Reserve access update and a swan rescue!

Unfortunately in addition to the two path closures mentioned in Jim’s last blog, we have also had to close the stretch of path between the Welcome Hut and the Woodland Hide (you can walk along this path as far as the left hand turn towards Ivy North Hide). 

Both the Woodland Hide and Ivy South Hide are open, but they need to be accessed from the other direction, via the bridge and boardwalk.

We had hoped to get the offending tree branch, which has partially come away from one of the large oaks and is resting over the path against another tree opposite, removed today but unfortunately this did not happen. Hopefully the tree surgeons will be able to re-schedule their visit soon, as we know the circular ‘Wild Walk’ loop is a popular one.

On Saturday evening I had received a message from Jim warning me that visitors had reported a swan inside the water treatment works fence. Unable to do anything that night, it was left for me to investigate again on Sunday morning after I had opened the hides.

The swan had probably planned to land on Ivy Lake, and had either made a mistake and overshot the water, or being a young male it could have been put off landing by another male. On walking around the perimeter fence I did indeed find the bird. It was not overly impressed to see me, but didn’t appear too unscathed after a night inside the site.

On my way back to Centre I spotted a couple of Earthfan fungi on the edge of the lichen heath.

I found the key to the works and called Mike at the wildlife rescue at Moyles Court to see if he was available to retrieve it. He came down straight away and we went inside, following the fence line round. The swan had moved from its original spot, and had been closer to the entrance the night before, so clearly it didn’t have a problem walking.

With me blocking the swan’s exit (not entirely sure what I would have done if it had run at me), Mike was able to catch the bird and hold it down, while I positioned a carry bag. He placed the swan on top of the bag, holding its wings tight, and I zipped it up so his wings were held in place. We then carried the swan back to his van and took it across the road to Ibsley Water.

Before releasing the swan on the larger lake, Mike checked him over to make sure he was fit and well and hadn’t damaged himself in any way when he landed.

With no signs of damage to his wings or feet, Mike was satisfied and we went out onto the shore to release the bird. Ibsley Water is a much larger water body than Ivy Lake and is able as a result to support a larger population of swans without them getting too close to each other.

Mike released him slowly, making sure he had a chance to take it all in and clock where the other swans were on the water. He was quite happy to get back onto the water, and was quite vocal in his appreciation! Thank you Mike!

After the excitement of a swan rescue, I was able to have a look inside the moth trap, which revealed a nice selection of autumnal moths:

Today Bob, Chloe and NFNPA apprentice Ben have been improving the view of Ibsley Water from the viewing platform by removing some of the willows that have been merrily growing taller and taller. This will improve the views of the gulls and other birds roosting on the lake and also hopefully the starling murmurations.

I wasn’t able to take a before photo as I spent the morning uploading events to the website and Eventbrite, but I did join them in the afternoon so I could pinch some of the cut willow for wreath making. The rest was added to the dead hedges.

img_6675

Willow ready to be turned into wreaths

Bob still has a few willows to cut, and with us selling 100 wreaths last year for a donation any nice straight whips will be put to good use!

Our self-led ‘Decorate a Willow Wreath’ activity will be available once again from Sunday 28th November and you can find out more on our website here.

In bird news, a Caspian gull has been seen on Ibsley Water both today and yesterday, with other recent sightings including marsh harrier, common and green sandpiper, a number of yellow-legged gull, water pipit and a number of black-tailed godwit. Elsewhere on the reserve firecrest have been showing nicely along with good numbers of siskin and a Siberian chiffchaff was caught on Thursday by bird ringer Kevin.

Finally, David Cuddon shared this photo of a Peregrine falcon wit us, showing nicely from (I think) Tern Hide – thank you very much David!

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.

Arrivals and Sightings

A quick update on the last couple of days. Yesterday I was working with the volunteers near the Lapwing hide, on the way there I flushed two water pipit from the shore and later one was showing really well at Goosander hide. These birds like the exposed stony shore and the piles of washed up weed, so they should be very happy with things at present with the lake so low. They winter in small numbers in the UK, but breed in the Alps, a rather odd migration strategy on the face of it.

Colder weather has heralded the arrival of more winter wildfowl, in particular goldeneye, which first turned up last weekend and have risen in numbers daily since,  today I saw 14 birds, including four adult drakes. Goosander numbers have increased markedly too, and I counted 51 at roost yesterday. There are at least two great white egret still on the reserve and two marsh harrier were seen yesterday, with at least one again today.

The colder nights have significantly reduced the catches in the moth trap, but despite this the last two nights have produced “November” moths Epirrita spp. , grey shoulder-knot, yellow-line Quaker, brick, satellite and black rustic. 

A Wintery Feel

Not to the weather, but certainly to the birds, but more of that later. The day was pleasantly warm for the time of the year and I was busy with the volunteers and apprentices working on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water. We cut back the rushes on the shoreline to open up access for grazing wildfowl from the water and carried on with coppicing and pollarding in the reedbed. The brash is used to create a dead hedge as a habitat corridor.

P1080911

Dead hedging

The willow we pollarded will come back with a dense growth of fresh shoots next year, they can grow as much as 2 or 3 metres in a season.

The wintery feel came in the form of brambling at the feeder on the car park near the centre, at least 5 goldeneye on Ibsley Water and at dusk 7000 or so gulls coming in to roost with 3000-5000 starling wheeling about behind them, hopefully the start of a significant roost for later in the winter.

The moth trap yielded rather little today with just red-line Quaker, yellow-line Quaker, chestnut, “November” moth and silver Y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all Becomes Clear

A real misty autumn morning today, in fact so misty that I could only see a single mallard from the Ten hide first thing, it was the only bird near enough. Still as the mist thinned it did make for some very atmospheric scenes.

ivy-lake-misty-morning

A misty Ivy Lake

In fact the sun burnt through pretty quickly and just a couple of minutes after the shot above I took the one below on the walk to the Woodland hide.

misty-path

The sun breaking through

After several weeks of not working we got the television in the Centre back in action today and it is once again featuring “Pondcam”. When it first came on the picture was very blurred and I thought it was still not working, Jim was adamant it was just the lens that needed cleaning, I was not convinced, but went to clean it anyway,  Jim was right and we now have water beetles swimming around in the Centre lobby once more.

The reserve has fungi all over the place at present, I got pictures of a couple as I opened up the reserve, not identified as yet though.

fungus-1

A group on fungi on an alder stump

fungus-2

A couple from a large group growing near the yard.

As befits the date, the last two nights have seen large numbers of “November” moths attracted to the moth trap. The November is in quotation marks as I cannot identify these to species level, they are just Epirrita species or November moth aggregate. There are three similar species, the  November moth, pale November moth and autumnal moth, each one is variable and I strongly suspect we will get all three species at Blashford. I was also careful to say “attracted to” rather than in the moth trap as they majority of them are not in the trap but resting on the wall of the Centre, this morning there were at least 26 of them there.

This afternoon I spent a good while wading about in front of Ivy North hide cutting sight-lines through the reeds. When I locked up and had a good look from the hide it is clear that I have some more work to do, but at least there should be an improved chance of seeing the bittern now. We did not see any bittern but the great white egret was there, fishing just below the hide and we saw it catch a small perch. In one of the cut patches there was a water rail poking about and giving good views and all to the accompaniment of a singing Cetti’s warbler. In the Ivy Silt pond there was another singing Cetti’s warbler, perhaps they will stay the winter and remain to set up territories in the spring.

 

 

Otterly missed it again…

There was a very autumnal feel to this morning – as I drove to work through mist and foggy patches the diffuse light really reinforced and emphasised  the changing colour of the tree canopy across the forest and it is definitely a bit cooler in the mornings. Cool enough that a combination of that, the damp in the air and a stinking cold and tiredness from number 3 not sleeping because of his stinking cold, meant that today I even resorted to wearing trousers! For regular visitors to the reserve that is usually the first sign of winter drawing nearer…*

The fog (mist?) meant that the far side of Ibsley Water could not be seen first thing, but Walter (“our” great white egret) was very handily on the near shore just to the right of Tern Hide again this morning where he was somewhat disdainfully watching a couple of grey herons having a bit of a set too over a stretch of adjacent shore line.

The light trap did not hold a huge amount this morning – a dead minotaur beetle, a couple of large caddis flies and on the moth front, a chestnut, a couple of red-line quakers and common wainscots, a common marbled carpet and, keeping to the autumnal theme, a November moth:

november-moth-2

And finally, in keeping with true Blashford tradition, I narrowly missed out on seeing another otter this morning… approaching Ivy South Hide to open up, a visitor scanning Ivy Silt Pond mouthed “otter” as we got closer to him. He had just watched it chase and catch a large carp. We (volunteer Jacki and I) saw nothing! Having opened the hide we did give it a good 20 minutes or so but apart from hearing a (very large!) splash followed by the sight of a mini-tidal wave of ripples emanating from a different part from that which we were watching (of course!) which could have been otter, and a flurry of splashes from smaller fish jumping, we saw nothing… maybe next time?!

Still, nice to know it/they are still around, even if they continue to elude me.

*For non-regular visitors to the reserve I should perhaps point out that my resorting to trousers is in place of the shorts that I normally can be seen wearing throughout much of the rest of the year, not that I am wandering around the nature reserve a naturist mistaken for a naturalist!

28 mm and rising – just another day at the Duck Pond

Once again the overnight and early morning rain has conspired to provide a wonderfully watery pond-scape to areas of the reserve normally considered to be part of the land!!   So much so that for the second time in a fortnight it wasn’t possible to open the Tern Hide car-park as it was underwater.  The rain gauge registering 28 mm ( that’s over an inch in ‘old money’) says it all!!!

Being a Sunday Conservation team day, we were blessed with dry weather for the morning period and managed to coppice and pollard a small area of willow that had become a little unkempt over the years.  Being quite close to the Centre was an advantage as although it stayed dry and at times even sunny, we weren’t sure it would remain like that, so it offered a chance for a quick retreat if necessary.

The overnight conditions, and the time of year, weren’t conducive to encouraging many moths to fly, but we did have four moths in or around the light trap, Mottled Umber, November Moth,  Silver Y and  this delightfully named Sprawler.

A Spawler – with a wonderfully relaxed name for a moth.

 There were various reports from visitors coming in during the day of the road outside the reserve being flooded to various degrees. It looks as though the Dockens Water is not able to cope with the sheer volume of water coming off the Forest and water, as it does, finds the path of least resistance which in places is along the road.

Neverthe less we still had a steady stream of visitors, some, no doubt, attacted by the reports of reasonably good views of bittern.  For my part I’d first heard of the bittern(s) a week ago last Thursday, but still hadn’t seen it. I believe I foolishly promised some pictures last week, so when opening up the hide this morning was half hoping to see it. They say patience is a virtue, so being particularly virtuous, I was rewarded with an exceptional opportinity to photograph the beast   – which I ‘snapped up’   

Just one of the two bittern to be seen here