Accommodation Crisis

The common tern are back at Blashford Lakes, or at least the first few pairs are. It is always good to see them back and the reserve has proved very good for them. We do not have a large population, typically around 20 pairs, but they are very successful, sometimes rearing an average of more than two chicks per pair, an exceptional fledging rate.

common tern

common tern

Our terns nest on rafts that we put out for them, but this year we cannot mobilise the staff and volunteers to do this due to the impossibility of maintaining social distancing when doing the launching. We do have one raft out and there are some shingle patches on one or two islands, so we will have to hope these will be enough to allow them to nest.

I posted a picture of the camera view inside our tawny owl box the other day, full not of owlets, but grey squirrels. The young squirrels have now moved on and the box has immediately been occupied by a pair of stock dove, showing the premium there is on large tree cavities.

stock doves in owl box

stock doves in owl box

Other species are less constrained for nest sites and for them the breeding season moves on. Coot are nest building all around the lakes, or at least anywhere there is something to secure a nest to with some cover.



I have been going into work less frequently than usual and trying to work from home, however there is only so much paperwork a reserves officer can do and site tasks are starting to become more pressing. One in particular has become rather horrifyingly apparent as the spring has unfolded and that is the extent of progress made by ash die-back disease in the last few months. It is now obvious that large numbers of trees have died and will need to be removed. I will leave any that are away from paths as standing dead wood, but unfortunately this still leaves a lot that will need to be felled.

ash die-back

As the trees have come into leaf the full extent of ash die-back has become apparent


30 Days Wild – Day 21: More Dragons than Game of Thrones

Although thankfully less death and destruction and all the dragons are dragonflies, they are really enjoying the hot weather. From a photography point of view the heat makes it very difficult to get close to them as they are extremely active. I saw lots of emperor dragonfly today, there have been a number of reports of  the migrant lesser emperor in recent days, although none from Blashford as yet. I did manage to get a picture of a male black-tailed skimmer today though, perched along the path to Ivy South hide as I went to lock up.

black-tailed skimmer

black-tailed skimmer male

The butterflies are also liking the conditions although avoiding the very hottest part of the day. I did see my first ringlet of the year, again on the path to Ivy South hide, they are usually most frequent on the northern side of the reserve, it was too active for me to get a picture this time.

In recent days I have noticed that there almost always seem to be stock dove on the lichen heath, yesterday there were at least eight there. They seem to be picking at the vegetation, or possibly seeds, often they don’t immediately notice me on the path allowing some good views until they suddenly realise I am there and race off with a clatter of wings. Otherwise it was generally quiet, from Tern hide it was good to see two little ringed plover chicks as I opened up along with the single oystercatcher chick.

These are the Days

There can be few things better than getting out into the countryside on a fine May day and this is exactly what I did over the weekend. On Sunday I was at Blashford and on Saturday, on something of a busman’s holiday, visiting another Trust reserve at Noar Hill.

Noar Hill is a well known site for  arrange of chalkland butterflies, at this time of year this especially means the Duke of Burgundy fritillary. They did not disappoint, with several dozen seen in fine, warm sunshine. Their caterpillars feed on cowslip and it was easy to see what they like about this site as there must be thousands of cowslip plants all over the hill.

Duke of Burgundy 2

Duke of Burgundy fritillary

There were also a fair few other butterflies, including green hairstreak and dingy skipper.

dingy skipper

dingy skipper

For a single season we had a small colony of these skippers at Blashford, but they have not been seen since.

The weather was still very warm on Sunday and once again the insects were out in numbers. At last I saw some damselflies, in fact three species, the common blue, large red and blue-tailed. I visited the sandy bank where I saw the solitary bees nests a couple of weeks ago. The same species were there again along with some new ones, one of which was a tiny parasitic species, another nomad bee called the little nomad bee, if I have identified it correctly.

little nomad bee

little nomad bee

Elsewhere on the reserve I found a lot of unidentified solitary bees feeding on the flowers of field maple, I had never before realised just how attractive these flowers are to bees.

field maple flowers

flowering field maple

Some other trees have long finished flowering and are now in seed, none more obviously so than the willow, which spread seed on the wind making it fall like snow along the path edges.

willow in seed

seeding willow

The last couple of days have seen a few birds of note. On Saturday a sanderling and a little gull were seen on Ibsley Water and today there were four black tern reported there along with a little gull and a turnstone. On Sunday a hobby spent much of the day over the lake and a female marsh harrier flew north up the valley, whilst red kite and raven have been seen everyday recently. Unfortunately I managed to get pictures of none of these, all I can offer is a stock dove snapped in the shadow at the end of the day from the Woodland hide on Sunday.

stock dove

stock dove on feeder