Caught on Camera

It has been a busy week at Blashford Lakes with volunteer work parties on four days, despite unpromising weather we actually got a lot done. On Sunday we repaired some damaged sections of the boardwalk, Tuesday saw us felling some non-native grey alder trees, Thursday’s task was scrub clearance to increase habitat connectivity for reptiles and today we were clearing the shore of Ibsley Water to improve habitat for nesting lapwing next spring.

About ten days ago the apprentices put out a trailcam and today we got it in to look at the images. There were not a great many but the range of species captured was impressive. There was one shot of a passing fox, several of fallow deer and grey squirrel. Bird were fewer with one shot each of blackbird and blue tit, but several of tawny owl and on more than one night too. The picture quality was not great but the owl was landing in front of the camera, possibly to take small invertebrate prey.

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tawny owl caught on trailcam

Throughout the week I have been checking the roosting great white egret on Ivy Lake when I go to lock up the hides, I suspect there are as many as five around but still have yet to see more than four together, this evening there were three.

The rain today caused the Dockens Water to flood into Ivy Lake and it is now filling at last, hopefully the reedbed in front of Ivy North hide will have enough water for the bittern to favour this area soon, one was seen from there on Wednesday.

A feature of this winter is the unusual number of pochard on the lakes, or at least unusual for recent years. This morning there were 109 on Ivy Lake and at dusk at least 150. It appears that they gather on Ivy Lake in the late afternoon before flying off at dusk in groups of ten to twenty, probably to feed. At the same time the tufted duck, which used to roost on Ivy Lake also leave, I am not sure where they go but I did notice a lot fly in just as it got dark when I was counting the goosander from Goosander hide on Tuesday, I suspect they go to roost there rather than to feed. Walking back from Ivy South hide after locking up usually happens more or less in the dark at this time of year and a feature has been the squeaking calls of mandarin duck gathered on the silt pond, in the gloom I have just been able to make out as many as ten drakes displaying on some evenings.

The black-necked grebe has been seen daily on Ibsley Water as has at least one water pipit and green sandpiper. The grebe has been favouring the western shore to the north of the low islands, the water pipit and sandpiper the shore near Tern and Goosander hides. However for many visitors it has not been the rarer bird that have attracted to interest but the starling roost. The numbers are not exceptionally large but they can put on quiet a good show looking west into the last light of the setting sun. this evening they were especially spectacular, climbing high into the air in an effort to avoid a hunting peregrine.

Starlings 1

Starling murmuration starting to form over the trees west of Tern hide

Starlings 2

The gathering twisting to avoid a peregrine, there is a small group coming int to join them towards the top left.

Starlings 3

Some of the flock trying to funnel down into the roost site

Starlings 4

The peregrine was keeping the main flock high in the air but the draw of the roost was strong and they were falling down in a column whenever they could risk it.

Starlings 5

One group broke away in an exceptionally tight ball of birds and just dropped like a stone from the spiralling flock.

The starlings had all gone to roost by about 16:15, so if you want to give them a try I would try to arrive by 16:00 at the latest, viewing is good from the high point at the back of the main car park and possible, but sometimes less easy, from the Tern hide.

Oh Deer!

Recently we have been donated some fallen apples and I have been putting them out at the Woodland hide, where they often disappear within a couple of days. It is obvious that they are not being eaten by birds, but what is eating them? There is a badger sett nearby, so perhaps they like apples, the way to answer this was to deploy a trailcam, so I did. Here are some of the results:

fallow eating apple

Fallow deer eating apples

But it was not just fallow deer,

roe and fawn by day

Roe deer with fawn

It also turned out they were coming at all hours.

roe and fawn at night 2

Roe deer, doe and fawn visiting after dark.

At least one of the fallow had a fawn accompanying it, so the love of apples is getting passed on down the generations. Fallow deer have a single fawn, but roe almost invariably have twins, the doe visiting the apples had only one, so I suspect something had happened to the other twin. Both deer species will rut in the autumn and have their fawns in the spring so you might think that both species have a similar gestation period. In fact roe deer, being much smaller have a shorter gestation, but rather than having their fawns in the winter egg implantation is delayed to make sure they are born in the better spring conditions.

1000 and Still Going!

As the others have headed off for Christmas I get to blog today and this is the 1000th post on this version of the Blashford Blog! We started this WordPress blog in November 2011, since when the 999 posts have had 397,501 views. We have covered lots of wildlife, loads of events and the continuing Herculean work of the great Blashford Volunteers, education and craft activities, birthday parties and the pop up café, there has been a lot going on and there continues to be.

Over this time we have seen a good few changes of personnel, although Jim has remained constant throughout and I have only made brief forays elsewhere. The reserve has passed its 20th year and the partnership which has made the whole reserve possible continues. Regular readers will know that the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manages the reserve on land (and water) belonging to Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water and that our work is also supported by New Forest District Council. Together we are able to provide a popular nature reserve and a busy education program and hopefully we will continue to do so for many years more.

More change is on the horizon, soon I hope to be able to report the opening of the new path between the main car park and Goosander hide, this will provide a circular route round the whole reserve for the first time. This will also add a fair patch of extra dry land to the reserve and in time might develop into interesting habitat for insects as well as providing nesting area for lapwing and little ringed plover.

If you ventured out today you will know that the morning was one for staying inside. The afternoon was better though and I ventured over to Tern hide in the late afternoon where the gull roost was large and mobile, I could not see the ring-billed gull but it was probably there somewhere. I did see at least 8 yellow-legged gull and 40 pochard. Yesterday I did an “In to roost” event and we saw about 2000 or so starling come in, tonight either I missed them or they went elsewhere.

One bird that comes to roost each evening is goosander and I recently tried putting out a trailcam to see if I could catch them displaying, it turns out I could not, but I did get a few on camera.

goosanders

goosander gathering at dusk

I also got one shot of a female looking under the water, something they often do to see if there are any tasty looking fish in range.

goosander-looking-underwater

Just taking a look

Mostly though I just got pictures of rippling water or coot.

coot

a typical trailcam coot shot

My best picture today was of one of the many fungi that are again coming up all over the place. I think it is stag’s horn or candle snuff, but it did seem to be growing on leaves rather than wood. This close up shot shows how drops of water can act like lenses.

wet-fungus

Candle-snuff fungus with rain drops.

At dusk I counted at least 121 roosting cormorant on Ivy Lake along with one great white egret, I think it was “Walter” but I could not see any rings in the gloom.

I also have a little late news from yesterday, when there was an otter swimming in Ivy lake as we opened up the Ivy South hide, it was not close but we got to watch it for several minutes as it swam along and dived near the southern shore. We called Jim, who rushed down, arriving just after it had gone up the bank, so his ambition to one day have a good view of an otter at Blashford remains intact.

Lastly there was a break-in to a car in the main car park yesterday afternoon. It would appear that the culprit was watching as valuables were stowed into the boot of the car, so knew exactly which car to attack and where to look. It is always wise not to leave anything of value on show, but this also reminds us to remember that you might be being watched too. I would also ask that if you spot anyone looking suspicious in or around the car parks or elsewhere on the reserve do please let us know, along with as much information as you can easily and safely add. Luckily this is a very rare event at the reserve, but I am very keen that we keep it that way!

Last of all, I would like to thank all of you blog post readers, followers, especially those who comment (it is always good to know what you think) and the senders of the many superb pictures.

 

Water, Water

Everywhere! Rainwater ran through the main car park and all through the woodland, and topped up the lakes. Since Friday we have had over 70mm of rain! I went to retrieve a trailcam I put out on Friday, and the lake had risen right up to it although I had set it at least 30cm above the water at the time. I am not sure if the water had actually reached the camera – it was certainly wet, but after all the rain everything was. Fortunately the flash card still had the pictures on it. It turns out that Ivy Lake is very popular with teal after dark.

night-time-teal

Teal on Ivy lake after dark

Perhaps not surprisingly I also caught the great white egret.

gwe-on-trailcam

great white egret

There was also a little egret, but I only got it in reflection.

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little egret in reflection

You can see it is a little egret as the yellow feet are clearly visible.

I saw very little until the very end of the day today when locking up I saw the great white egret perched on a branch in the Ivy Silt Pond; it then flew over the trees to Ivy Lake. Almost immediately a bittern flew up and circled the pond twice before also flying over to Ivy Lake.

Lastly and when it was near enough dark, I could just see over Ibsley Water where there were lots of gulls, but curiously very few lesser black-backed gull. Usually the most numerous, there were fewer than 500. By contrast there were 7000 or more black-headed gull, more than usual – presumably the stormy weather, or flooding, has prompted a change in roosting behaviour.