Letting the Light in

For several weeks now there have been contractors working up at the Linwood reserve working to open up an areas of mire habitat that had become seriously shaded. This happens more or less imperceptibly, in this case it was easy to think the area had always been continuous woodland , but the flora told a different story. Many species present, although declining, were ones that do not tolerate being heavily shaded. In addition when the trees are looked at more closely it was obvious that many were no more than twenty or thirty years old. The Our Present, Our Future (OPOF) New Forest National Park project had a strand that was dedicated to helping to restore habitats such as this and it is this project that has enabled the heavy work to be done.

Linwood SSSI clearance works

Work to clear shading trees from Linwood mire habitats

The oak and beech trees have been left alone, the opening up has been achieved by felling birch and pollarding willow. Some trees have been ring-barked to leave them as valuable standing deadwood habitat. It will be interesting to see how species such as white sedge and bog myrtle respond to having access to more light in the years to come.

Last night was very mild and I was looking forward to seeing what the moth trap had caught. The trap was against the wall of the Centre and there were 45 “November” moth on the wall alone! November moths are hard to identify reliably as there are a few very similar species, so I lump them together when recording. Other moths included three merveille du jour.

Merveille du Jour

Merveille du Jour – I know I have used pictures of them many times, but they are one of my favourite moths!

There were also late large yellow underwing and shuttle-shaped dart as well as more seasonable black rustic, yellow-line Quaker, red-line Quaker, chestnut and dark chestnut.

dark chestnut 2

Dark chestnut, it is usually darker than the chestnut and has more pointed wing-tips.

In all there were 16 species and over 70 individual moths, other notable ones were a dark sword-grass and two grey shoulder-knot.

grey shoulder-knot

grey shoulder-knot

We have been doing a fair bit of work around the hides recently, mostly aimed at improving the views from them. Tomorrow it is the turn of Ivy North hide, so I expect there will not be much to be seen in the northern part of Ivy Lake during the day. With luck I will get some sight-lines cut through the reeds, so perhaps the bittern will get easier to see, if it is still around.

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A Marvellous Day

The first Sunday of the month is volunteer task day and this morning we were continuing work on the path between Goosander and Lapwing hide. The path is being trimmed back and the gravel surface cleaned of grass and other growth,. In addition we are opening up sheltered clearings along the path to increase interest. At one point we are making a solitary bee nesting bank, it is always worth making use of suitable ground for these kind of features which can be quiet rare.

Out on the reserve there were lots of visitors enjoying the cool sunshine. There were birds to see to, especially from Goosander hide where the feeding frenzy is still in full swing. There were 50 or more grey heron, several little egret, both great white egret and lots of cormorant, with gulls and grebes there to mop up the small fry.

The ferrunginous duck seems to have departed, probably for Kingfisher Lake and the wood sandpiper also appears to have left after a rather long stay. There was still a common sandpiper and at least 2 green sandpiper though and a rather unexpected redshank, not a bird we see much other than in spring and summer at Blashford.

Elsewhere there were 2 pintail on Ivy Lake along with 6 wigeon and I saw at least 300 coot on Rockford Lake. In the willows around the reserve there were good numbers of chiffchaff, but no other small migrants that I could locate. A few swallow were passing through, including at least one rather late adult, most at this time are juveniles. First thing this morning there were 60 or so house martin over Ibsley Water although I saw none later in the day.

Locking up there was a considerable gull roost developing and I noticed that there were a lot of very dark backed individuals amongst the lesser black-backed gull flock, a much higher percentage than we see in the winter, an indication of birds from further north and east in Europe passing through.

The sunshine brought out a few butterflies and I saw a good few speckled wood and several small copper around the reserve. The cool night was not the best for moths but the trap did contain one of my favourite species, a merveille du jour.

Merveille du Jour

merveille du jour

Other moths were red-line Quaker, large yellow underwing, lunar underwing, beaded chestnut, black rustic and deep-brown dart.

 

Autumn?

volunteers opening up a glade

volunteers opening up a glade in willow scrub.

Although the weather does not seem to know it we are firmly into autumn now, in fact our winter work program has now got underway. On Thursday the volunteers were clearing willow to create a glade between two existing areas of open ground to allow adders and other reptiles to move easily between the two. We have a good population of adders on the reserve but they favour open areas and the population can get subdivided as trees grow up.

The autumn is often a good time for moths, especially if the nights are warm, so it is no surprise that recent catches have been quiet good, here are a few recent highlights.

beaded chestnut

beaded chestnut

vapourer moth male

Male vapourer moth

Vapourer moth females are flightless and the males track them down using their feathery antennae to “smell” the air for the pheromone trail released by a female. They fly at night and in the day, accounting for some of the sightings of “small, orange butterflies” that get reported in the autumn.

green brindled crescent

green-brindled crescent

Lastly two of my favourite moths of the whole year, the four-spotted footman, this one a male and so without the four-spots, which only the females have.

four-spotted footman male 2

male four-spotted footman

And finally one that we have yet to catch at Blashford this season, although I have had a few in my trap at home, the very splendid merveille du jour.

merveille du jour 1

merveille du jour

 

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-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.

chestnut

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.

 

Ugly Bug Ball!

Today was a slightly later in the month than usual Wildlife Tots, and we headed to the woodland in search of all things bug. We began by colouring in some moths, trying to think about the colours we used so they blended in with their surroundings when outside. To help us with our camouflaging, we had some moths from the light trap for inspiration, including this stunning Merveille du Jour with its brilliant lichen-like markings and colouring:

merveille-du-jour

Merveille du Jour, or ‘marvel of the day’

After camouflaging our moths, we headed outside to find a good spot close to the centre to hide them – would we find them all on our return?

hidden-moth-2

Camouflaged moth hidden in the undergrowth

After playing bug follow my leader, scuttling like spiders, jumping like grasshoppers, buzzing like bees and walking all together like a centipede, we searched for our ugly bugs in the woodland, pairing them up so they could go to the ugly bug ball:

ugly-bugs

Some of our ugly bugs, paired up and ready to go to the bug ball!

It was then time to find some bugs of our own, so armed with bug pots and paintbrushes (to make sure we were super careful when putting them into our pots), we rummaged under logs and in amongst the leaf litter.

After showing each other our finds and carefully putting them back, we had a go at making some bug sculptures on the ground, using leaves, sticks, bark, grass and logs:

Finally it was time to head back to the centre to see if we could remember where we had hidden our moths, and if we could spot them after camouflaging them so well…luckily, we all could!

sam-with-his-moth

Sam proudly pointing to his hidden moth

Thank you everyone for a lovely afternoon in the woods!