The Terns are arriving at Blashford

There have been quite a few arrivals recently, the keen eyed of you will have noticed (without needing binoculars) that Jack Medley, our new Reserves Officer has now started. I am sure he will do a blog introducing himself soon, but at the moment he has quite a lot of information to absorb, Blashford is a big site with a lot of history!

Of the winged variety of arrivals – the Sand Martin wall has had a flurry of activity, and a Swift or two have been spotted around Lapwing hide. The CES monitoring has also started, with Kevin reporting many returning Reed Warblers.

Those of you who have been out on the reserve recently will have noticed the Terns arriving in small numbers, and Jack thought it was time to begin putting out the rafts. The tern rafts are put out gradually, as the gulls do have a habit of taking over, and we very much want at least a few to be occupied by terns!

With the help of Simon King and others from our Lower Test team, one Tern raft has now been deployed on Ivy Lake. The regular Blashford work party groups have been instrumental in getting the rafts up together and ready for this season, alongside Jo from Fishlake and Jack. Over the next few weeks the rafts for Ibsley Water will be prepared, and more rafts will be put out on both Ivy Lake and Ibsley Water as Tern numbers increase.

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???

Bank Holiday Birds with a Twist

A rainy August Bank Holiday and unsurprisingly Blashford was not very busy with visitors, although there were quiet a few birds of interest. When I opened the hides the great white egret was perched in front of Ivy North and at Ivy South 3 wigeon hint at the winter to come. I had hoped for a few waders or terns to drop in, rain often forces them down from their high level flights overland, but all Ibsley Water had to offer were a couple of common sandpiper. The rain had forced in a huge flock of hirundines to feed low over the water though, I estimated at least a thousand, roughly 40% swallow, 40% house martin and 20% sand martin.

Having just returned from holiday I had a backlog of office work to deal with, being in the office was not so bad when the rain was pouring down outside. Still by lunchtime I had to get out for a bit and went over to the Tern hide to see if anything had changed, the answer was yes. There were terns, only three but they were 2 adult common tern and a  juvenile Arctic tern. There were also more waders, I counted at least 4 and probably 6 common sandpiper, also a dunlin, a little ringed plover and a juvenile little stint. In addition 14 shoveler were flushed by a grey heron and flew over to Mockbeggar Lake.

The rain continued and I returned to the office. Luckily by mid afternoon it stopped and so before doing the round for locking up I went for a quick look on the edge of the lichen heath, in search of Autumn lady’s-tresses, a small orchid that seems to be having a good year. As far as I know it has only been recorded once at Blashford and that some years ago. I looked pretty hard, even using binoculars and was about to give up when I found one, only one, but a good size for this usually small species.

Autumn lady's tresses

Autumn lady’s-tresses

Admittedly not as big as it looks in the picture, perhaps 12cm high. Their Latin name is Spiranthes spiralis and it is easy to see how it got the name from the way the flowers twist around the stem. The recent rain has greened up the heath and caused lots of the plants to flower again, the blue fleabane being especially abundant.

blue fleabane

blue fleabane

When I closed up the Tern hide all I could find of the earlier birds was the Arctic tern and a couple of common sandpiper, so perhaps the improvement in the weather had persuaded the rest to move on. Even the hirundines has mostly gone leaving more or less just sand martin, although I estimated there were now over 300 of them.

Arctic Wanderers

I arrived at Blashford this morning under clear skies, but we were right on the edge of the cloud and pretty soon it was raining. These conditions at this time of year can cause migrants that are flying over to drop down and even stop their migration, so I arrived early in the hope of seeing something interesting. In fact, under the clear skies there was nothing of note, but by mid morning the rain had come and when I had a quick look over Ibsley Water at lunchtime there were over 70 terns flying about over the lake. I did not have much time as I had to head off, but it was clear that a lot of them, were Arctic terns, a very quick look showed at least 45 were Arctic, not all could be identified as they flew round and several were obviously common terns. However even 45 Arctic terns is a lot for Hampshire.

Arctic terns breed all around the Arctic Circle and often north of it, they breed commonly from N. England northward and are famed for often breeding north of the Arctic Circle and wintering south of the Antarctic Circle, making the longest of all regular migrations. Although common they do not get seen in huge numbers on migration, perhaps because the go overland at high altitude some of the time, certainly seawatching for migrants reveals many more common terns passing in spring.

Part of this group spent the rest of the day on Ibsley Water, although a fair few had gone by 4:30, at which time there were at least 16 Arctic terns and 22 common terns in the 40-42 bird still present. I got a picture, although in the drizzle and at some distance I would challenge anyone to accurately pick out which of these are the Arctic terns and which the commons!

common and arctic terns

common and arctic terns

And, yes there are some of both in the picture!