Preparations for Spring

It was a properly frosty morning, but walking round to open up the hides this morning signs of approaching spring were everywhere.

Frosty thistle

Frosty thistle

The snowdrops near the store are well out now and primroses are flowering around the car park edge, near the Woodland hide the leaves of the wild daffodils have been up for  a while, but now the flower buds can be seen. Along the path sides shiny, bright green wild arum leaves are showing everywhere and near the alder carr there are the brilliant red spots of colour provided by scarlet elf cup fungi.

As it was Tuesday we had a volunteer task today and we were also looking forward to the warmer days. Our task was clearing back the path sides on the way to the Ivy South hide to open up sheltered scallops to give something of the feeling of a woodland ride. This path runs almost exactly north-south and so has many sun-traps beloved of insects and reptiles. Out plan was to create more such spots in the hope of making more encounters with these creatures later in the year.

pathside clearance

Cleared path sides to create sunny “scallops”.

The end of the day saw rather fewer birders at the Tern hide hoping for a sight of the Thayer’s gull, they were disappointed again. There was the usual ring-billed gull, several yellow-legged gull, a first winter Caspian gull and an adult Mediterranean gull in the roost. My own sightings were rather few, “Walter” our great white egret was fishing in Ivy Lake and on Ibsley Water 2 shelduck and 3 oystercatcher were the most interesting records.

Tomorrow we are working at Fishlake Meadows again, clearing cut willow into dead hedges to create new views across the reedbeds and pools.



Some Bird Sightings

A few sightings from the reserve today, mostly from Ibsley Water. When I opened up the Tern hide there were 4 pintail (3 drakes), 3 green sandpiper (the most I have seen so far this season) and a drake shelduck.  I dropped in there briefly at lunchtime and saw a water pipit just in front of the hide and did not see the juvenile pink-footed goose which was hiding in a large flock of greylag.

Elsewhere there were reports of one or two brambling from near the Centre and Woodland hide.

At closing time there was a first winter Caspian gull in the large gull roost on Ibsley Water, I estimated about 7000 lesser black-backed gull. There was also a gathering of starling, still in the 3000+ range, so enough to be a decent flock but not a really spectacular gathering yet.

As it was almost dark, I could just make out “Walter” our returning great white egret roosting in his favourite dead alder tree beside Ivy Lake.

Birds and a (mini) Beast

As promised here are a couple of excellent pictures of the avocet that dropped into Blashford Lakes on Monday, many thanks to Keith Beswick for sending them in.

DSC_0863 ps

Avocet by Keith Beswick

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Avocet by Keith Beswick

What is immediately obvious is that this is a juvenile bird, the brownish feathers would be black in an adult. Juvenile birds tend to turn up in slightly unusual places as they learn about their environment and where best to be, this one will probably join the large wintering flock in Poole Harbour.

Signs of the changing season are all around now, opening the Tern hide yesterday I saw 8 shoveler, 7 teal, a wigeon (although this was probably the bird that summered with us), a shelduck and a garganey. There were also at least 3 common sandpiper and a green sandpiper. At the end of the day the lake was dominated by fish-eating birds with at least 50 grey heron, 6 little egret, 1 great white egret (“Walter”) and 195 cormorant.

During the day I was working with the volunteers on efforts to establish a grassland in the old concrete plant site, we are making good progress and I think it will be a valuable addition to the reserve. The new path is still not open yet as the necessary agreements with our landlords are still not in place. On our way back for lunch the volunteers found a splendid caterpillar, it reminded me of Dougal the dog, a reference that will date me for those who recognise it.

sycamore caterpillar

sycamore caterpillar

The sycamore moth is rather a dull pale grey species but the caterpillar is a wonderful creature.

A Little, Common News

Not much to report today, highlights were a first summer little gull and a common tern, the latter was also reported yesterday. Two pairs of shelduck on Ibsley Water were good to see, they nest most years somewhere on or near the reserve, but don’t seem to be very successful, small ducklings are often seen but fledged ones very rarely. Otherwise there seemed little change from when I was last on the reserve on Saturday.

If you are planning to visit tomorrow you might want to avoid the Tern hide/Goosander hide area as we will be doing some digger work  at the base of the spit to rough up the compacted gravel surface to make it more suitable for nesting waders like lapwing and little ringed plover. Both species are present nearby but not yet nesting, so a bit more habitat might be welcome.

If you are coming to see In Focus, they should be on hand in the Tern hide as usual, the birds may just be a bit further away, so more of a test for the optics!

No Pictures!

Sorry, no pictures today, despite the good weather, we were just too busy sorting out the trees cut under the electricity lines recently. We have been dead-hedging the brash and collecting some of the larger wood for logs, which we will be selling to help the reserve’s coffers.

I did see a fair bit of notable wildlife though. On opening Tern hide there were 54 black-tailed godwit on the low ground to the left of the hide, the most I have seen in a while. During the day the first oystercatcher of the year was seen on Ibsley Water as was a shelduck, both possibly birds that may breed on the reserve later in the year. Other reports during the day included the black-necked grebe on Ibsley Water and several brambling at the Woodland hide.

At the end of the day as I went to lock up the Tern hide I was lucky enough to see one of the first winter Caspian gull, the adult ring-billed gull and a second winter Mediterranean gull, all in just a few minutes.

We were very kindly donated a trailcam, that is one of the cameras that you can put out by a path and which will take a picture of whatever animal passes. I had a go at setting it up today, but discovered that it had a password, which unfortunately did not come with the camera, so no pictures! Hopefully we will find out what the code is and be able to reveal the secrets of unseen Blashford in the coming weeks.


A bit of a disjointed day. I was in briefly to open up then off to Testwood for a meeting and back again by lunchtime, then path strimming and clearing. Still along the way I did see a fair few things.

Opening the Tern hide a shelduck and single duckling were feeding out on the lake.

shelduck and duckling

At the Ivy North hide a fly by female cuckoo was bubbling and a kingfisher passed shortly after. There was also a considerable commotion in the tree to the right of the hide and the culprits were a pair of amorous grey squirrels.

friendly squirrels

The moth trap was busy once again, although there was nothing of great note, although a very large and threatening looking queen hornet was a catch to treat with respect. Actually they are not aggressive and they are very fine creatures indeed.

queen hornet in the moth trap

Later, when I got back to Blashford I was having lunch when I noticed something moving on a hemlock water dropwort flower, looking closer I saw it was a crab spider which had caught a soldierfly, to be precise an Odontomyia tigrina and the female crab spider that had caught it seems to be Misumena vatia.

Misumena vatia with Odontomyia tigrina

On the Pyracantha flowers I saw a soldier beetle, it turned out to be a red-headed soldier beetle, which is somewhat less common than the closely related black-headed soldier beetle.

soldier red-headed beetle

I spent sometime clearing paths in the meadows during the afternoon and came across two click beetles in quick succession the first was a fine red one and seems to be quiet scarce, if I have identified it correctly.

Ampedus pomonae

The second is one I have seen before and seem to remember identifying, although I cannot remember what it is or how I found out the name!

click beetle

A Day of Two Halves

Bird News: Ibsley Water Bewick’s swan 6, shelduck 11, goldeneye 14, goosander 70+. Ivy Lakebittern 1, ferruginous duck 1, great white egret 1.

A very flat, grey morning, but the gloom seemed to have fooled the roosting birds on Ibsley Water into staying rather longer than normal this morning. There were still at least 2000 black-headed gull and goosander all over the lake, I counted at least 70 in scattered groups, often displaying. The 6 Bewick’s swans were still asleep when I first looked out, but soon woke up and flew off to the valley, although evidently not going to Harbridge to joint the mute swans, where they were looked for without success, although there was the bonus of a report of a whooper swan there, a real rarity in Hampshire. Also on Ibsley Water were 11 shelduck, a good count and at least 17 goldeneye, including 8 adult drakes.

So a good start to the day by any standards. I opened the Centre and then off to the remaining hides. At the Ivy North hide I looked out and a bittern was hunting just below the hide and I had not even raised my binoculars! I now wondered if I was going to complete the round with the ferruginous duck, but a quick check of the few pochard at the Ivy South hide soon answered that with disappointment.

I spent much of the morning path trimming, a noisy activity which makes it pretty certain that no wildlife will be seen, an afternoon in the office did not improve my wildlife sightings although I did come across the latest report on the ruddy duck cull, an issue that I know interests a good few of our visitors. A link to this, for those that are interested is:

It was very mild and this was brought home when I was walking through the lobby and glanced up at the Pondcam and saw a male smooth newt, actively looking for food. I had been pondering that the first common frog spawn was probably not too far away, but perhaps the newts will not be far behind.

As it got towards dusk I set out to lock the hides and arriving first at the Ivy South hide the great white egret was perched in one of the trees on the long peninsula opposite the hide and looking south, the ferruginous duck was also on view, although sleeping. All in all, a good day with some excellent birds.


A Scrape and a Blow

Bird News: Iblsey Watershelduck 1, pintail 14. Ivy Lake yellow-legged gull 1, starling c2000 (to roost). Centrelesser redpoll 5.

Volunteer Thursday again and the weather held off for us once again. We were working at the southern end of the boardwalk on several tasks. The main job was scraping clear the grass growth from the gravel path, a difficult job but one that needed doing. Meanwhile I hoped into the Dockens Water to clear a log jam, these are desirable in some places but not beside the silt pond where they could compromise the bank.

digging away the grass, roots and all

Wildlife was hard to come by with all the activity, but the fallen oak does have quite a crop of small fungi growing out of it now, no idea what they are though.

fungi on fallen oak

After a few delays the fencing of the northern side of the reserve continues apace, almost all the posts are now in place, just the wire to go.

The feeders at the Centre are getting even busier, all the perches on the nyger feeder were occupied for almost the whole day, I think I had better deploy one or two more feeders.

Closing up in a brisk wind I saw about 2000 starlings wheeling over Ivy Lake and being attacked by a female sparrowhawk, the starlings eventually roosted near the Ivy North hide. From the Tern hide a single shelduck and at least 14 pintail were about all I could see in the gloom, and blowing rain.

Finches Coming in

Bird News: Ibsley Waterblack-necked grebe 1, shelduck 1. Ivy Lakeyellow-legged gull 1 adult.

A much better day today with sunshine, although not very warm in a cool easterly breeze. Nevertheless a red admiral was sunning itself in the car park and out of the wind it was quite pleasant. For various reasons I did not get far around the reserve today and so have rather little to report. It was noticeable that the bird feeders at the Centre seemed busier, with lesser redpolls once again on the nyger feeder. There were also good numbers of greenfinch on the seed feeder.

male greenfinch

The black-necked grebe was much closer to the Tern hide this morning, close to the end of the long shingle spit to the east, rather than near the north shore of the lake as usual. The a single drake shelduck with greylag on the spit was the first on the reserve since the summer, they are only occasional in winter here.