30 Days Wild – Day 19: Too Hot for Walking

I was down to do a guided walk at Blashford in the morning, but it was so hot that two of the walkers cried off and all we managed was a short amble along the Dockens Water to Goosander hide. At least going through the trees by the river was a bit cooler and the Goosander hide was quite busy with a fair few sand martin coming into the nesting wall. There are also now hundreds of greylag and Canada geese on Ibsley Water, come to moult their flight feathers on the relative safety of the open water. Unlike ducks, geese become completely flightless for quite a while when they moult so they have to seek out somewhere safe, but also with accessible food.

On the way to the hide we saw a few bee orchid and several butterflies, including a couple of summer brood comma, my first small skipper of the year and a few marbled white. One of the participants on the walk told me that they are also known as “Half-mourning”, something I had not heard before.

marbled white

marbled white on ox-eye daisy

Sometime ago I posted that we had some puss moth caterpillars, they were quite small then, but now they have grown a lot and today I was dividing them up into three groups to make it easier to keep up with feeding them. They are very fine caterpillars and get ever more so with age.

puss moth caterpillar

puss moth caterpillar

 

Meanwhile, Back at Blashford

Whilst Tracy was off roaming the southern side of the Forest with the Young Naturalists, I was back at Blashford where Sunday was very pleasantly sunny and warm. As the week ahead looks grey and damp, it was likely to be the best day of the week for butterflies and a good opportunity to get the transects done. Although numbers of butterflies are declining as the spring species decline there are a few summer ones starting to appear, the last couple of days have seen the first common blue and brown argus on the wing. Thanks to Blashford’s brilliant volunteers for organising and doing the butterfly transects.

brown argus

The first brown argus of the year (well my first at least).

I also finally saw my first grass snake of the year too, perhaps not strictly my first as I did find a freshly dead one a couple of weeks ago, probably killed by a buzzard. This live one was rather unexpectedly crossing the open gravel behind the Education Centre.

grass snake

grass snake on gravel

Although it has been sunny recently it was still quite cool in the persistent north or north-east wind, this changed on Saturday and the extra warmth seemed to prompt large numbers of damselflies top emerge, I must have seen many hundreds on Sunday, mostly common blue damselflies, but including large red, azure and beautiful demoiselle.

common blue damselfly

common blue damselfly (male), still not quiet fully coloured up.

It is very pleasing to see that two of our projects are showing signs of success again. The tern rafts are used every year, but it gets harder each year to stop them all being claimed by gulls, timing in putting them out is the key. By Monday there were at least 20 common tern on the rafts so hopefully this will be enough to fend of the gulls. The other project, the sand martin wall, has had more mixed fortunes. After a few years of success to start with it fell out of favour with none nesting for several years, but this year they are back! Not in huge numbers but a visit to Goosander hide is well worth the effort.

A number of people have asked me recently when the “new” path from the main car park to Goosander hide will open, regular visitors will have noted that the work was completed some months ago now. Unfortunately the answer is still “I don’t know” but rest assured I will make it known when it is open. The hold up is not of our making, but to do with the process of transfer from previous occupiers via our landlord and the meeting of various planning and other requirements.

The change to more south-westerly winds has reduced migrant activity, but the reserve has still seen a some waders passing through in the last few days, on Sunday a sanderling with a peg-leg was by Tern hide and today a turnstone was on Long Spit (as I have decided to christen the new island we created to the east of Tern hide this spring). Both these are high Arctic breeders and only occasional visitors to Blashford.

Spring Ushed

Bird News: Ivy Lakeferruginous duck 1. Ibsley WaterCaspian gull 1.

I was out doing a talk last night and got home too late to update, so I will cover a few things from both days now. The ferruginous duck was on Ivy Lake all day today, yesterday it was not seen at all. Otherwise today was quite quiet, no reports came in of either bittern or smew, although a bittern was seen briefly yesterday. The Caspian gull has been seen both evenings, although it seems necessary to go up to the Lapwing hide to find it.

The moth trap has had a few moths, with small Quaker and chestnut making an appearance on both days. Today’s highlight was the first spring usher of the year, usually these fly from late January, so this was a bit earlier than usual.

spring usher

The fine weather yesterday brought large numbers of visitors to the reserve, we estimated about 150 people, a very large number for a weekday.Today was quieter, but it was volunteer day and we had 22 volunteers working for the morning. We were working on the refurbishment of the sand martin bank and managed to get all the used nest holes refilled, using something like a tonne of sand in the process.volunteers refilling the sand martin nesting holes at the Lapwing hide

As I mentioned above I was giving a talk about Blashford Lakes last night and had a large audience of 143. Tonight Jim was out doing a talk, it is a busy time of year for indoor meetings. I gave an illustrated talk and Jim had planned to do so tonight, but, unfortunately for him the projector failed, I am pleased it did not do so last night, I think I would have struggled to keep going for an hour without the distraction of pictures.

There was a bit of a sour note sounded this morning, when I arrived to find that two of the bird feeders outside the Centre had been stolen overnight. They have “Blashford Lakes” written on them in permanent marker, although in the dark this might have been hard to see. I suppose we will have to take them all in every night, not ideal, it is time-consuming, attracts vermin into wherever they are stored and makes the food unavailable at the start of the day when the birds are keenest to get at it.

Tomorrow is our annual volunteers quiz and jolly, in fact it is my turn to set the quiz and I have not finished yet so I had better go and get on with it.