Spring is Sprung?

Well a bit maybe, at least today saw the first arrival of undoubted migrants with at least 15 sand martin over Ibsley Water this afternoon. Earlier in the week there had been a scatter of chiffchaff, more than have over-wintered, so some must have come in from somewhere.

Other signs of a slow change in the season have been a few peacock, red admiral and brimstone butterflies, although today’s cold kept them tucked up somewhere. Sunshine in mid week resulted in a good number of sightings of adder and grass snake.

Moth numbers are also picking up and this week we have seen oak beauty, yellow-horned, common Quaker, small Quaker, twin-spot Quaker, Hebrew character and clouded drab in increasing numbers.

Although many of the wildfowl have left there were still at least 431 shoveler on Ibsley Water today and the bittern continues to be seen from Ivy North hide, surely it will be leaving soon. Also on Iblsey Water the Slavonian grebe is still present as are the 2 black-necked grebe, now looking very smart in their full breeding colours.

The gull roost remains very large, although the big gulls have almost all departed they have been replaced by thousands of smaller gulls, mostly black-headed gull, but including 20 or more Mediterranean gull, tonight there were at least five second winter birds, 1 first winter and 15 or so adults. Unusually for Blashford, this winter has seen good numbers of common gull in the roost, typically we struggle to get double figures, unless it is very cold, but tonight I counted at least 412 and along the way saw an adult ring-billed gull. This last American visitor was not the one that spent the winter with us, but one that has arrived in the last few days, in fact it seems we may have had three different birds recently (some claim perhaps four!). During the afternoon there were also 3 adult little gull, these would be migrants, the smallest of the gulls we get and probably the most elegant.

At the Woodland hide numbers of finches are declining, but there are still good numbers of siskin, a few lesser redpoll and 10 or so brambling, including  a number of very smart males. There are also several reed bunting feeding there regularly and today, and this was a first for me, a drake mallard, not a species that immediately springs to mind as feeding outside the Woodland hide.

Spring may not exactly have sprung but it is slowly unfurling, at last.

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More Warblers than in an Opera

The day started well with a fanfare of song from a chiffchaff as we unlocked the gates to the Reserve. On the way round to open up the hides there were quite a few more chiffchaff and several blackcap, busy carving out territories with their song. Near the Ivy North Hide and again near the settlement pond Cetti’s warbler were chanting their piercing call. Also by the settlement pond a few trills coming from the direction of the reeded area at first sounded like a reed warbler, but after a break in song the next twitterings were almost certainly those of a sedge warbler. As is usually the case,  getting sight of these birds is not so easy, even though the leaf cover is only just starting to appear, but I did manage to get a half-way reasonable image of a blackcap.

Male blackcap

Male blackcap

With the spell of warmer weather it’s about time for some of the invertebrate fauna to be putting in an appearance. With that in mind, Jim set up the light trap last night which  managed to attract 27  moths of seven different species.    Mostly Common Quaker (11) and Small Quaker (7) plus two Twin-spot Quaker there were also some nicely marked Hebrew Character (4) and   single Oak Beauty, Engrailed and a pug species which after some argument we eventually decided must have been a Brindled Pug. 

Hebrew Character

Hebrew Character

Engrailed

Engrailed

Oak Beauty

Oak Beauty – a well marked moth, but notice how well it blends into the background

Such a relative abundance of insect life, compared with the last few attempts at moth trapping this year, herald the start of a proper spring period.      Looking around elsewhere on the reserve it was appropriate to see, from the Tern Hide, a common tern hunting  over Ibsley water (sorry no picture – much too distant and mobile). Another first  for the year, and for me a real herald of Spring – this wheatear posing on the shingle out to the side of the Tern Hide.

Wheatear seen from Tern  Hide

Wheatear seen from Tern Hide

A Day to Dance About

Bird News: Ibsley Waterred-breasted merganser 1, black-necked grebe 1, oystercatcher 3, black-tailed godwit 9, Mediterranean gull 2+, barnacle goose 5. Ivy Lakebittern 2, smew 2. Centrebrambling 1.

I was doing a water bird count this morning and got off to a good start when I saw the female red-breasted merganser fly out of the roost on Ibsley Water with 5 goosander and fly north up  the valley, disappearing over Ibsley Church. At Ivy North hide a bittern was one view and I also saw 2 water rail. I then circled round to count Ellingham Lake, then to the eastern side of Ibsley Water. From the Lapwing hide I had good views, relatively, of the black-necked grebe.

black-necked grebe

Most of the wildfowl numbers have started dropping now as they begin to move off toward their breeding areas. One exception is the diving duck, pochard and tufted duck, numbers of the last especially have risen quite sharply. Many winter further south and especially west and stop off at Blashford en route back to the continent. Although I have not totalled everything yet it is clear that there were about 600 tufted duck, surely enough to have a chance fo a lesser scaup one day? Tufted duck do also breed at Blashford of course as do moorhens.

moorhen

Moorhens seem like birds that don’t go anywhere and a good few probably don’t, but some at least visit us from the near continent for the winter. Not every thing is leaving, some birds are coming back. Today I saw the pair of oystercatcher that have been around for a few days, but there was also another bird, so three-quarters of our breeding population are now back.

oystercatcher

The pair of oystercatcher were doing display flights for a short while and they were not the only birds displaying, I saw at least four pairs of great crested grebe doing so including the pair below, they did the full weed-dance, but they were quick and I was too slow, so the picture shows them just after they had dropped their beakfuls of weed.

great crested grebe pair

The mild night produced the best moth catch of the year so far with pale and small brindled beauties.

pale brindled beauty

New for the year were twin-spot Quaker and dotted chestnut.

dotted chestnut

There were also several chestnut and 3 satellite.

satellite

Having missed them when I was doing the main count I managed to end the day by catching up with the 2 smew on Ivy Lake, a day that starts with a bittern and ends with 2 smew can’t be bad.