30 Days Wild – Day 10 – Damp(ish)

Most of my “Wildness” involved being indoors looking out, although it was not too bad at the beginning and end of the day. The office window at Blashford looks out over the picnic tables and the small pond used by education groups for pond-dipping. It was a movement on the pond-dipping boardwalk that attracted my attention as I was using the photocopier.

roe eating dropwort 4x3

Roe deer eating hemlock water-dropwort

It seemed to be eating mainly the flowers, but the books will tell you that every part of the plant is highly poisonous. I have previously noticed that cattle seem very partial to eating this plant, apparently without obvious harm.

I ventured out at lunchtime, but only as far as the Tern Hide, but I was rewarded with an adult lapwing accompanied by a juvenile with several colour-rings. I do not know for sure yet, but I am pretty certain it is one ringed by the Waders for Real project in the Avon Valley. Given the poor success of our own birds this year I was just pleased to see a fledged juvenile.

colour-ringed juv lapwing

colour-ringed juv lapwing

Although the juvenile was running around feeding well and could fly very well it was still being defended vigorously by the adult, which spent sometime dive-bombing a family party of Canada geese.

wet lapwing

A rather damp adult lapwing, still watching over the youngster despite having left home.

Other birds around were two wigeon, a drake and a duck, but not together, a black swan, hundreds of swift, similar numbers of house martin (in both cases over 350). The highlight though was a marsh harrier, hunched down in the shelter of the vegetation on one of the islands, looking rather miserable.

Oh Deer!

I was doing a waterbird count today, but despite this my main memory of the day was of deer, they seemed to be everywhere. On my way to open Ivy North hide a muntjac sauntered across the path in front of me, strictly they are Reeve’s muntjac and were introduced to the UK from the Far East. They are now widespread across much of England aided by being able to breed at as early as seven months! The muntjac was to quick for me to get a picture, or rather I was too slow to get the camera ready. A few metres further on a roe buck was on the lichen heath, but he headed off at speed. However by the Woodland hide there were two young roe and they wandered slowly to the side of the path before stopping to look back at me.

roe deer

roe deer near Woodland Hide

On my way to Lapwing hide I disturbed a groups of fallow deer, these are less desirable as they go round in large groups and can do a lot of damage to our coppice and even pollards, as they will stand up on their hind legs to reach growth as high as 1.8m. This group of fallow is a real mixed bunch with typical spotted ones, white, beige and even black individuals.

fallow

fallow, just beside the path “hiding”

I did count the wildfowl, but I have to say numbers are pretty poor this winter, well below the five year average for almost all species apart from pochard. I found at least 21 goldeneye, but this included only four adult drakes and I know there were six earlier on, so perhaps I missed some, or they have already moved on. Other birds of note were 2 water pipit and two great white egret or just possibly one twice.

The only other thing that really caught my eye was a group of fungi, so far I have failed to get close to a name, so if you have any ideas I would be glad to hear from you.

fungus

unknown fungus

Another Year

What a great start to the New Year, a beautiful morning and the reserve was busy with visitors and birds for them to see. So busy in fact that the Pop-up cafe ran out of cake! This may also be because word is getting around that the cakes are exceedingly fine so people get in early, they will be back next Sunday though, so all is not lost.

A New Year means a new “list” not that I ever manage to keep one going to year’s end, but a good start for me at least, with 78 species recorded, 75 of them at Blashford.

Ibsley Water featured at least two (although I think there must be more) water pipit, seen from all three hides during the day, the black-necked grebe, typically near the north-western shore, a fly-over by the dark-bellied brent goose (rare at Blashford), a marsh harrier, green sandpiper and all the usual wildfowl. In the afternoon the Caspian gull was in the roost along with about 10 yellow-legged gull.

Meanwhile Ivy Lake had the bittern on view on and off for much of the day at Ivy North hide along with a supporting caste of Cetti’s warbler, chiffchaff and water rail, joined later by first one and then two great white egret which stayed to roost with the cormorants.

At Woodland hide the regular woodland birds have now been joined by a few reed bunting, but there is no sign as yet of any redpoll or brambling, but it is early days. More widely around the reserve a firecrest was at the road crossing to Goosander hide and several more chiffchaff were in the reeds and willows on the walk to Lapwing hide, where there was a reed bunting giving brief snatches of song, they usually don=t start until well into the spring.

Despite recording 75 species on the reserve, I never saw a greenfinch! and there were a few other species missing that are generally not that difficult to see.

I saw just four mammal species (not counting humans) all day and two of those were non-natives, grey squirrel, fallow deer, roe deer and a wood mouse, live-trapped in the loft. Meanwhile the year’s moth list got off to a roaring start with a single mottled umber, although by convention moths are recorded as being on the previous day as most fly just after dusk, so this is when they are attracted to the light.

mottled umber

a very well marked mottled umber

 

Oh Deer!

Recently we have been donated some fallen apples and I have been putting them out at the Woodland hide, where they often disappear within a couple of days. It is obvious that they are not being eaten by birds, but what is eating them? There is a badger sett nearby, so perhaps they like apples, the way to answer this was to deploy a trailcam, so I did. Here are some of the results:

fallow eating apple

Fallow deer eating apples

But it was not just fallow deer,

roe and fawn by day

Roe deer with fawn

It also turned out they were coming at all hours.

roe and fawn at night 2

Roe deer, doe and fawn visiting after dark.

At least one of the fallow had a fawn accompanying it, so the love of apples is getting passed on down the generations. Fallow deer have a single fawn, but roe almost invariably have twins, the doe visiting the apples had only one, so I suspect something had happened to the other twin. Both deer species will rut in the autumn and have their fawns in the spring so you might think that both species have a similar gestation period. In fact roe deer, being much smaller have a shorter gestation, but rather than having their fawns in the winter egg implantation is delayed to make sure they are born in the better spring conditions.

“What’s On?” at Blashford…

…well quite a lot actually!

“Walking Picnics” are back with the Pop-up Cafe tomorrow (Sunday 18th December), although Christine will probably be manning the cakes and refreshments by herself as Nigel is more likely to be involved with the Young Naturalists group who are meeting tomorrow a week earlier than their usual meeting date of the last Sunday of the month. Rightly or wrongly we weren’t convinced that there would be a big turn out on 25th December!

That will be the last activity until Wildlife Tots on January 2nd, although the reserve and centre will be open as usual everyday except Christmas Day itself.

Thanks to a combination of birders restarting their year lists and families out for the traditional New Years Day walk, the 1st January is typically the reserves busiest day of the year – if the weather is fair. This year there will be an added incentive to visit the reserve, even if the weather is less than perfect, because it is the first Sunday of the month and therefore the Pop-up Cafe will be open again! A combination of a lovely walk on a lovely nature reserve combined with a generous slice of one of Christine’s cakes all washed down with a mug of hot coffee or tea could be the perfect hangover cure!

In the New Year there is a busy program of walks, courses and activities planned. The next “What’s On?” covering January-March was emailed to the printers yesterday but for a sneak preview you can download or print your own copy here: 161207-blashford-whats-on-jan-mar-ts

Currently the reserve is relatively quiet, as it tends to be in the run up immediately before Christmas, although there is still a steady flow of visitors dropping in for a brief visit throughout the day as they escape the hustle and bustle of shopping and other preparations.

There’s certainly always something to see; yesterday opening up I saw water rail and bittern from Ivy North Hide and heard a very otter like splash from Ivy Silt Pond. In keeping with tradition I didn’t actually see an otter of course, but I’m 90% sure that is what it would have been!

This morning Ibsley Water was largely obscured by mist, but 5 handsome drake goldeneye were all close to the shore in front of Tern Hide and easy to see and enjoy. Didn’t see a bittern this morning (although one was reported again later on, so still there!), but had a lovely view of a roe buck silhouetted against a misty skyline among the tree’s on top of the bank from Woodland Hide.

The unexpected highlight today however was that of a tawny owl flying in the alder carr at the back of the centre when I went round the back to open up the shutters. Although not an uncommon bird at Blashford the linear nature of the woodland on the reserve is such that even at night you don’t always hear them if you are at the “wrong end” of their territory and I certainly haven’t seen one by day on site before.

Mothless, well Almost

Yesterday I ran a “Moth event” at Blashford, unfortunately I forgot to tell the moths and there were probably more human participants than moths! Usually late August is a good time for catching large numbers of moths, but big catches require warm, calm nights following warm settled days. What we had was a windy, mostly clear night following a rather stormy day.

Luckily the day got more settled as it went on, at least until late afternoon anyway. This brought out good numbers of insects, including as many dragonflies as I have seen this year. Around the reserve I saw several brown hawker, southern and migrant hawkers, an egg-laying emperor dragonfly and a fair few common darter. Damselflies included common blue, azure, red-eyed, small red-eyed and blue-tailed.

Butterflies were rather fewer, most that I saw were whites, with all three common species near the Centre. Out on the reserve a few meadow brown and gatekeeper are still flying and speckled wood are increasing again. Near the Lapwing hide I saw both red admiral and painted lady, perhaps indicating some continued arrival of passage insects.

The sunshine in the middle of the day brought out reptiles as well and I saw two grass snake and an adder. The adder was very fat and I suspect a female which will shortly be giving birth, since adders have live young rather than laying eggs as grass snakes do.

adder

adder

I have heard reports of wasp spider being seen around the reserve recently and today I finally saw one.

wasp spider

wasp spider

This is a female, the males are much, much smaller and wander about seeking the females.

I had hoped for a few different birds, following the rough weather, perhaps a few terns, but there was little change form the past week. A few extra waders were the best that could be found, 2 dunlin, 2 oystercatcher, 2 common sandpiper, 1 redshank and the pick of the day, 3 greenshank, although they only flew through. There are starting to be a few more ducks around, I saw 8 shoveler and 3 teal, but there are still no wigeon on the reserve, although they should not be far away. Away for the water looking up there were 2 raven, and single hobby and peregrine. Whilst low over the water before the day warmed there were 1000+ sand martin and c200 house martin.

Perhaps the sighting of the day for many visitors though was the female roe deer that spent part of the morning in front of the Woodland hide.

roe deer at Woodland hide 3

roe deer doe at the Woodland hide

 

30 Days Wild – Day 6

Monday and I was up before dawn to head out to do a breeding bird survey in the south-east of the county before heading into Blashford for the day. Although I like being up at this time it does get to be quite hard when it means getting up before 04:00 in the morning! The first couple of hours of daylight are often the best of the day and there is something about being out and about when almost everyone else is still tucked up in bed.

Being the first week of June I came across several great spotted woodpecker nests with large, noisy chicks hanging out of them and also saw the first family parties of great tits. The site is a woodland and as well as the birds I frequently see roe deer, often at close range and perhaps not expecting anyone to be about so early in the day. I also found a swarm of tiny moths dancing over the tops of some bracken fronds.

Adela croesella

Adela croesella

It was not easy to get a shot as it was early and rather dark underneath the tree canopy, but you can see that they are rather splendid creatures with extraordinarily long antennae.

The woodland has a wide range of tree species and much of it is clearly ancient, with a ground flora including bluebell, wild daffodil, ramsons and Solomon’s seal. There is also a good amount of standing dead wood, beloved of woodpeckers and fungi. On one partly dead oak I spotted a clump of sulphur polypore.

sulphur polyphore

sulphur polypore

 

 

Locking up photos

When I locked Ivy North Hide today I was pleased to see Walter White the great white egret fishing in the bay. He has been not been seen since 28th of July so it was good to see him back, looking in the hide log book he had been seen on and off throughout the day.

P1090048 copy

Great white egret, Ivy North hide

I also saw this female roe deer with two kids to the left of the hide.

P1090046 copy

Roe deer

Kingfishers numbers are currently topped up by young birds leaving their nests, and they’re being seen from at Goosander hide and both the Ivy lake hides regularly at the moment. I saw two at Ivy North hide at 5pm but an impressive four were reported earlier in the day. I also saw two green sandpipers, but unfortunately not close enough to photograph.

P1090038

Spot the kingfisher

P1090036

Kingfisher on it’s perch

Snakes Alive

There are now at least five grass snakes being seen on the logs outside the Ivy South Hide, although three of these reported yesterday were quite small.  Although not as warm as yesterday when opening up the hide, some were basking – how many I leave for you to decide….

Basking Grass Snake(s) ???

Basking Grass Snake(s) ???

A close up of the head of one snake shows a distinctly blue cast to the eye,

Old 'blue-eyes'

Old ‘blue-eyes’

 

probably indicative that it is getting ready to slough off its outer skin, which , I believe happens as they get larger. literally bursting out of their skin.

Early morning, before too many people are around the wildlife has the place largely to itself and it’s probably a bit of a shock when we turn in to open the place up. Yesterday morning, I startled a couple of roe deer that were lurking near the Woodland Hide

Roe Deer and young

Roe Deer and young

Though still suffering some predation, we can run the light trap without too many losses. providing its stuffed full of egg-boxes. Highlights from yesterday and today were this Coxcomb Prominent,

 

Coxcomb Prominent

Coxcomb Prominent

 

a rather butterfly-like Common Emerald,

Common Emerald

Common Emerald

a distinctively marked and appositely named Blood-vein, contrasting nicely with the black of the light trap,

Blood-vein

Blood-vein

and star turn, a Privet Hawkmoth, which when seen with wings closed is quite impressive,

Privet Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

but with its wings open and spread out reveals a body clad in a rugby shirt of black and pink stripes.

Privet Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

Reports of birds in and around the Reserve, include a flyover Hobby and a rapacious Sparrowhawk which caught a Sand Martin just outside the Goosander Hide.

Near the Centre a juvenile Great-spotted Woodpecker was being fed, from our feeder, by an adult male Great-spotted Woodpecker — presumably its Dad – quite appropriate for Fathers Day!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phew!! What a scorcher. – now you know I’ve run out of ideas for titles!!!

In a somewhat ironic (or iconic) piece of fortune the first mini-beast of the day was a gatekeeper butterfly which buzzed me as I opened up the gate to the Tern Hide car-park.

Gatekeeper or Hedge brown - keeping an eye on our gate!!

Gatekeeper or Hedge brown – keeping an eye on our gate!!

Other butterflies are really making their presence felt – not before time, following the unusually cold ( do you remember that?) spring.  A red admiral has been floating around the Education Centre and without moving too far away it’s been possible to see both large white and small white, meadow brown, speckled wood, peacock, comma, brimstone and what was almost certainly a silver-washed fritillary scuttling through.  Many of them will have been looking for nectar sources, but the plants that always used to be cited as the ‘butterfly bush’ , buddleia , have yet to produce much in the way of flowers– possibly another effect of the cold spring.

A gentle stroll around the path between Ellingham Water and Dockens water, ostensibly to do a bit of trimming back of overhanging branches and invasive brambles, produced a few bonuses in terms of dragonflies and damselflies including a fine male emperor dragonfly, a couple of brown hawker and numerous common blue damselflies,and one beautiful demoiselle. Only a keeled skimmer stayed still long enough to have its picture taken and that was from some distance away.

Keeled skimmer

A more obvious pair of megafauna graced us with a fleeting glimpse, as a female roe deer and her fawn dashed across the lichen heath.

Along the path heading south towards the Iron Age hut there are a number of broad-leaved helleborine, which are only just starting to come into flower. Disappointingly a number of them have been decapitated, probably having been nibbled by deer.  There were, however, several intact specimens, which even before fully flowering have a delightfully sweeping architectural shape.

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Broad-leaved Helleborine

but only one that had started to bloom.

Broad-leaved helleborine

First flowering spike of broad-leaved helleborine

Helleborines are in the orchid family, a fascinating group of plants with more different members than any other family of vascular plants. Genetically they are rather complicated with more DNA than many more complex plants and animals including ourselves. As a group that is currently rapidly evolving many hybrids may be formed and for this reason may present  challenges to anyone wishing to identify the species. Given my track record on plant ID, I might be foolish, but I’m pretty sure these are broad-leaved helleborine…

As it’s the time of year for interesting insects I’ll finish, as usual, with a few moths.

Pinion

Pinion

Pale prominent

Pale prominent

Small scallop

Small scallop