30 Days Wild – Day 22: Punctuated

It was thankfully cooler today which allowed us to do some work along the open western shore of Ibsley Water. As it was Thursday the “us” was the famous Blashford volunteer team. We were trimming brambles and pulling ragwort. I know ragwort is a great nectar source, but in this case we are trying to establish grassland where there has been bramble, willow and nettlebeds, this means mowing, but as we have ponies on site we need to remove the ragwort first. Ponies will rarely eat growing ragwort, but if cut and mixed in grass they will and so can get poisoned.

This shore was dominated by huge beds of ragwort and nettles but years of cutting and light grazing are taking effect and we now have mostly grassland with patches of ox-eye daisy, bird’s foot trefoil and other more desirable species. In turn this is attracting insects such as long-winged conehead.

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long-winged conehead, female nymph

We saw a good few butterflies including good numbers of comma. It seems they are having a very good year and the fresh summer brood emerging now is particularly strong. This generation will breed and produce another generation of adult in the autumn which will them hibernate.

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comma

They get their name from the white comma-shaped marking on the under-wing, which is not visible in this shot. Their ragged wing outline makes them less butterfly-shaped and so harder for predators to find, this is especially so when the wings are closed.

I ran two moth traps last night, only about 50m apart, but one under trees and the other in the open. An illustration of what a difference location makes is seen from the number of hawk-moths caught. The one in the open contained 8 elephant hawk-moth, a pine hawk-moth and 2 poplar hawk-moth, whereas the one under the trees contained just one eyed hawk-moth.

As you will have gathered from this blog, I am a fan of insects in general, even horseflies, although I am less keen on them when they come into the office as this one did today.

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Chrysops relictus female

It is the females that bite, so it would be better if this one went outside again.

 

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The Archers

The moth trapping has picked up a bit now and there have ben on or two new species in the trap, yesterday we caught two very fresh Archer’s dart, not a species I see very often at all.

archer's dart

Archer’s dart

Going away for a couple of weeks makes the changes on the reserve really noticeable, the lake levels have dropped a bit, all the nesting terns have left and there are lots of adult crickets and grasshoppers calling away. As the years advance I am pleased I can still (just) hear  Roesel’s bush cricket and long-winged conehead.

long-winged conehead

long-winged conehead female

After a day bramble cutting it was pleasant to walk round the hides at locking up time. Highlights were 43 gadwall on Ivy Lake and a sun bathing Neoitamus cyanurus,  a species of robberfly, on the wooden screen at the Woodland hide.

Neoitamus cyanurus male

Neoitamus cyanurus (male)

This is quite a common species in woodland and is identified by its bright orange legs.

 

Never Mind the Coneheads

Bird News: Ibsley Watercommon sandpiper 2, shoveler 77, teal 20+, wheatear 2, black tern 1 (reported).

Not at all a bad day, mainly warm and sunny with almost no sign of the threatened showers. I was catching up on a few small jobs around the reserve in between bouts of paperwork. I had to go up to the Lapwing hide in the morning and was pleased to see a good number of lapwing on the grassy peninsula south of the hide. The longer grass areas seem to be harbouring lots of long-winged coneheads and I got a picture of a female with the long sword-like ovipositor.

long-winged conehead

I had my first real look at the clearance work done by the Somerley Estate since they took over ownership of Mockbeggar Lake earlier this month. They certainly have not hung about and the clearance, which has been done mainly to facilitate angling, should also be of benefit to wildlife, especially wildfowl. Although rather drastic to look at now it should recover pretty quickly. In fact we were planning something similar had the lake been kept in the reserve as the shores had become very overgrown. Hopefully it will remain possible to view over the lake.

At lunchtime the area behind the Centre was alive with insects, including a female gold-ringed dragonfly egg-laying int he pond, they usually lay in flowing water, even when it is fast flowing like the Dockens Water. I failed to get a picture of it so this peacock will have to do.

peacock

At the end of the day as I went to lock up I found a stinkhorn fungus at the very earliest stage of emerging from the ground when it looks like an egg bursting up from the soil.

stinkhorn to be