A different view

On Tuesday I accompanied Bob to the north eastern shore of Ibsley Water so he could fell some of the willows into the lake, creating perches over the water for birds like heron and egret to fish from. I did fell a few smaller trees, but admit I was mainly there as first aid cover and did make the most of the opportunity of being in a different spot, enjoying a wander along the edge of the bay where I’ve only been once before.

Bob tree felling

Bob felling trees into the bay north of Lapwing Hide

Across Mockbeggar towards Ibsley Common

The view across Mockbeggar Lake towards Ibsley Common

Whilst we were up there, a goosander flew overhead and a couple of pied wagtails made themselves comfortable on the osprey perch:

pied wagtail 2

Pied wagtail

On the walk back I noticed some blackening waxcaps on the edge of the lake near Lapwing Hide, which were beginning to change colour. A grassland fungi, blackening waxcaps turn black with age, hence the name, but prior to blackening they can be red, orange or yellow in colour.

Blackening waxcap

Blackening waxcap, beginning to blacken

Looking back towards Tern Hide

The view towards Tern Hide from in front of Lapwing Hide

There is plenty of fungi in accessible locations on the reserve, with candlesnuff fungus seemingly everywhere if you look closely enough at the woodland floor along the footpath edges:

Candlesnuff fungus

Candlesnuff fungus on a moss covered log

I also found a couple of earthfans on the edge of the lichen heath. They can be found on dry sandy soil and have a rosette like fruiting body which is usually reddish brown to dark chocolate brown in colour.

Earthfan

Earthfan

There were also a number of russula growing in amongst the lichen. There are approximately 200 russula species in the UK and the generic name means red or reddish. Although many have red caps, many more are not red and those that are usually red can also occur in different colours. This species could be Russula rosea, the rosy brittlegill, but I’m not completely sure so will stick with the genus russula on this occasion!

Russula

Russula species in amongst the lichen

There was also a branch covered in jelly ear fungus along the ‘Wild Walk’ loop, close to the acorn sculpture:

Jelly ear

Jelly ear fungus

Also known as wood ears or tree ears, the fruiting body is ear shaped and is usually found on dead or living elder.

With the colder, wetter weather we have begun to get a number of more unwelcome visitors in the centre, usually wood mice or yellow-necked mice. Although we enjoy catching small mammals as an education activity, they are less welcome additions to the centre loft where they have in the past chewed through the cables. So we trap them in the loft too, using the Longworth small mammal traps, and safely relocate any we do catch to the further reaches of the reserve. On Sunday morning there were two mice in the loft, so I took them up to Lapwing Hide and released them into the undergrowth. 

mouse Kate Syratt

Mouse released from one of the mammal traps by Kate Syratt, who joined me for a socially distant wander to release them

There have been a good variety of moths in the light trap recently, with the highlights including mottled umber, streak, red-green carpet, green-brindled crescent, feathered thorn and December moth:

mottled umbar

Mottled umber

streak

Streak

Red green carpet

Red-green carpet

green brindled crescent Kate Syratt

Green brindled crescent by Kate Syratt

Feathered thorn

Feathered thorn

December moth

December moth

Although I haven’t seen any sign of the brambling recently, the feeder by the Welcome Hut is being regularly visited by at least one marsh tit. We had a pair around the centre regularly over the summer so it has been really nice to get great views of at least one feeding frequently.

marsh tit (3)

Marsh tit

Starling numbers have been increasing and on Tuesday evening there were several thousand north of Ibsley Water. They are best viewed on a clearer evening from the viewing platform which is accessible on foot through the closed main car park and gives panoramic views of Ibsley Water.

Ibsley Water from Viewpoint

Ibsley Water from the viewpoint

This is the perfect spot to watch the starlings put on a show as they twist, turn, swoop and swirl across the sky in mesmerising shape-shifting clouds. These fantastic murmurations occur just before dusk as numerous small groups from the same area flock together above a communal roosting site. The valley boasts a sizeable starling murmuration most years, with the reedbeds to the north of Ibsley Water often used, along with those on the other side of the a338 to the west and the smaller reedbed by Lapwing Hide in the east, so from this higher vantage point all possible roost sites can be seen. 

Although I don’t have any photos to share of the murmuration, taking a video instead the last time I watched them, it’s also a really nice spot to watch the sun set.

sunset

Sun setting to the west of Ibsley Water from the viewing platform

Pictures from the Purple Patch

It’s often been said, ( although, probably only  by me!) that a lot of the conservation work at Blashford is  ‘ a bit like gardening, but on an industrial scale‘ .  Today I was doing what, to me,  is one of the more pleasant gardening tasks of dead heading the buddleia.   We don’t have much buddleia left on the reserve, it’s a terribly invasive non-native plant and as such doesn’t really belong here so it’s largely being eradicated from the more wild parts of the reserve, with only one plant left near the Centre.  It is, however, a great nectar source for insects and removing the seed heads encourages more flower to form.  So what could be finer on a pleasantly warm day than a little light pruning whilst seeped in a heady fragrance and being constantly visited by comma, small tortoiseshell, green-veined white, silver-washed fritillary and peacock butterflies and also this smart red admiral.

 

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

The rich lilac/purple flowers of the buddleia are mirrored by many other flowers at the moment – indeed the reserve is going through a ‘purple patch; as evidenced by the flower-heads of creeping thistle, teasel and marjoram

creeping thistle

creeping thistle

 

Teasel

Teasel

 

Marjoram

Marjoram

All of which were within about four metres of the buddleia.

In fact I didn’t really need to go more than a few paces to see …

Green-veined white butterflies on marjoram

Green-veined white butterflies on marjoram

Southern hawker dragonfly

Southern hawker dragonfly

Common Lizard playing 'peek-a-boo' on fencing around the pond

Common Lizard playing ‘peek-a-boo’ on fencing around the pond

and perhaps most unexpected this small furry mammal taking advantage of  the largess provided by some spikes of seeds ( sorrel I think) close by the pick-nick benches

mouse or vole

mouse?

After my embarrassing faux-pas over the bee/hoverfly last week ( thanks to those who put me right) I’m reluctant to put a name to this  —  I just know there are really knowledgeable folks out there who can tell us.

And a final flourish was this rather posey small tortoiseshell who insisted on sharing a pick-nick bench with me.

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell

As I say all this from, almost, a single position – can’t be bad…

Of Mice and Wren

With a calm, overcast night last night I was hoping for a reasonable range of moth species in the light trap. One of  my first activities on arriving is to disconnect the light and cover up the trap before going round to open up the hides, Today, however, there was what I can only describe as a ‘scuttling’ sound as I moved the light – our resourceful, moth eating wren was back.  Scrambling to free the bird, I lost a few of the moths as the wren retreated deeper under the egg boxes before eventually flying out into the nearby bushes. From the few loose moth wings and bird poo in the trap, I think a few moths had succumbed to the wrens appetite, but nevertheless there were still  over forty moths representing fifteen species.

I know Jim had a couple of Sallow moths yesterday, so I thought I’d add a picture of their cousin – Barred Sallow

Rather well-marked Barred Sallow

and a fine example of a rather richly marked Common Marbled Carpet

Common Marbled Carpet

Light traps are a little indiscriminate in what they attract and as well as moths there are usually huge numbers of midges and often some beetles. Today’s prize for the most colourful one goes to this Sexton Beetle.

Sexton or burying beetle

I very gingerly tapped this out from the egg box in which it was nestling  as previous experience has taught me that heavy handling of these beetles makes them exude the most disgusting odour – similar to that of the corpses that they locate, by smell, and then bury. I think they either eat the corpse or use it to provide food for their offspring, by laying their eggs on them.

Other insects were ‘out and about’, but the slightly lower temperature and lack of sun meant they weren’t quite so active. Fortunately this meant that those that were about would sometimes ‘hang-up’ conveniently to have their pictures taken, as was the case with this Golden-ringed Dragonfly, which was spotted by a visitor on a log at the side of the Centre car-park.  (N.B. the dragonfly, not the visitor, was on the log ).

Golden-ringed Dragonfly on log by Centre car-park

Apart from the wren, another unwelcome ‘guest’ or guests are the mice that from time-to-time inhabit the loft space of the centre. As they might chew through wiring or otherwise damage items in store, we regularly set out a baited, humane trap so that they can be captured and released some distance away from the centre. This can be a fairly regular procedure , but whether it is the same few mice involved or a continuous stream of ‘new’ ones isn’t clear. If it’s the same ones I  wonder whether they have become habituated to being ‘transported’ in exchange for some easy pickings of food from the trap. This then starts to pose the question of whether the mice would be there if weren’t for the food in the trap to attract them – but we wouldn’t know they were there without the trap to catch them….and so on!!!…. Surely this way lies madness!

Several months ago I published an image of one mouse just before it was  ‘releasd back into the community’, with a fanciful caption indicating that it was apparently begging for its freedom. Today’s mouse looked rather plaintive as well!!! 

Another pleading mouse

Bird interest is starting to pick up after the usual late summer downturn. Plenty of hirundine (swallow and house martin) activity over Ivy Lake as I opened up. Numbers of duck are increasing as gadwall start to return, I also caught a grey heron, in reflective mood, behaving more like a wader- up to its thighs in water.

Grey heron – in reflective mood.

On Tuesday I’ll be standing in to lead a walk called ‘ Going for Gold’ with the subtitle ‘a 50 bird challenge’. So tomorrow I think I might just do a recce to check where we might find them all — watch this space for news.

Elephant’s Trunk

 With promise of a rather damp day ahead it seemed unlikely that we would be inundated with visitors, so it was pleasant to meet a few hardy souls who had forgone the ‘pleasures’ of Jubilee celebrations to see what they could find around the reserve.  Not a lot to report on the bird front, although more than one visitor reported seeing Egyptian Geese with up to seven youngsters by the edge of Ibsley Water.

As befits a wildlife reserve it’s probably appropriate that we ‘suffer’ from the attention of small furry animals from time to time. It’s currently part of the regular regime each day to check the mouse trap in the loft of the education centre and return any mice that are caught back into the wild. Yet another of my ‘blank spots’ ( there are so many) is small mammal identification so I couldn’t tell you what was caught last night, save that it was a small, rich orange brown colour  with  probably white underparts, a long tail and a very pointed face, unlike the one I released on Saturday which was much darker.  Both shot out of the trap when opened, so photography was out of the question.

Bob’s recently commissioned ‘mousecam’ in the compost bin  has, however,  provided the opportunity to see some mice, doing what mice do best, ‘snapping up ill-considered trifles’ that we  have discarded.

Mouse in compost bin

The somewhat colourful, striped nature of the image is what results from taking pictures off of a  television screen, many of my other efforts were much worse.  This was a very brave/foolhardy mouse as a rather large  grass snake was seen in this compost bin about twenty minutes beforehand.

There’s an old riddle  ‘ What’s grey with a big trunk?’ ,  to which, unthinkingly, you might reply ‘elephant’, but to which the correct response is ‘ a mouse going on its holidays’ . The mice we release from our trap don’t have any baggage with them, even though I suppose they are on a sort of holiday.    The moth trap, on the other hand, did produce an elephant in the form of this rather handsome Elephant Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

– so named, not because its large for a moth, which it is, but because the caterpillar has a ‘trunk’,

One moth that does have a sort of trunk, well a rather pointy front end anyway,  is this aptly named Snout

Snout

And while we’re on the subject of moth names I’ll finish with a couple of moths from last night’s trap, the very appropriately named Green  Carpet,

Green Carpet – slightly faded specimen

where even this slightly faded specimen shows the colour and the reason for its name. The colour can eventually fade completely, but the other markings make identification fairly easy.

The name of the Cinnabar is slightly less obvious, unless you know that cinnabar, the naturally occurring ore of the metal mercury, is bright red (scarlet) as shown on the moth.

Cinnabar