30 Days Wild – Day 9: Send in the Troops

Despite a bit of a stutter in the summer weather this week the season still advances and Day 9 of 30 Days Wild saw the first common tern chicks on the rafts on Ivy Lake. I think they probably hatched couple of days ago. One pair was a few days ahead of the main group so I am expecting a lot of chicks to hatch next week. Common tern almost invariably lay three eggs, so if they all hatch our 36 pairs will have about 100 chicks between them, so fingers crossed for a successful season.

I saw the terns from Ivy South hide where the grass snake were on show, basking on the stump below the hide.

two grass snakes on the stump

Snakes on the stump

The most significant sightings of the day though were once again of insects. I will always try to make a quick check of the hemlock water-dropwort at lunchtime, this plant is very attractive to nectaring insects and amongst these can be some rarer species. In particular it attracts bees, hoverflies and soldierflies. Blashford is a good site for bees, many of which use the dry lichen heath for nesting. Equally the wetland habitats are the home to many hoverflies and especially soldierflies, including some nationally rare species. So I was very pleased to spot at least one ornate brigadier soldierfly (Odontomyia ornata), a species that we see at Blashford every couple of years or so and has, so far, not been found anywhere else in Hampshire. I then spotted a second species, the black colonel (Odontomyia tigrina), slightly more often recorded but still quite rare, this one at least allowed me to take a picture.

Odontomyia tigrina female

Black colonel soldierfly (Odontomyia tigrina), female on hemlock water-dropwort.

However visiting flowers to feed, as these insects must do, is a risky business, there are predators lying in wait, in particular crab spiders.

crab spider with bee prey

Crab spider with bee as prey

Elsewhere on the reserve the three smaller lapwing chicks are still surviving in front of Tern hide along with the single larger one, I did not see the oystercatcher chicks and I suspect they may have lost one late on Thursday. We will see what next week brings.

Underwings, Grouse Wings and Foxgloves

Bird News: Ibsley Waterhouse martin 600+, swift 400+, peregrine 1. Ivy Lakehobby 1.

No time to post yesterday, so a double post tonight. It has been very quiet for birds but there have been a number of interesting insects. First of these was the capture yesterday of a lunar yellow underwing moth. This species has become very scarce in recent years and is now mainly found on the Brecklands of East Anglia. There are now three records from Blashford which indicates a local population. It is named for a black crescent mark in the yellow underwing, unfortunately they do not show their underwings when at rest.

lunar yellow underwing

I also came across a yellow and black bee, it is one of the Nomada bees which parasitize the nests of various species of solitary bees, I am working on the identity, but have not quite got there yet!

Nomada bee

Today saw slightly more in the way of birds. When I opened the Tern hide the wind was brisk and from the north-east, it was really quite cold and as a result there were lots of martins and swifts over Ibsley Water, I estimated very approximately 400 swifts and 600 house martins, but there were probably many more than this.

The moth trap did not contain any really notable moths today but there was a rather fine cranefly.


There were also several caddisflies including several of a species known to anglers as the grouse wing.

grouse wing

It was generally a good day for insects and I got a few pictures. The first was of a large species of hoverfly which mimics a bumble bee, it is Criorhina floccosa.

Criorhina floccosa

I also finally got a picture of the soldierfly Odonomyia tigrina, or at least of one that was not being eaten by a spider.

Odontomyia tigrina

Some may remember a picture I posted last year of some amazing woolly looking larvae that were found beside the pond at The Centre on the leaves of a small alder plant. They proved to be of the alder sawfly and today I found an adult on the same plant, it is also a rather splendid insect.

alder sawfly

The reserve was very quiet today and I took the opportunity to do various odd jobs, including moving the “Rivercam” so that it is once again “Compostcam”. Although when I went to check the positioning was right by looking at the big screen int he lobby it was more like “Mousecam”.


I will end with a shot of a flower, just for a change, the foxgloves are looking very good just now so here is one.


A Giant Felled

I will miss out bird news today as there really wasn’t any. The insects continue to hot up though with the moth trap having over thirty-five species including a few new for the year and one quite scarce one, a beautiful brocade.

beautiful brocade

The caterpillars feed on bog myrtle, so it may have wandered down from the New Forest or possibly have been reared on our very own small patch. Other moths included the first large yellow underwing of the year, spectacle, nut-tree tussock, maiden’s blush, orange footman, snout, alder moth, buff tip and silver Y.

alder moth

Non-moths included an orange ladybird and a giant lacewing. It was also a good day for various other species, I saw my first Odontomyia tigrina, a species of black soldierfly, of the year, but failed to get a picture as it was just too far to reach over the pond. I did get a fair shot of a bee-fly though.

Bombylius major

Just before lunch the overflow form one of the tanks in the loft started to gush into the stones behind the Centre, the ball valve had failed and a quick trip to the builders merchants was in order, fortunately it did not tack too long to fix. However on my way back I noticed the giant hogweed plants on the verge near Ivy Lane and decided I really should do something about them before they get too established, so int he afternoon I went down and cut through the tap-root of each one below the lowest leaf, which I understand should kill the plant. I had thought all the plants were ont he verge but I did find one inside the reserve, this is yet another invasive alien species and one we do  not want, although magnificent to look at it  a serious skin irritant and can become very dominant and then difficult to control.

cut down giant hogweed

On my way back to the Centre I passed the Ellingham Inlet Pound where there were good numbers of red-eyed damselflies and my first black-tailed skimmer of the season, although so newly emerged as to not have a black tail yet.

black-tailed skimmer, newly emerged male


blue-tailed damselfly


beautiful demoiselle

Some were not quite so lucky and one male damselfly had fallen prey to a spider.

spider with damselfly

At the end of the day I went out onto Ivy lake to deploy the refuge rafts for the common tern chicks, they are actually just old pallets but they serve very well. They provide a place to large chicks to perch if they get blown off the rafts when exercising, just before they can fly, this can result in them getting dumped into the water and then not being able to get back on the nesting rafts due to the fencing around the edge. The danger is that if they spend a day int he water they get cold and die, whereas if they can climb out somewhere safe they can usually fly within a day or so and are usually fine.

afloat with tern refuges

I wa sable to get a count of the tern nests, there were seventeen with eggs, sixteen with the usual full clutch of three, one of one, which is probably a new nest and still with eggs being laid. There was also a nest scrape with no eggs so I expect there are eighteen pairs in all.