsley water the colour ringed great white egret was showing well..

great white egret seen from Goosander Hide

great white egret seen from Goosander Hide

Back on Ivy lake kingfisher have been giving a good account of themselves, with several delighted visitors reporting excellent views from both hides overlooking the lake.

Somewhat un-seasonally a great spotted woodpecker has been ‘drumming’ in the area around the Woodland Hide.

My last posting of the year, so may I take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year!

 

Just a few Birds

I know Ed’s been really busy and hasn’t had the opportunity lately to post much in the way of pictures from the Reserve so I’ll share a few images of some of our more common species, taken last Wednesday and today.

The long view from the Tern Hide to the far side of Ibsley Water was distinctly autumnal

Across the water from the Tern Hide

Across the water from the Tern Hide

A few of the ‘regular’ birds using the feeders around the Woodland Hide were considerate enough to perch up on the nearby branches before dashing in to take a few seeds.

Male chaffinch

Male chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Female chaffinch

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

Collared Dove - normally a bird of more open areas, these have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

Collared Dove – normally a bird of more open (park and garden) areas, but at Blashford they have adapted their behaviour to the woodland area and taken to raiding the seed feeders.

and a seasonal favourite…………..

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

A Blashford Christmas robin ?

Although most of the tit family only lingered long enough on the feeder for me to take their picture

Great tit

Great tit

Among the other birds seen around the woodlands are wren, nuthatch, blue and coal tits, siskin, dunnock, goldcrest and chiffchaff.  On the water there are increasing numbers of duck of several species including gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, shoveler, pochard, goldeneye and goosander, as well as the now regular long-tailed duck.  Great crested, little and black-necked grebe are all present on Ibsley water. Here also the early evening spectacle of large numbers of lesser black-backed, herring and black-headed gull  together with smaller numbers of great black-backed, common and yellow-legged gull coming to roost continues to attract birdwatchers. The starling murmuration has lost some of its previous  splendour with reduced numbers and more distant view, but on clear days, like today, can still be quite impressive.

On Ivy Lake at least two bittern have been seen and a couple of water rail were scrapping, chasing one another around outside the Ivy North Hide earlier today.

Visitors often ask where they might see particular birds around the reserve. In my experience the species most often sought is kingfisher, but I usually have to resort to rather vague advice of looking from one or other hide where a bird has been reported (but not personally seen by me!!). So it was gratifying to be privy to views of these birds perched openly and close(ish) to the Ivy North Hide, even allowing me to capture some half-decent images.

Kingfisher in reedbeds to right of Ivy North Hide

Kingfisher in reedbeds to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

In branches to left of Ivy North Hide

 

 

 

Lots and Lots of Birds

I was filling in at Blashford today, but it was a good day to be there with mostly good weather and lots of birds to see. It started misty, but was clearing as I opened up the hides. Outside the Ivy South hide there was  a very obliging female tufted duck diving around the fallen tree trunks just below the hide.

female tufted duck

female tufted duck

When I got back to the office there was a message to say that there was a long-tailed duck on Ibsley Water. I was planning to go up to the Lapwing hide in the morning anyway so this was an added incentive. The sun was breaking through and the day looked very promising, perhaps there would be late dragonflies as well as birds to see. After a little while attending to a few things I set out for the Lapwing hide, heading along the Dockens Water path the sun seemed a little less bright and as I headed north along the path from Ellingham Drove it was plain that the fog was rolling in, by the time I got to the Lapwing hide I could make out just a few hazy shapes on the nearest part of the lake, there was no chance of seeing a long-tailed duck somewhere in mid-lake. So I headed back towards the Centre, the reedbed area east of the Lapwing hide is looking very good and is already flooded again and is clearly home to several very noisy water rail. Looking across Mockbeggar Lake I saw the great white egret preening in a tree, I had seen it earlier in the tv screen in the Centre when it must have been on Ivy Lake, so I knew it was about today.

Eventually the fog cleared and the day became very pleasant, although not as sunny as it had briefly been, I never did see any dragonflies, but I did see a red admiral and at least one other was also seen. Later in the afternoon I went over to the Main Car Park where a moderate crowd was gathering in the hope of seeing the Franklin’s gull. The hide was soon packed and I decided to stand on the bank to the south of the car park from where there is a very good panoramic view of the lake and valley. I finally spotted the long-tailed duck, a rather drab looking juvenile bird, off to the west of the Tern hide, then I saw the black-necked grebe and 2 ruddy duck drakes. The gull roost was starting to build and news came through that the Franklin’s gull was near the Goosander hide and most of the gathering in the Tern hide decamped. I stayed on the bank and watched the gathering mass of starlings. At times they came right over our heads.

starlings

starlings

More usually they were over the trees near the A338, more distant but the swirling effect was more impressive, as the numbers increased the light dimmed and this was the best shot I could get of the main flock.

starling flock

starling flock

I estimated about 25000 birds were present, although the flock often split making more than a very rough estimate very difficult.

The Franklin’s gull eventually swam out of the bay and was also seen well from the bank and the Tern hide, so I think everyone was happy with the views they got. The day was rounded off with a tawny owl calling as I locked up the car park. By the end of the day I had recorded 73 species of birds, not at all bad for Blashford.