29th Dec – Sightings

No pictures today as my camera has died on me. Opening the hides first thing there was a water pipit at Tern hide (later I also had singles at both Goosander and Lapwing hides as well), also from there a new high count of linnet 108, and a chiffchaff beside the hide. At Ivy North hide the bittern was standing high in the reedmace giving great views. At the Woodland hide the reed bunting count had risen to 7 along with all the usual woodland birds.

Walking round the reserve the number of species singing was notable, I heard mistle thrush, song thrush, great tit, treecreeper, robin and Cetti’s warbler between the Centre and Ivy South hide.

In the afternoon a first winter Caspian gull was showing well swimming among the larger gulls from at least 2 o’clock. Despite searches by a few people no other notable gulls were found apart from rather more yellow-legged gull than recently seen, with perhaps 10 or more.

Towards dusk a green sandpiper was at Goosander hide, a great white egret flew over heading south, I assumed the egret was heading to roost in the trees at Ivy Lake, but when I got there none were to be seen. A small starling roost gathered over the north end of Ibsley Water, maybe 1000 or so birds, being chased by a peregrine. The peregrine them forced low over the water, so low that many wings broke the surface and produced a sudden flash of spray.


Christmas and all that…

2013 Blashford volunteers_resize


Yesterday afternoon and evening we hosted the annual Christmas gathering of volunteers, partly as a thank you for everyone’s time and hard work over the last 12 months, partly as just an opportunity to get together for a bit of fun without the work and, as I told them last night, partly to keep everyone sweet so they continue to turn out week after week and help us manage and maintain the nature reserve and educational work to the high standard that we strive for. It always sounds cheesy, but it is true that without them the site would not be half the site that it is. Pictured above (in a slight interruption to the starling roost watching that we had been doing and continued to do after the photo was taken!) are just some of the volunteers that help us keep up our good work – thanks again everyone : ).

And in case anyones wondering, yes the starlings did turn up though possibly not in quite the numbers that there have been and with a somewhat gloomy and overcast sky, nor was it one of the more breathtaking displays, but nice to see none-the-less.

True to form the volunteers managed to come to Blashford during the better weather and today it has been pretty miserable! I expected the Dockens Water to be high after last nights rain and I wasn’t disappointed – although it regularly does run a lot deeper/wider (at least a foot deeper than this along this section by the river dipping area), it was higher this morning than I’ve seen for a while – good for sea trout!

The Dockens Water this morning - looking out from the information panel opposite the "lower centre car park".

The Dockens Water this morning – looking out from the information panel opposite the “lower centre car park”.

With more rain on the way it seemed prudent to check on the flood prone footpaths on the approach to Lapwing Hide – all still passable in walking boots at the moment if you take care, but I wouldn’t try it in shoes or trainers, so we did put out the temporary signs advising visitors to take the “long way” up to Lapwing Hide around the edge of the reedbed rather than that up through the middle. It was nice to get to a bit of the reserve I don’t get to so much, even in the rain, doubly so as the wildfowl are so much closer to the hides on that side of Ibsley Water than they are at Tern Hide. Lapwing Hide in particular had good numbers of wigeon, gadwall and coot and reports in the record book of black necked grebe  on Thursday, while in the more sheltered water at Goosander Hide there were at least 20 goosander, loads of pintail ducks and a red crested pochard.

View from Lapwing Hide, with wigeon on the grassy spit.
View from Lapwing Hide, with wigeon on the grassy spit.
View from Goosander Hide - the goosander were all either on, or just off, the bank of the spit opposite the hide.

View from Goosander Hide – the goosander were all either on, or just off, the bank of the spit opposite the hide.

The great white egret is still on Ivy Lake and with siskin coming down to the feeders more I put up a niger feeder in the centre car park – within 3 minutes 3 siskin had found it and since then most of the feeder ports have had siskin on for most of the day. No redpoll yet though!

It didn't take long for the siskin to find the feeder!

It didn’t take long for the siskin to find the new feeder!

Other than that the only other things of any particular note were treecreeper (a bird that seems to do well at Blashford, or at least is more easily seen here than in other woodlands), of which I saw 3 while opening up (unless of course it was the same bird in different locations).  The white of the belly contrasting starkly with the otherwise gloomy and grey background today.

Christmas opening times:

I am now looking forward to a few days off with the family over Christmas but someone will be in to open up as normal everyday except Christmas Day over the coming couple of weeks.

So on that note it only leaves me to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of the staff at Blashford (pictured below for the first time!).

Happy Christmas from the team! Steve, Adam, Ed, Bob, Jim and Michelle!

Happy Christmas from the team! Steve, Adam, Ed, Bob, Jim and Michelle!

Words and Birds

Hello again.  It’s been a while (three weeks) since I posted on this blog, having been away and then, last week, after spending a time trimming back seed heads from buddleia to prevent them overrunning the reserve, and afterwards not feeling inspired enough to write anything.  I was berated, earlier this week,  by one of our regular volunteers and reader of the blog (you know who you are!!!) for not writing anything last Sunday, so I thought I’d better make an effort today.  Those of you who do any writing will probably recognise the problems of either  not feeling they have anything to say and/or struggling to find the words.     Along those lines,  I remember the tale of one professional writer who couldn’t think of a particular word for two weeks – but then it suddenly came to him….’fortnight’!!!

Having said all this, I guess most of you will want to read some news from Blashford, so here goes.

The bittern(s) is still in being seen regularly from Ivy South Hide, but has also been viewed, in its more usual habitat, in the reed beds outside Ivy North Hide. Whilst closing the reserve last Sunday,  I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this bird in the left hand side of the reeds, far off to the right side of the Ivy North Hide. As no one else has posted any pictures of this bird yet, I’ll start with this rather poor, distant image, taken in low light conditions ( getting all my excuses in first!!)  as evidence that the bird is here. P1460717 bittern Recent addition to the avifauna n the form of a ferruginous duck reported yesterday from Ivy South Hide. Otherwise the red-crested pochard is still around as are good numbers of many of the other ducks such as  mallard, shoveller, gadwall, wigeon, teal, pochard, goldeneye and tufted duck. A few green sandpiper  are scattered around the margins of the lakes.

For the gull fans (I know there are a few of you out there) up to nine yellow-legged gulls were seen coming in to roost on Ibsley Water yesterday.  Roost time can also produce increased numbers of goosander as they fly in from the Avon Valley to spend the night here.  Also in residence in and on the water, in roughly decreasing size order, we have mute swan, Canada goose, greylag goose, Egyptian goose, great-crested grebe, lapwing, coot, moorhen and little grebe. 

The alders are providing enough food to keep a regular flock of siskin in and around the Woodland Hide area.  This abundance of natural food means that many of the  winter visitors to our seed feeders haven’t yet put in much of an appearance although some lesser redpoll have been reported.  otherwise the usual collection of tit species including marsh tit as well as nuthatch and treecreeper are being seen from the Woodland Hide.  A water rail was seen, by some lucky visitors,  feeding on a fish (the rail feeding, not the visitor!), just outside the Ivy South Hide for about twenty minutes in the mid-afternoon.

A party from an RSPB local group have chosen Blashford for a day trip. One of the party reported seeing a large bird of prey flying low over the heath and going into the trees, from the description one of ‘our’ buzzards.

To finish here is a picture of what must be one of but maybe not the last ‘summer’ flowers to be seen on the reserve

red campion

red campion