30 Days Wild – Day 13: Gulls get Rings

Tuesday is one of our two regular volunteer days at Blashford Lakes, this week’s main task was further work to improve the grassland habitat along the western shore of Ibsley Water. We have had a long-term project to remove bramble, nettle and willow that has been threatening to take dominate. This shore was remodelled into a steep bank using the topsoil removed from the gravel pit surface when it was first dug, conditions ideal for the development of nettle beds and bramble thickets. To reverse this we have been mowing to allow grass and perennial herb species to get the upper-hand.  This has been targeted work aiming to take out only the least desirable species. Even the nettle beds have elements that we leave, such as any patches with nets of peacock and small tortoiseshell larvae.

peacock caterpillars

peacock caterpillars

Alongside the nutrient-rich soils there are poorer patches and these have a more interesting flora including a number of bee orchid.

bee orchid and mower

bee orchid

At the end of the day I went out to Gull Island in Ibsley Water with the bird-ringers to colour-ring a sample of the black-headed gull chicks. We have been doing this for a number of years to find out where the birds from this recently established colony go to and if the chicks reared here return to breed in later years. We managed to catch and ring thirty chicks during our short visit, a good sample.

209C gets ringed

209C gets a ring, where will it go and will it come back?

In the evening I came across a female stag beetle on the fence in the garden, the first female I have seen this year. The day ended on a fine calm note and so I decided to head out to listen to the nightjar again. One came and perched on a branch very close by and gave great views. I never tire of watching and listening to nightjar and to have the opportunity to do so just a few minutes walk from home is wonderful.

30 Days Wild – Day 8

In the morning I was leading a guided walk at Blashford, the bird highlight of which was probably  a red kite which flew over Ibsley Water. It was a very tatty bird and as I was commenting on this one of its secondary feathers fell out, active moult in action!

We also looked in the moth trap where the pick was a scarce merveille du jour, a moth of old oak woodland and very attractive.

scarce merveille du jour

scarce merveille du jour

In the afternoon I was out on the water off Lymington looking at potential projects that might help nesting terns on the coast. With rising sea levels their favoured low shingle banks are being swamped ever more frequently and they have to compete for space with the many gulls that have been pushed off the saltmarshes for the same reason. Unless there is room for more habitat creation inland of the seawalls it is hard to see how they are going to survive for much longer. There are one or two opportunities provided by projects such as the creation of breakwaters, but these do not really substitute for what is being lost.

At home in the evening I checked through my moth trap ran last night and was delighted to find not one, but two stag beetle, always a treat to see and a real June speciality.

stag beetle

male stag beetle

Towards dusk I went for a short walk on the heath, it was very quite, but I did see some very fine crow footprints, the detail is fantastic because they have been made in exceedingly fine dust and the lack of wind had meant they had stayed perfect.

crow footprint

carrion crow footprint

I wonder if I will catch up before day 30???