Trapped

The night was a little warmer and the result was the best moth catch for some time, not saying a lot perhaps, but it is only mid February. In all there were four species, a dotted border.

dotted border

dotted border

Two chestnut, these will have over-wintered as adult moths.

chestnut

chestnut

Two spring usher, ushering in the spring!

spring usher

spring usher

And a single micro-moth, a Tortricodes alternella, actually there was another micro, but it flew off before I could see it well enough.

Tortricodes alternella

Tortricodes alternella

Not everything in the trap was a moth though, other insects are also attracted to light, in this case a female great diving beetle.

great diving beetle female

great diving beetle (female)

I understand that a bittern was seen again today at Ivy North hide and a redpoll at the Woodland hide. Out on Ibsley Water single black-necked grebe, a yellow-legged gull and a water pipit were seen.

Late Winter Dash as Spring Looms

This time of year is always hectic, the winter work really needs to be finished by the end of February and somehow there is never quiet enough winter to get it all done. That said we have done very well this time, getting round to some tasks that I had been wanting to do for some years as well as doing  a lot of work in the former block works site to make it ready to become part of the reserve.

In the last week we have planted several hundred shrubs, coppiced a lot of willow and built a long dead hedge we have also cleared small birches to make basking sites for reptiles and nesting areas for solitary bees, raked cut brambles and taken willow cuttings. Luckily Blashford’s Brilliant Volunteers have turned out en masse and with the Our Past, Our Future apprentice rangers and Emily, our volunteer placement, the workforce has been at peak performance.

before

The site for a new dead hedge

after

The dead hedge completed, looking back towards the viewpoint of the picture above.

Even with all this activity there has still been some time for a bit of wildlife. The last couple of nights have been much warmer, spring is definitely in the air now, so we have put out the moth trap. Today’s catch was 3 chestnut, 3 pale brindled beauty, a spring usher (I said it was in the air), one of my favourites, an oak beauty

oak-beauty

oak beauty, one of the finest moths of spring

and a dotted border.

dotted-border

dotted border

A bittern was seen a couple of days ago, but not since, so perhaps the feel of spring has made it return to more suitable breeding habitat. So far we still have two great white egret, including “Walter”, although he usually departs about mid-February, so I suspect he will not be here much longer. The Cetti’s warbler are singing a lot now, hopefully they will stay to breed this year. The ring-billed gull are still present, with both birds seen in the past few days, although not on the same evening. Oystercatcher have come back and up to three have been noisily flying great circles above the reserve. The gull roost now includes 15 or more Mediterranean gull, a now typical spring build-up. The cormorant roost was up to 148 the other evening in the tree beside Ivy Lake

cormorant-roost

Cormorant roost beside Ivy Lake

and this evening there were upward of 5000 starling performing to the north of Ibsley Water, putting on quite a show, perhaps because there was a peregrine about, I am guessing they roosted in the reeds to the north of the lane.

Locking up Ivy North hide there was a very tame grey squirrel outside the hide, gorging on food that someone had thrown out of the window.

grey-squirrel

Grey squirrel, not turning down a free meal.

As I closed Tern hide and the starlings were doing their thing off to the north, there was a rather fine sunset off to the west, a perfect end to a very busy day.

ducks-at-dusk

Sunset, with three ducks.

 

 

 

Heralds of Spring

Lots of visitors today so plenty of sightings being reported including bittern being spotted just outside the Ivy North Hide by a number of people.  On Ibsley Water  black-necked grebe and red-crested pochard were seen from the Tern Hide, together with high numbers of waterfowl including unusually large rafts of shoveler.   Many visitors were pleased to see pintail in among the other ducks. No reports of the smew that had been seen, I believe, on Rockford Lake, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been seen or isn’t there, just that no one mentioned it to us.

In and around the Woodland Hide and elsewhere on the reserve the wonderful mixed flocks of tits and finches continue to delight by their constant attendance on the seed and peanut feeders. The goldfinch, chaffinch and greenfinch numbers being augmented by their smaller cousins, siskin and lesser redpoll on the niger seed feeders, and a few brambling mixed in with the chaffinch flocks on the ground.

Jim kindly set out the light trap last night (first time this year), and as I’d seen reports from other moth-ers of some un-seasonal species being  caught recently, with eager anticipation we set to unloading the trap to find……………just one moth – a Spring Usher.  A little early, but nonetheless a welcome sight

First moth for the teay in our light trap

First moth for the year in our light trap

In the floral line it’s nice to report that some of our more delightful winter flowers are starting to give us a glimpse of glories to come, in the form of these pioneering snowdrops poking through the leaf litter near to the Centre car-park.

A cheering sight - hopefully not a herald of weather to come!!!

A cheering sight – but, hopefully, not a herald of weather to come!!!

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.