A Giant Felled

I will miss out bird news today as there really wasn’t any. The insects continue to hot up though with the moth trap having over thirty-five species including a few new for the year and one quite scarce one, a beautiful brocade.

beautiful brocade

The caterpillars feed on bog myrtle, so it may have wandered down from the New Forest or possibly have been reared on our very own small patch. Other moths included the first large yellow underwing of the year, spectacle, nut-tree tussock, maiden’s blush, orange footman, snout, alder moth, buff tip and silver Y.

alder moth

Non-moths included an orange ladybird and a giant lacewing. It was also a good day for various other species, I saw my first Odontomyia tigrina, a species of black soldierfly, of the year, but failed to get a picture as it was just too far to reach over the pond. I did get a fair shot of a bee-fly though.

Bombylius major

Just before lunch the overflow form one of the tanks in the loft started to gush into the stones behind the Centre, the ball valve had failed and a quick trip to the builders merchants was in order, fortunately it did not tack too long to fix. However on my way back I noticed the giant hogweed plants on the verge near Ivy Lane and decided I really should do something about them before they get too established, so int he afternoon I went down and cut through the tap-root of each one below the lowest leaf, which I understand should kill the plant. I had thought all the plants were ont he verge but I did find one inside the reserve, this is yet another invasive alien species and one we do  not want, although magnificent to look at it  a serious skin irritant and can become very dominant and then difficult to control.

cut down giant hogweed

On my way back to the Centre I passed the Ellingham Inlet Pound where there were good numbers of red-eyed damselflies and my first black-tailed skimmer of the season, although so newly emerged as to not have a black tail yet.

black-tailed skimmer, newly emerged male


blue-tailed damselfly


beautiful demoiselle

Some were not quite so lucky and one male damselfly had fallen prey to a spider.

spider with damselfly

At the end of the day I went out onto Ivy lake to deploy the refuge rafts for the common tern chicks, they are actually just old pallets but they serve very well. They provide a place to large chicks to perch if they get blown off the rafts when exercising, just before they can fly, this can result in them getting dumped into the water and then not being able to get back on the nesting rafts due to the fencing around the edge. The danger is that if they spend a day int he water they get cold and die, whereas if they can climb out somewhere safe they can usually fly within a day or so and are usually fine.

afloat with tern refuges

I wa sable to get a count of the tern nests, there were seventeen with eggs, sixteen with the usual full clutch of three, one of one, which is probably a new nest and still with eggs being laid. There was also a nest scrape with no eggs so I expect there are eighteen pairs in all.



On Not Making a Splash

Bird News: Ibsley Waterblack tern 1, black-tailed godwit 36, dunlin 2, bar-tailed godwit 1, swallow c250, house martin c100, cuckoo 1.

A rather grey start to the day, but as is often the case with such weather at this time of year there were some migrants associated with it. Another black tern was good, they are always a treat in spring and a flock of 36 black-tailed godwit is the most I have seen at Blashford this year, although they looked more like first summer birds than adults and may just have been visiting from the coast to feed in the flooded fields of the valley, first summer birds do not usually return to the breeding grounds in Iceland. There were also two dunlin and later, a single bar-tailed godwit. First thing in the morning there were a good few swallows, martins and swifts over the lake, the numbers built during the day and by the end there were at least 250 swallows, the most I have seen this spring.

The milder and drier nights have made it worthwhile to run the moth trap again. A fair few new species for the year have turned up as a result including spectacle, poplar hawk-moth, muslin moth, sharp angled peacock and brindled beauty.

brindled beauty

There were also a few other insects including water beetles, a carrion beetle and a mottled sedge caddisfly, Glyphotaelius pellucidus.

Glyphotaelius pellucidus

As it was Thursday the volunteers were working today and the turn out was impressive for such a dismal day. We planted some donated willows around the main car park, normally I would regard this as a pretty crazy thing to do in May, but it has been so wet that I think they have a good chance of survival. This only involved a few of us though, the rest made a circuit of the main paths dealing with the many trees and branches that have drooped over the paths during the recent wet and windy weather, we also dealt with a good few dead branches and general obstructions.

After this a few accompanied me to Ivy Lake to try to get the last of the tern rafts put in place. This required that a mooring weight was put in place first.

Taking out mooring weight

I am please it was almost calm as even the light northerly wind was enough to make getting the weight placed correctly proved quite difficult, every time I got to the right spot the breeze blew me off station before I could deploy it. I got there in the end and then it was just a matter of getting the raft out.

towing the raft out

Obviously I was pleased that so many of the volunteers stayed to assist me with this task and watched as I put out the mooring and tied the raft in place, but the keenness to ensure that they had cameras with them did make me wonder if there was also at least a sneaking hope of my falling in at some point! I am delighted to say I disappointed them all, I did not even so much as top up my boots. The common terns, of which there were at least twenty today, certainly seemed pleased with the return of their nesting sites for another season.

Terns Return

Bird News: Ibsley Waterbar-tailed godwit 2.

Not a lot to report today although I was a little surprised to see at least two of the bar-tailed godwit from yesterday still around, the black terns have departed though.

The morning was spent getting the rafts put out on Ivy Lake. Things went pretty well except that one of the mooring buoys had been lost which meant I could not find the rope, another mooring weight will have to be laid. Three of the four rafts did get out and by the time I had returned to the shore there were fourteen common terns in occupation. Although they had to wait this level of instant occupancy paid off as when a black headed gull tried to land it was instantly driven off, so I think there is little chance of them being taken over by gulls.

Hopefully I will have more to post tomorrow.