High-brow

I was elsewhere yesterday so was only able to read about the bird of the day, the yellow-browed warbler seen near Ivy South hide. It was not a great surprise as they are now scarce migrants and winter visitors in Hampshire despite breeding in Asia and being smaller than a chiffchaff! Although climate change might be expected to lead to more southern bird species spreading north and it probably has, there also seems to be a strong trend for traditionally Siberian species to be spreading west. Several formerly very rare species are now occurring much more frequently in western Europe and even nesting.

So as I opened up the hides I was keeping an eye out for a long-tailed tit flock as the warbler was tagging along with one yesterday. Leaving the Ivy South hide there was a flock just behind the hide and there it was, high in an alder, the yellow-browed warbler had found me! Only brief views as they don’t stay still for long, but I did grab a quick picture.

yellow-browed warbler

yellow-browed warbler

These birds are common in Asia breeding across a wide area and migrating south to winter mostly in tropical south-east Asia. On the face of it their now regular arrival in some numbers in western Europe in autumn and wintering in south-west Europe would seem very unlikely and may be related to a westward range extension in the summer.

I understand the bittern was seen several times today and a Caspian gull was in the roost on Ibsley Water. I was busy all day so my only other sighting of any note was at dusk from Ivy North hide where there were two water rail and two great white egret in the trees. It was a magnificent evening with a splendid sky at sunset.

sunset from main car park

sunset from the main car park

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A Few Birds

We had a mini bird race for teams from our Blashford Lakes Project partners today, which meant that I got to have a good look around the reserve and see a few birds as well. Generally it was a quite day with rather little sign of migration despite the season.

Over Ibsley Water there were several hundred hirundines, predominantly house martin but including sand martin and swallow. The only wader was common sandpiper, but the bushes between the lakes held some small birds including chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and a single spotted flycatcher, mostly accompanying flocks of long-tailed tit.

Walter our regular great white egret was back in his regular spot outside Ivy North hide after going absent for a few days, his recent companion has not been seen for several days. An adult hobby hunting over the trees at the same spot was also nice to see and a peregrine was reported there as well.

Numbers of wildfowl have been high for the time of year and I took the opportunity to get a new count of the coot on Ibsley Water and found 794, a really high count for the first half of September.

 

A weekly round up

Firstly, please accept our apologies for the recent infrequency of posts – we are doing our best, we are still here, and if we are not managing to post more frequently it is only because we are busy!

Comedy award this week goes to our lovely Long-term Volunteer Placement Emily – with thanks to Geoff for very kindly taking and sharing the picture below:

Emily... she's got that sinking feeling...

Emily… she’s got that sinking feeling…

I’m sure Emily will be thrilled to have made it onto the blog again (it wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t end up doing exactly the same thing again…several times!).

Joking aside Emily has been a huge help since she started with us on a long-term basis in September and we will be sad to see her “leave” when the 6 month post finishes in March. She has in turn benefitted from a wide range of work experience across all aspects of conservation and education work on the reserve and her first job interview requests are starting to roll in. We of course hope that she secures a suitable job soon (and ideally we hope that the suitable job is local so we can continue to benefit from her hard-work and enthusiasm in the future!).

We will shortly be advertising for a new long-term (6 month) volunteer at Blashford Lakes on the website and elsewhere so if you, or anyone you know, might be interested, do check out the jobs section next week: http://www.hiwwt.org.uk/jobs

The post that Emily was trying to erect in the picture was one of several forming a deer fence in front of the old Hansons office which will (hopefully!) protect the tree’s that were then subsequently planted there by the Thursday volunteer team from the ravages of grazing deer.

Sadly we still have no news on when we will be able to finally open the long awaited footpath between Tern and Goosander Hides, but rest assured that as soon as we can we will and we will be sure to let you know on this blog when we do too…

Perhaps the biggest wildlife news of the week, and certainly today, is that of sightings of (a single male) lesser redpoll on the feeders outside Woodland Hide for much of the day – unusually for this winter the visitor who first reported it to me had seen that, but no brambling! Thanks to Niall Ferguson for his pictures of brambling and a long-tailed tit taken late last week:

brambling-by-niall-ferguson longtailed-tit-by-niall-ferguson

Ivy Lake still plays host to a large number of wildfowl, particularly notable this week after a long absence has been the arrival of teal. Both the great white egret and bittern continue to be in residence – thank you to Steve White for sending these pictures in:

great-white-egret-by-steve-white bittern-by-steve-white

The bittern clearly doing what it does best, quickly darting from one side of the clearing to the other!

This morning our Wildlife Watch group were in and todays main activity was nest box building:

The finished article!

The finished article!

170211-bl-wildlife-watch-nest-boxes5320-by-jim-day 170211-bl-wildlife-watch-nest-boxes5319-by-jim-day

Early arriving Wildlife Watch members had a fantastic view through the classroom window of a kingfisher over the centre pond where it remained on and off throughout the day delighting any number of visitors of all ages!

I was particularly pleased to be able to call a couple of visitors into my office to see it before they left this morning, as I’d been chatting with them when I opened up Ivy South Hide and they told me how much they wished to see one but had never yet managed it on a visit yet. After they had left and headed over the boardwalk I walked back up to the centre right past a kingfisher fishing from the reeds at the back of Ivy Silt Pond near the Woodland Hide!

Their view of one over the dipping pond made their morning however 😉

 

 

Thank You!

On Friday evening we had our annual volunteer get together, our chance to say “Thank you” to all our many, many volunteers on whom the smooth running of the reserve depends. Volunteers do practical tasks, help with education groups, lead and help with events, take photographs, carry out survey work and even do some of our admin.

The evening started with a choice of two walks or helping Tracy in her attempt to make the official Blashford coracle.corracle

As you can see they did a great job, so far at least, it will still need covering with something waterproof.

I lead one of the walks and we were lucky enough to see the bittern and a few brambling, I got no pictures, but have one sent in by Lorne Bissell (many thanks Lorne) and taken at the feeders by the Woodland hide.

4bramb©LB

Over the weekend both the black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe remained on Ibsley Water, while the ring-billed gull was joined at the roost by a first winter Caspian gull.

Today dawned bright and cold and there was some ice around the edges of the lakes.Ivy Lake

It being Tuesday we had our smaller practical volunteer team in, the task was to try and make repairs to the roof of the Ivy North hide to stop the water coming in. For this task we have to thank not just the volunteers who carried it out but also a donation from the Marden Charitable Trust, which paid for the materials. Donations are an important part of the funding for the running of the reserve. It is an unfortunate fact that it is much easier to raise funds to buy a bit of infrastructure than to look after or replace it. So keeping a site running is much harder to fund than setting it up in the first place. Our volunteers’ work and donations play a vital role in keeping things together in the long term.

I will sign off with a picture taken from the office, somewhere I have been spending rather  a lot of time recently.long-tailed tit

The picture was taken through the rather dirty window, but is not bad for all that. There have been at least 9 long-tailed tit on this fat feeder at a time recently, in this cold weather this high energy food supply is likely to be very important for  very small birds like these.

 

Sunday Birds

I was running a bird watching course at Blashford today so I was pleased to wake to a dry and fairly bright day with little or no wind, more or less ideal conditions. There were ten people booked on, although only eight actually came along in the end. We did a tour of the hides starting with the furthest away. This gave us the walk along the Dockens Water to look and listen out for woodland birds. We did not see anything unusual, although along the way we had good views of goldcrest, treecreeper, nuthatch, redwing and long-tailed tit. In fact we found several bands of long-tailed tits, each one the core of a small mixed flock of woodland birds.

Up at the Lapwing hide one bird we did not see was lapwing, but we did find a small group of goldeneye, there were at least eight around today, a marked increase, no doubt due to the colder weather, there was also a flock of 20 pochard, probably newly arrived.

After a brief stop in the Goosander hide, where we did see goosander, it was back over the road to the Ivy Lake hides. Arriving at Ivy South we learnt that we had just missed the bittern, but we did see lots of ducks, including gadwall and wigeon.

wigeon pair

a pair of wigeon

At the Woodland hide we had the usual great views of lots of the common woodland birds as well as a fine male brambling with the many chaffinch feeding on the ground.

We tried the Ivy North hide for the bittern, but failed and finished off in the Tern hide (where of course there are now no terns) seeing lots of greylag geese, little grebe and ducks. Hopefully everyone had enjoyed themselves and taken a way a few tips for getting more enjoyment out of their bird watching in future. I have watched birds all my life and never tire of them, you never know what you will see. There is always lots more to learn, they also have the advantage of being almost everywhere at all times of the year and relatively easy to see.

Later in the afternoon I went over to the Tern hide again to check out the birds arriving to roost as I have a “Coming to roost” event tomorrow evening. There were lots and lots of gulls, but sadly no starlings, still perhaps a cold snap will bring them back.

gull roost

Gull roost (just a VERY small part!)

There was no obvious sign of the ring-billed gull this evening, but it might just have got lost in the mass of birds, there were at least 20 common gull though, I have been struggling to find more than five so far this winter.

Locking up on Ivy Lake I counted at least 67 cormorant in the roost, earlier I had also seen a single little egret with them, but by dusk it had gone.

little egret with cormorants

Little egret in the cormorant roost

It was very pleasant to be able to get right round the reserve, something I had not done in ages and on a remarkably pleasant day, albeit one that did start to get a bit chilly as the sun set.

nearly dark

Nearly dark

Moss, Moths and a Herald (of Spring?)

There are times when I think that I must have been walking around with my eyes shut for the first half of my life.  I was quite oblivious of most of the bird life around  me, let alone the smaller stuff like butterflies and dragonflies.   The problem for the most part, and something that I suspect many of us ‘suffer’ from, is that we just don’t know how to look for these things. Once some things are pointed out to you you can start to ‘get your eye in’ and you then wonder how you missed these things before.

I had one such experience last Thursday when one of the volunteers pointed out a mossy bundle in a hedge. Closer inspection revealed what is probably an old (last year’s) long-tailed tit nest which with the lack of leafy covering was now visible. In truth it has probably been visible for many months.

Long-tailed tit nest

Long-tailed tit nest

Having had this pointed out to me I mentioned it to one of our regular bird ringers, who wanted then to see it, so we set out to re-find it.    Now being in the company of someone who knew what to look for, we found a number of other nests nearby, as well as a couple of nest boxes that had long been forgotten.

I’ve sometimes remarked in these ramblings of the strange names that have been given to moth species.  Today’s collection of inmates in the light trap this morning included Common Quaker and Small Quaker , presumably named for their peace loving  nature(?).   Although not one of the most inspiring of moths when first seen, the Clouded Drab does have a subtle richness to its markings – its also a moth that has a name reminiscent of a British weather forecast!

Clouded Drab

Clouded Drab

Also appropriately named from its re-appearance, after the winter months, is this moth – the Herald

A Herald -------of Spring?

A Herald ——-of Spring?   Unfortunately not a pristine specimen-  probably because it has overwintered in its adult state