30 Days Wild – Day 12

I had to wait in for a delivery today so made the most of the moth trapping by running two last night. Not a huge number of moths, but a good variety. The picture here has privet hawk-moth, a common chafer beetle and maiden’s blush.

I have a starling nest box on my house and they are currently feeding their second brood, which should fledge any day now.

Starling at nestbox

Sometimes they will fly directly to the box, at others they will stop on the fence on their way in or out on.

Adult starling with beetles

They return every minute or so and when they stop, if I am quick, I can see some of what they are bringing as food for the chicks. This beakful is beetles, I think a small species of dung beetle. Once or twice a fledged juvenile also came onto the fence, perhaps one of the first brood still around.

Juvenile starling

Although I have never seen them approach the nestbox, the bird that really seems to bother the starlings is magpie. Whenever they see one there is a lot of alarm calling and the adults will not come to the box. So when the magpies come to the pond for a drink there is a good bit of commotion.

Magpie feeling thirsty

One of the most frequent birds in my garden is the woodpigeon, I confess not a favourite of mine.

Woodpigeon

Although they are rather smart birds to look at and clearly very successful.

woodpigeon close-up

I did go out for a short walk later in the afternoon to visit an area of bog close to home that I check from time to time for dragonflies and other insects. I have often thought it looks just right for scarce blue-tailed damselfly, a species I have rarely seen in Britain, but until today I had never managed to find one there. It is similar to the common blue-tailed but the blue “tail-light” is one segment further toward the tail end.

scarce blue-tailed damselfly

In fact I saw only one damselfly and also just one dragonfly, that was a recently emerged keeled skimmer.

keeled skimmer

The bog has a good flora too, including a great population of bog asphodel, although it is only just starting to come into flower.

bog asphode

I will finish with some much maligned and often overlooked creatures, aphids. I found these on a wild rose in my front hedge, several different stages, I think all of the same species, although I don’t know which one!

They feed by sucking the plant with piercing mouthparts. The females can reproduce parthenogenically as well as sexually and the young are born rather than hatched from eggs like most insects. The males are winged and can fly huge distances once they get carried up high in the air. They form, a significant part of the aerial plankton fed on by swifts, swallows and martins.

Coppicing, Snipe and Great Whites

A brilliant sunny day, not a great surprise to Blashford aficionados, is was Thursday and so volunteer day, (it almost never rains on a Thursday morning). The volunteers continued coppicing and using the brash to make a new dead hedge in the former Hanson plant site. This hedge should grow up with bramble and so provide valuable cover and habitat. The earth bank has steep south-facing slopes and these should be great for insects and hopefully also reptiles. Unfortunately I still have no firm date on the opening of the new path but at least the preparations are progressing well.

In the afternoon I was leading a winter bird walk, it is always good to get out on site and see some wildlife and this afternoon was glorious. We started at Tern hide with good views of water pipit and 3 snipe close to the hide.

snipe-2

one of three snipe feeding along the shore near the hide

A dead gull on the shore just east of the had attracted a crow which was tucking in, but very soon it was pushed off the prize by two buzzard, and two magpie also came down to see what they could snatch.

carrion-feeders

carrion feeders

A meal of meat is always welcome to these birds but in cold weather such as we are having now could make all the difference to these birds survival. It may seem a little gory, but nothing goes to waste.

Looking further out onto the lake we managed to miss the black-necked grebe that had been reported but did find a  female red-breasted merganser, these close relatives of the goosander are usually found on the coast and it is some years since there was one on the reserve. We also saw several of our regular goosander by way of comparison, these are larger and although the females are similar, the goosander have an overall cleaner look.

At the Woodland hide we saw a good range of the regular smaller birds, but the highlight was the water rail feeding in the pool under the alder carr just outside the hide, it gave wonderful views and seemed completely unconcerned by our watching it. After failing to see a bittern, we headed back to Tern hide and were rewarded with great views of a green sandpiper on the shore below the hide, it only flew off when a second came by.

When I went to lock up I saw a great white egret roosting in the trees on Ivy Lake from the Ivy North hide, “Walter” on his usual perch. By the time I got to Ivy South hide and looked across there were two! Presumably the second bird which has been using the area just north of the reserve had joined him, it will be interesting to see if they both roost there regularly.