Seasonal Shift

Although the hides remain closed good views can be had of Ibsley Water from the viewpoint at the back of the main car park. Although views of most things on this large lake are distant at least from there you can see most of the lake. I have found one or two people wandering off the paths recently to try to get to the lakeshore, this is unacceptable which is highlighted by the fact that it has been the birds taking flight that has brought it to my attention. I also found someone standing on a badger sett the other day, also unacceptable. In each case the people concerned have failed to see much and caused any birds nearby to fly off.

From the viewpoint this morning I saw a merlin, a peregrine, over 50 wigeon, a few pintail (yesterday there were 8), 18 goosander, about 40 shoveler and over a 1000 house martin, not bad for a quick scan. The martins have been held up by the inclement weather and have been feeding over the lake for a few days, there have also been a few swallow and one or two sand martin. Later when I was checking the hide the peregrine was perched on a post near Tern Hide and I got the shot below. With that beak and those claws it is easy to see why this is such a feared predator.

I have yet to stay until dusk to check the gull roost, but numbers are building now, a quick look before leaving yesterday yielded 3 yellow-legged gull in the hundreds of lesser black-backed gull and a single first winter common gull in the black-headed gull part of the flock.

Elsewhere on the reserve there are good numbers of chiffchaff, so far no yellow-browed warbler, but I will keep looking. Two marsh tit have been visiting the feeders, the first for a few years. It looks like being a good winter for finches, with a steady movement of siskin and recently also redpoll overhead on several days. The first redwing will be along any day now and maybe a brambling or tow passing through.

For all of the sings of approaching winter it is still quite warm by day and speckled wood remain flying in good numbers with a few whites and red admiral too. Most of the solitary bees have ended their season now but I did see this one today, I think an orange-footed furrow bee.

possibly orange-footed furrow bee

Likewise there are still some hoverflies on the wing, today’s brightest was this Sericomyia silentis.

Sericomyia silentis

I will end with a quick warning that tomorrow morning we will be working beside the path and boardwalk near Ivy South Hide, this will mean that the path may be closed for short periods.


So Close and Yet so Far

A rather better day today, sunshine in place of steady rain. My first sight upon looking across Ibsley Water was of a merlin sitting on the osprey perch out in the lake, not a bird I see at Blashford very often. I was also at the reserve to lock up yesterday when the bird of prey of the day was a marsh harrier feeding on something on the western shore of Ibsley Water. Also on Ibsley Water today were a black-tailed godwit, a curlew and 4 pintail. yesterday evening at dusk I counted 45 pochard and 22 goosander, so the waterfowl roosts are slowly increasing in numbers. In the same vein, tonight there were a few thousand starling gathering to the north of the reserve and the first indication of a greenfinch roost near the main car park, with perhaps thirty birds gathering.

With the day set fair I took the chance to clear some of the paths of leaves and do so cutting back. Despite the recent frosts there are still quite a few fungi about.


candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Candlesnuff is one fungus that can be seen all year round, but I rather liked this group with water droplets on them, they were beside the path between Ivy North and the Woodland hide.

Along the Dockens Water path I saw a firecrest in the holly and for a change it was not hidden in the shadows but out in the sun, looking very jewel-like. This path is looking really good at the moment with the trees in full colour.


Dockens Water path

Clearing leaves from the path towards Rockford Lake I found a raptor plucking post with the remains of a jay, it could have been taken by a female sparrowhawk although, these days, a goshawk might be just as likely.


remains of a jay at a plucking post

I had seen “Walter” the great white egret at Ivy North hide when I opened up and heard water rail and Cetti’s warbler there too, but the bird of the day from there was the ferruginous duck, which spent the afternoon in front of the hide. Unfortunately I missed it as by the time I heard about it it was more or less dark. This is no doubt the drake that has been returning to Blashford for some years, although it usually frequents one of the private lakes to the south of the reserve.

In the late afternoon I was at the Goosander hide hoping to see some colour-ringed gulls on the perching rails there. There were gulls, but none with rings.


Lesser black-backed gull, yellow -legged gull, herring gull and black-headed gulls.

Yellow-legged gull are slightly large and darker than herring gull and typically have whiter heads in winter, lacking the grey streaking of herring gull. The picture above shows a fairly dark lesser black-backed gull, with the yellow-legged gull in the centre and a typical herring gull on the right.


yellow-legged gull, adult.

As I went to lock up the Moon was just rising, close to the horizon it always look large and this evening it looked especially so. It has good reason though as apparently it is closer to us at present than it has been for 68 years, so I really never have seen the Moon look so big.


A big Moon


Ivy Lake as I locked up after sunset.


A Few Sightings

The last few days have had a few good sightings around the reserve. On Saturday 3 otter were seen in the Ivy Silt Pond, a group of three was probably a female and her two off-spring, let’s hope they become regulars.

The great white egret has been seen on most days, including today, when it was briefly on Ibsley Water. Both yesterday and today a single curlew was also there. Other birds have included a wheatear on Sunday and a merlin today, which had go at catching one of the flock of meadow pipit currently frequenting the shore of Ibsley Water. However the undoubted star bird of the last few days was the yellow-browed warbler seen and photographed outside the Woodland hide today by John Hilton.


yellow-browed warbler at the Woodland hide, by John Hilton

These tiny warblers breed in Siberia and used to be scarce vagrants to Western Europe, however they have undergone a remarkable change of status in the last few years and we now more or less expect to get an arrival of them each autumn, especially on the east coast of England. This autumn’s arrival has been on a very large scale, on one day there were over 130 on the Yorkshire coast around Flamborough Head.

Interestingly these warblers are not the only Siberian birds that are arriving in far greater numbers these days, a whole variety of previously very rare visitors are turning up more and more often. These include species like pallid harrier, brown shrike, red-flanked bluetail, citrine wagtail and others, who knows maybe one day we will see one of these at Blashford too, (well I can dream!).

On a more down to earth note, the moth trap contained a good, if small, collection of autumn moths, including merveille du jour, red-line Quaker, large wainscot and chestnut.



Locking up this evening it was noticeable that Ivy Lake has a good selection of wildfowl now and these included at least 139 wigeon, by far my largest count so far this autumn.


Icy start to a busy day

I arrived a few minutes late this morning due to treacherous road conditions on the way in, so was delighted to see that the main “Tern Hide” car park was clear and, to my surprise, reasonably safe to drive and walk over so was able to open up. It is a week since I was last at Blashford so a build up in wildfowl numbers, particularly wigeon and teal, was especially noticeable on both Ibsley Water and Ivy Lake, the latter of which had a lovely early morning mist dissipating when I opened up. Also unmissable was the massive erosion scar in front of Tern Hide and just how much higher the lake was. Made me quite glad that I’d missed it – in more than 10 years working at Blashford the car park has been flooded by the Dockens Water on a regular basis on many an occasion, but never has it been so flooded that it has gone under the hide. A big thanks to Ed, Steve and Jacki who cleared up the devastation:

Ibsley Water - more than a little fuller after the river emptied into it via the car park earlier in the week, leaving a quite obvious flood channel where the river water exited the car park beneath the hide!

Ibsley Water – more than a little fuller after the river emptied into it via the car park earlier in the week, leaving a quite obvious flood channel where the river water exited the car park beneath the hide!

Coot and early morning mist looking south over Ivy Lake

Coot and early morning mist looking south over Ivy Lake

Wigeon, teal, gadwall, coot and tufted duck to the north of Ivy South Hide.

Wigeon, teal, gadwall, coot and tufted duck to the north of Ivy South Hide.

The lakes are all very high now and the river, though dropped, is higher than normal. Still, the board walk through the willow carr beyond Ivy South hide is accessible again!

Board walk accessible again!

Board walk accessible again.

Further along the path that runs between Ellingham Lake and the river was more evidence of the recent flood event however; this time another of our mature oaks gone. However, uprooted as it is on the river bank it has, and will, create brilliant little micro-habitats in the root plate and in the river itself, the dead and rotting wood will support hundreds of species of invertebrate, fungi, lichens, small mammals and birds and it is entirely possible that, depending upon what roots remain intact in the ground, it will continue to grow. And thankfully, because it is in an area of reserve with no access, it can just be left without worry that someone will come a cropper:

Another lovely old oak gone...

Another lovely old oak gone…

It didn’t take too long for the thickest of the frost to melt this morning, but it really was quite stunning in places while it lasted and allowed me the opportunity to get a little creative:

Frosted lichens...

Frosted lichens…

131229 Blashford today by J Day (6)_resize

The beautiful day and strong winter sun saw a steady stream of visitors coming through the reserve – busiest I have seen since last winter/early spring and what was particularly nice was the fact that it was a real mix of serious birders and photographers, less serious photographers (i.e. they hadn’t re-mortgaged the house or sold the car to purchase their equipment!) and lots of families just out for a walk and the opportunity to see some wildlife – with black necked grebe and merlin on Ibsley Water, and, at times, really good views of at least two bittern and the great white egret on Ivy Lake, Ivy North Hide. Also reported today was the first Bewick’s swan of this winter, on Ibsley Water and no doubt over in the water meadows of Harbridge too.

A reasonable number of visitors either arrived late or stayed on later in hope of a decent starling murmuration, which sadly did not entirely live up to expectations in terms of numbers of birds nor weather which clouded over right towards the end of the day and even started raining while I locked up. However it was still a wonder to behold and with at least one peregrine diving into the midst of the birds they did perform. The main roost certainly does seem to have dispersed into at least two smaller roosts now with some still going down west of the A338 north of Ellingham Church and some into Mockbeggar North north of Mockbeggar Lane. Didn’t see any going into the reeds behind Lapwing Hide tonight, but they did yesterday and surely will do so again. Kind of forgotten about with the excitement of the starlings, the gull roost was also quite spectacular today. Neither picture below do either spectacle justice, but were the best I could manage in poor light with a poor camera!

Some of the starlings this evening

Some of the starlings this evening

Gulls over Ibsley Water

Gulls over Ibsley Water


More of a murmur than a murmuration

Well, for anyone who was wondering, there were starlings this evening, but with the rain coming down they didn’t hang around but rather came in various small-middling sized flocks and went straight to roost rather than gathering for the usual pre-roost spectacular flyby’s. I watched it from 4.15-4.25pm, so it maybe that there was more of a display earlier on that I missed, but either way they certainly didn’t gather on mass.

As for other news, other than the Mum’s and babies/toddlers who arrived for the regular buggy walk, making the best of the weather this morning, perhaps emboldened somewhat by the thought of the table booked for a post walk Christmas gathering at a local hostelry(!), it has been at best grey and dismal and worst wet and dreary so there haven’t been many visitors today! Having said that the great white egret was on show on the web-cam on and off throughout the day, there were reports of one bittern at Ivy North Hide and a brief but arresting glimpse of two merlins chasing, tumbling and fighting their way over the centre and car park, heading from the south to the north.