Getting ‘Otter

The last couple of days have really warmed up and you get the feeling that spring has really set in. The oak trees are coming into leaf and well before the ash too, so if you believe the rhyme we should be in for a warm summer. The warm weather has resulted in another one of our emperor moth hatching out, this time a male.

the Emperor

You can see the feathery antennae which are how he “smells” the air for the female’s pheromones.

There have also been  a lot more butterflies and other insects out and about, I saw several peacock and brimstone today and this slightly tattered comma.tattered comma

There are also other insects, although not as many as I would have expected, hoverflies seem very few, apart from the drone-fly Eristalis pertinax here posing on a cowslip.

Eristalis pertinax on cowslip

The spring flowers are moving on, the wild daffodil are almost all over and the bluebells are starting, less spectacular but still attractive are the tiny flowers of moschatel, or town-hall clock.

Mochattel

Yesterday I cam across a lot of tiny round growths on a tree stump, some with pale lumps on top, presumably the reproductive phase of something, I am not sure what, perhaps a slime mould? It is not a great picture,  but they were very, very small.

odd things

The winter birds have been continuing to go, I could not find any goldeneye today and the wigeon are down to a handful and even the shoveler down to a few tens. The Slavonian grebe may actually have gone as well, unusually it was asleep in the middle of the lake yesterday evening, quite at odds with usual behaviour and I am guessing it was having a good rest before flying off. On the other side of the coin there was a common tern today, tantalisingly it was a ringed bird, but I could not read the ring. There has also been a welcome return by Cetti’s warbler to the Ivy silt pond, after a long absence.

However the highlight of the last two days came yesterday as I was heading to open Ivy South hide, I noticed some commotion in the water beside the path and guessed maybe it was a cormorant, coot or maybe a moorhen. It was close by so I stopped and looked down over a tree stump and there just 2.5m away were two otter they looked up at me for perhaps five seconds, then dived off to go under some overhanging trees, some 10m away. I phoned the office but by the time Jim and Tracy had arrived they had headed off across the pond and out of sight. I could have got a great picture, but actually would not have done, by the time I had got the camera out and ready they would have gone, so instead I enjoyed a fabulous close encounter. The only close-up picture of a mammal I can offer is this young rabbit snapped with my 60mm macro lens today.

bunny

 

Flowers, Ferns and Furry Nibblers

Bird News: Ibsley Watergoldeneye 3, black-tailed godwit 1, common sandpiper 1, peregrine 2. Ivy Lakereed warbler 3+, Cetti’s Warbler 1.

A very quiet day for birds and wildlife in general. The volunteers were in and made a number of small nesting rafts and dug a trench line. Hopefully we will be putting out the tern nesting rafts next week, assuming I have got the outboard motor back by then.

After getting off to a storming start the progress of spring has resumed a more sedate pace. The blackthorn blossom is just over and the very first few hawthorn flowers are starting to show, but the main flowering will not be for a little while yet, so the may should still be out in May. Also out now is Blashford’s pear tree, it has plenty of bloom, but unless there are good numbers of bees active there will not be much fruit.

pear blossom

In the Millennium Meadow the “cowslips” are flowering well, I put the inverted commas around them as many are of rather dubious origin. Several are very large-flowered, or orange and sometimes even red, this picture shows a few wild type ones next to a clump of larger flowered stems.

cowslips

In the foreground is a stem with the flower head bitten off, very probably by a deer as the meadow is now fenced to keep rabbits out. Elsewhere rabbits are the main grazers nibbling off lots of plants at ground level. This year is likely to be a good one for rabbits as they started breeding very early, many young were born in January and have been independent for several weeks now so will soon be breeding themselves.

Blashford bunny

Deer and especially the increasing numbers of fallow deer have a significant impact upon the reserve, especially their grazing of young trees and coppice stools. One way to reduce this is to pollard the trees so the growing shoots are high up and out of reach of the browsing deer, or at least out of easy reach.

willow pollards with remaining cut rods stacked below

The pollarded stems are now starting to grow vigorously and should produce a good crop of stem suitable for weaving and basketry, although there was rather little take up for the material this year, which was a disappointment.

When I went to lock up the hides I noticed that lots of ferns are starting to unfurl, at this stage of growth they form wonderful shapes and so not seem to suffer from the attentions of either deer or rabbits to any significant degree.

fern unfurling into a very fancy crozier

Others look more like furry snail shells.

ferns unfurling