30 days Wild – Day 10 –

I had the best moth catches of the year so far both at home, where the pick was a privet hawk-moth and at Blashford where honours were shared between a small elephant hawk-moth and a scarce merveille du jour.

scarce merveille du jour

scarce merveille du jour

The day was warm, although not always sunny, but it was warm enough for damselflies and dragonflies to be flying. The small blue damselflies so far have mostly been azure, but the numbers of common blue seem to be increasing and both can get very abundant at Blashford in good years.

common blue damselfly

common blue damselfly (male)

I had some mowing to do in the morning in an area where we are trying to establish a grassland and prevent the encroachment of bramble, we are getting there, but it takes time. Cutting at this time or year hits the bramble hard and although it does have an impact upon annual species perennials survive perfectly well and will benefit in the long run. I only cut a small part of the area at any one time, which also helps to minimise the impact. In one of the better areas which I was not cutting I found a single bee orchid.

bee orchid

bee orchid

The management of open areas does not just involve cutting, we also graze some areas and on the lichen heath we have been experimenting with stripping off the top few centimetres of vegetation. This gets us back to the mineral, sandy gravel to see if we can combat the increase in nutrients which is slowly turning it into dry acid grassland. Looking at one of the plots today I think we may have had some success as it was well colonised by one of the areas rarer plant species , slender bird’s-foot-trefoil,  a species that does not seem to like competition.

slender bird's-foot-trefoil

slender bird’s-foot-trefoil

Once again today I saw a painted lady, this one flying vigorously northwards, so no picture, I did get one of the other migrant butterfly I saw, a red admiral. It was perched on nettle, the foodplant so this one might have had more of a mind to breed than migrate.

red admiral

red admiral on nettle

The nearest thing to bird highlight on the reserve today was a bar-headed goose, as their native range is other side of the Himalayas I think we can be sure it is an escapee or the descendant of escapees.

I got home, with time to take a quick look in the meadow…………

What’s in My Meadow Today?

I mentioned meadow buttercup yesterday and today I spotted a small yellow and black hoverfly on one of the flowers. It is a common and distinctive species and one that is probably found in gardens all over the country.

Sphaerophoria scripta

Sphaerophoria scripta  (male) on meadow buttercup

My other find was a couple of ants on a flower of common vetch, they seemed to be feeding, at the base of the flower, possibly they had made a hole to get at the nectar flow without entering the flower, as bumblebees will do to runner bean flowers, effectively taking the nectar without doing the job of pollination.

common vetch and ant

common vetch and ant

A Record Broken

We have been very busy mowing and generally cutting back before the winter birds arrive. Today it was the turn of the western shore of Ibsley Water to receive a haircut. We have been working for some years to get this shore into a largely grassy state. Much of it started out as 1.5m high ragwort, then it became dominated by nettle and now, after many years of mowing and grazing it is mostly grass. As I was mowing I saw lots of bank vole, several common frog and a few common toad. The sun was out and it was rather warm for late September, although the many red admiral were not unhappy.

Out on the lake this afternoon there was a large arrival of cormorant, there have been good numbers for a while now, with a few counts around the 200 mark, but today we reached new heights, these extra flock took the total to at least 308! and I am pretty certain there were some I could not see behind the islands. I am sure this is a new record count for the reserve.

The highlight of the day though was a juvenile garganey out on Ibsley Water first thing in the morning. although it did not seem to stay, as nobody else saw it all day.

Arboreal Newt?

After what has seemed weeks I actually got out onto the reserve to do a bit of management work on Friday. Recent days have been taken up with First Aid training, meetings and miscellaneous other off-site tasks, so it felt really good to get out and do something practical. I spent a good bit of the middle part of the day strimming young bramble and nettle off the western shore of Ibsley Water, this is an area we try to keep as fairly short grassland suitable for grazing wildfowl in the winter and breeding lapwing in the spring. Most of this work is done by the ponies, but they are not keen on the bramble or nettle.

Working on the shore of Ibsley Water does disturb the wildlife, but the lake is so large that it just moves things across to the other side and so closer to the hides. In fact there were not a lot of birds to see, 21 shoveler being about the best. The highlight of the day was yet more sightings of the otter, this time from both Goosander and Tern hide in mid-morning.

Later in the day I was near the store when I spotted something roll down a sloping willow trunk, at first I thought it was a dead willow leaf, but then I realised it was a smooth newt! It had come to rest upside down on the lower part of the trunk and lay completely still, possibly stunned or perhaps “playing dead” as predator avoidance.

smooth newt upside down

smooth newt upside down

Eventually it woke up and started walking down to the ground.

smooth newt

smooth newt

The afternoon sunshine also brought out lots of common darter dragonflies.

common darter

common darter

Locking up at the end of the day I saw a couple of kingfisher and the great white egret was, as it often is, perched on one of the sticks outside the Ivy North hide.