Break-up?

After spending most of the day together yesterday the two great white egret were only seen separately today and only “Walter” went to roost in his usual place. The second bird was seen but departed northwards up the valley.

The first drake goldeneye of the season was seen today, along with a female, although we know there were two females yesterday. Other birds today included a ruff, seen flying over heading south, a green sandpiper and a Mediterranean gull.

My day was mostly taken up with a break-in, as someone kicked in the door of the Ivy South hide sometime between 5:00pm last night and 9:00am today. Cutting out the damaged section of door frame and fitting the new timber without doing too much damage to the hide took me most of the morning. Generally Blashford does not have the level of problems that many other sites do, but we will still spend several days each year dealing with break-ins, vandalism and fly-tipping, using up time and money that we could use for more useful things.

We are promised our first really chilly night, predicted to go down to -3C so I might have to invest in more bird food and we might see some more wildfowl arriving in the next few days.

More than a fuzz of green now

It is noticeably greener day by day - even in the drizzle!

It is noticeably greener day by day – even in the drizzle!

This is my favourite time of year – the evenings are longer, the birds are singing and you can see the natural world changing before your eyes, particularly as the leaf buds on the tree’s and hedgerows open and unfold. Last weekend there was a general “fuzz” of green about the place, today it is most definitely green and getting greener. And for all that it has been grey and wet all day it has been surprisingly mild, with the thermometer recording a low of 10C and a high of 15C overnight and during the course of the day. Therefore perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a grass snake “basking” on top of the dead hedge near Woodland Hide this afternoon – but I was surprised, and therefore didn’t get a picture unfortunately!

Sticking with the green theme momentarily a frosted green was a nice find in the light trap this morning:

Frosted green

Frosted green

It was one of 30 moths in total and 9 species, including this, a herald:

Herald

Herald

As the daffodils fade and spring moves on we are moving steadily from the season of yellow flowers to that of purple, with a few early ground ivy flowering and some lovely carpets of dog violets along the woodland edges in places:

Dog violet

Dog violet

Bird wise a ruff that was on Ibsley Water yesterday was absent today, but at least a couple of little gull were present, as were the pair of little ringed plover who (hopefully) are establishing a territory somewhere between the Tern Hide and across to the large peninsula.

There was some excitement over what was perceived to be a drake American wigeon this morning, but by mid-afternoon it was generally accepted that what had initially been thought to have an exciting record was in reality an unusually marked, or hybrid, wigeon.

 

Finding Gold and Watching Out for Tough Ted

Bird News: Ibsley Waterruff 1, little ringed plover 2, water pipit 1, goldeneye 7, mandarin duck 1, sedge warbler 1, Cetti’s warbler 1. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1, scaup 1, garden warbler 1, water rail 2+.

Apart from the odd shower the day was largely sunny, although with an increasingly brisk south-west wind. Opening the Tern hide I saw the water pipit briefly before it flew off to the south over Ellingham Drove, I have seen it do this before and I wonder if it goes to the shingle area around Ellingham Pound, I must make time to check sometime. A single ruff remains and I saw at least 2 little ringed plovers distantly up the lake. A drake mandarin duck flew west over the lake, it seems we have a pair around regularly at present, perhaps they will breed locally this year.

Over beside Ivy Lake I heard my first garden warbler of the year, just south of the Woodland hide. It was also good to see a water rail on the silt pond, there is a pair at the Ivy North hide and it seems there may also be potential for a further breeding territory ont he silt pond as well. The Cetti’s warbler was also singing by the pond and I heard a report of another singing near the Lapwing hide, another species that has not bred on the reserve in my time working here.

Despite a return to more normal weather for the time of year there are still signs of the season moving on, I saw a group of bluebells in full flower and the pendulous sedge near the Centre is coming into flower as well, the long drooping flower heads have masses of pollen.

pendulous sedge in flower

Another plant I noticed in flower today was one that I only realised even grew on the reserve earlier this year, what’s more it is easily visible from one of the paths I walk down several times each day, which just shows how unobservant I am! I am not talking about a single plant either but two large patches a few metres across, the plant is opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, a plant of damp or even wet woodland.

opposite-leaved golden saxifrage

During the day I heard reports of a sedge warbler singing near the Lapwing hide, the first this year and rather later than in most years, in fact there often reed warblers about by now, so although this has been a rather early year for most species is has not been for all. There were a few sand martin, swallow and a house martin or two about over several of the lakes at different times, although numbers of sand martin are still very low, hopefully they are still out there somewhere.

When I went to lock up the hides I was in for a surprise on Ivy Lake, the return of the drake scaup, it seems to have settled in with the local tufted ducks and was displaying to a female tufty, so perhaps it will stay all summer. I was also amused to see the logbook in the Ivy North hide, which included reference to a bird we might want to avoid, the “Tough Ted duck”.

Closing the Tern hide I saw a group of 7 goldeneye, including 2 adult drakes, I doubt they will be with us much longer.

Angry Birds

Bird News: Ibsley Watersand martin 40+, swallow c10, house martin 2+. ruff 1, little ringed plover 2+, water pipit 1 (reported), rock pipit 2 (reported).

I arrived to see that the bird feeder beside the Centre car park was missing, I wondered if it had just been taken in for some reason, but when I looked in the diary I found out what had happened. Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday it and the other two large feeders at the Woodland hide had been stolen, clearly not an opportunist theft but a planned visit with the intention of stealing all three. Each one was taken along with the pole and seed tray, making the total cost of replacement about £250. In theory we could take them all in every night but this takes time, leads to them getting damaged and means they are not available for periods at the start and end of the day. I am not sure at present what is the best course of action, clearly we cannot accept this kind of loss too often, we have now lost five feeders in the last couple of years, despite them being marked with permanent marker and usually in less than new condition. The feeders and the birds they attract are a really feature of the reserve and a key attraction for many visitors, so I don’t want to be forced to stop feeding, but I am going to have to find some way of addressing the issue. Michelle reported that yesterday when she went round the hides there were lots of birds hopping around where the feeders should have been, hopping mad I shouldn’t wonder.

On a cheerier note there was a good turn out of volunteers today and we worked around the Woodland hide, generally spring cleaning the hide and the area around it, removing nettles, clearing the pond and preparing to set up a new “woodpeckercam” by putting in the cabling. I hope that this time it will be “Green woodpeckercam”, so fingers cross that they will use the hole that I can set the camera on.

There were a few swallows and martins about today, not large numbers, but they did include my first house martin of the year and my first flock of swallows, albeit not a large one. At least 1 ruff was still on Iblsey Water and the water pipit was reported as were 2 rock pipits. I saw a pair of little ringed plover and 2 Mediterranean gulls flew over in the morning.

On an especially sunny bank near the Dockens Water I also saw my first bluebells in full bloom and near the bridge at the Tern hide crossing the leopard’s bane is now out, not a native but an old introduction from the near continent with bright yellow flowers like sunbursts.

Although the day was not busy with general visitors, it was a hive of activity with a “Roamability” group and a family pond dip event in addition to the usual Thursday volunteers. It also proved necessary to get the cess pit emptied, all in all the car park was very congested for a good part of the day.

 

The Blues and Chips

Bird News: Ibsley Waterruff 3, goldeneye 6+, little ringed plover 1, water pipit 1 (reported). Ivy Lake Cetti’s warbler 1, water rail 2. Woodlandbrambling 1 (reported).

A very cold start gave way to a fine, sunny spring day. The frost meant there were few moths and when I first looked over Ibsley water the mist rising from the water prevented seeing many birds, a single sand martin was the best I saw. As I went round the hides opening up I spotted several woodpecker holes under construction, so even with scattering of telltale woodchips beneath.

woodchips

I came across one new hole in an old crack willow and another in a large hybrid poplar.

green woodpecker hole

The sunny clearings had many hovering bee flies and droneflies, I decided to really challenge my camera by trying a flight shot, which resulted in a rather odd picture in which the fly looks almost as though it could be as large a s a small plane!

dronefly flyby

Not just the sky was blue, one of the most obvious flowers at present are the forget-me-nots, there are lots in the gravel around the Centre but also in various other places.

forget-me-not

Some of the same bare ground areas that are favoured by the forget-me-nots are also good basking places for butterflies and the main species doing this at present seems to be comma, I saw at least four between the Centre and Woodland hide sunning themselves on the path.

comma and shadow

The long shadow tells you that the picture was taken late in the day and it was just before I left that I saw most of the wildlife today. From the Tern hide I saw at least 3 ruff and 5 or so goldeneye still remaining, but only one drake goosander.

Taking the Ruff with the Smews

Bird News: Ibsley Waterruff 1, red-breasted merganser 2, yellow-legged gull 1, Mediterranean gull 1. Ivy Lakebittern 2, smew 2.

A fantastic Blashford day, it started fine then just got better and better, sunny and warm. In addition the birds were performing and perhaps most surprisingly the reserve was not that busy so there was no problem getting into the hides to se them.

The mild night meant another good moth catch and another water beetle, this time a big one, a great diving beetle, it is easy to see that it is a female as the males have smooth elytra.

great diving beetle

The morning was taken up with a volunteer task and the afternoon leading a guided walk with the same group. The Woodland hide delivered great views of lesser redpoll and siskin. A good range of ducks were at the Ivy South hide, including this pochard which was diving close to the hide. 

As so often recently it was the Ivy North hide that really delivered, although it took two visits. A bittern was fishing just below the hide, as it moved through the tangled Glyceria all we could see at times was a gently shift of the vegetation and then up would come the head and it would peer around before descending again. There were also water rails and a singing Cetti’s warbler. On the way there for our second visit, I noticed a small sycamore tree beside the path with the telltale signs of having been got at by a great spotted woodpecker for the purpose of sap-sucking. To do this they make a series of very evenly spaced small holes to make in a horizontal line around the trunk. The runs were very prominent as the runs showed up white, probably due to mould. North American woodpeckers are well-known for this behaviour, ours less so.

signs of woodpecker sap sucking

I returned to Ivy North again to lock up and saw the 2 smew, under the trees on the eastern shore. This meant that when I was at the Tern hide right at the end of the day and saw the red-breasted merganser with twenty or so goosander I had seen all three British saw-bill ducks in the one day. It later turned out that what I saw was a merganser, rather than the merganser, as two redheads were reported today. Other notable reports included a ruff on Ibsley Water.