Out and About in the Sunshine

It has been very, very dry recently and reasonably sunny, however it has also been quite cold for a lot of the time, with north or north-east winds. This has made for quite a good spring for insects, certainly better than for several years, although it could do with warming up a bit and we will need some rain, not too much, just enough to keep the vegetation green. Yesterday it was warmer and the wind swung round to a more southerly direction.

I finally saw my second dragonfly of the year, I have seen lots of damselflies but dragons have been in very short supply. Although the view was brief I think it was a hairy dragonfly. I also found several of one of my favourite insects, groundhoppers, small relations to grasshoppers that get easily overlooked as they are adult in spring. There are three species in Britain and we get two of them at Blashford, or at least sop far I have only found two species. They favour damp, bare ground and can both fly and swim! The one below is a slender groundhopper.

slender groundhopper 2

Slender groundhopper

I was out bird surveying at the start of the day at Linwood reserve and noticed that the leaves on the oak there are mostly brown, almost all the first flush of leaves dead. Linwood lies in the valley of the Dockens Water a well known frost-hollow, these leaves had all been killed by the late frost that also had my early potatoes. This will be bad news for the nesting blue tit on the reserve as they mainly feed their chicks on winter moth caterpillars and these eat the first flush of oak leaves.

Hawthorn, or may, traditionally flowers in May, although often it seems to be earlier, this year it has lived up to the name and was in full bloom in the first week of the month. Although it has lots of flowers they do not seem to attract as many insects as the earlier blackthorn flowers, however one in a good sunny spot can still be worth checking for bees, hoverflies and beetles. I spotted this leaf beetle nectaring on the bush close to Ivy South hide as I locked up yesterday afternoon.

leaf beetle

leaf beetle on hawthorn

Yesterday’s birds included a male wheatear on the Lichen Heath and the long-staying Bonaparte’s gull on Ibsley Water.




Flying and Fallen Giants

Blashford was busy with another Wild Day out again today, the subject was bugs so we were hoping for a good catch in the moth trap, sadly a cool night meant we were disappointed. However a day with often very warm sunshine did bring out the insects. Around the Centre Pond the usual butterflies were joined by a hornet and Britain’s largest hoverfly, the hornet mimic Volucella zonaria.

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria

Although I was largely desk bound today, I did go out to see if I could locate a mute swan reported with fishing line caught on it on the water-ski lake, I did find it but I don’t think it will be easy to catch. On the way I came across a very large fallen tree that came down in the winter, it was a large oak and has fallen in one of the non-intervention areas where we are letting nature take its course as much as we can. It certainly shows how a large clearing can be created by the falling of one large tree. The gap will soon be filled with young trees and in the meantime the sunlight can get through and make a sheltered clearing for insects.

fallen oak

fallen oak

For anyone visiting tomorrow morning, I should mention that we will be clearing the vegetation from in front of the Tern hide, this will improve the view in the long term but disturb the birds for  a couple of hours whilst we are working.