Caught on Camera

The day was rather dull for more camera practice, but I had to take it with me on the off chance when I went to open the hides. At Ivy North I could see no sign of the bittern in a scan across the vegetation and up and down the channels, so I got up to leave and glancing back there it was. So I had to try and see if I could get a picture, although it showed well, the poor light made things difficult and this was my best result.

bittern 1

bittern at Ivy North hide

All things considered I am reasonably pleased with it.

I ran the moth trap last night and it was certainly mild enough for moths to be flying. Most of the moths flying now are winter moth, however these rather rarely get attracted to moth traps and there were none in the trap. Two species were caught, one a species that over-winters as an adult, the chestnut.

chestnut

chestnut

The other was a pale brindled beauty, another winter-flying species with wingless females, just like the winter moth.

pale brindled beauty

pale brindled beauty, male

Pictures again taken with the new camera and I think the macro works well. So all in all as a multi-purpose camera for taking blog pictures I think I am happy with my choice. It will be interesting to see how much better the images are on a day with good light.

Finally and perhaps most impressively of all, Pondcam caught a water shrew on camera! These fantastic little mammals are rarely seen but spend much of their time underwater hunting aquatic insects. As they do so their thick fur traps a film of air making them look silver. So they appear as a frantic, silver creature surrounded by a cloud of leaves and sediment that they kick up as they vigorously swim through the shallows.

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On Show and No Show

When I arrived at Blashford on Friday afternoon to join our brilliant volunteer team for the annual “Thank you” event I was greeted with news that there had been a water shrew seen on “Pondcam”, I was a very envious! Water shrews are aquatic hunters of invertebrates and even small fish. They have long hairs on their feet and under-tail which aid swimming and are as frantic underwater as their terrestrial cousins are on land.

They are not uncommon, but not easy to see and so probably very under recorded. Just as I was bemoaning my bad luck there was a swirl of debris in front of the camera and it was back! A frenetic silver predator scattering everything before it. They look silver underwater due to the layer of air trapped in their fur. Although great swimmers they also hunt on land taking larger prey than other native shrews as befits their greater size, they are about twice the weight of a common shrew.

Blashford Lakes clocked up another “First” for Hampshire this weekend when a Thayer’s gull was found in the roost on Ibsley Water at dusk on Sunday. The finder was also responsible for the last county first found at Blashford, last autumn’s lesser scaup. Both of these species are from the western side of the Atlantic. The gull breeds in high Arctic Canada and mostly winters on the Pacific coast of Canada and the USA. Although considered as having a population of only a few thousand pairs it has been occurring with increasing frequency on the east coast of N. America and very rarely in W. Europe. Although usually listed as a full species it seems quite possible that it will be “lumped” in with Iceland gull and Kumlien’s gull, they are structurally very, very similar.

Not unexpectedly when I returned to Blashford this evening, after spending most of the day at Fishlake Meadow, there was a good crowd gathered in the hope of seeing the Thayer’s gull. Sadly they were disappointed, as it never showed up. I was not too surprised as the few Iceland gulls that have appeared in the roost over the years have almost always only been there on one evening, still it was a shame and there is still a chance it is around somewhere locally.

 

Weeds, views and shrews

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The amazing Blashford volunteers in a frenzy of weeding activity.

The Thursday volunteers were in as usual today, and we started the task of clearing weeds from the shore of Ibsley Water. We concentrated on the area in front of the Tern hide, removing dock, willow herbs, small willows and birches amongst others. The reason for this is to improve the view of the shore line and to try to encourage little ringed plovers to breed next year. Unfortunately no little ringed plovers bred this year and this is probably due to various reasons like presence of corvids and foxes around the lake but also possibly because the habitat has become too weedy and over grown with plants. The volunteers did a fantastic job as usual and the shore is much improved already, but still needs another session or two. When I locked the hide at 5pm it was pleasing to see several lapwing and starlings feeding around the disturbed ground where we had weeded. 

In the afternoon Adam and I cut back the vegetation along the path by the Ivy silt pond to improve the view of pond, in anticipation of all the rare birds that are going to be seen in there this autumn and winter!

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Adam improving the view.

Unfortunately the Avon osprey seen yesterday hasn’t showed up yet but wildlife reported today included a female ruddy duck, ruff, common sandpiper and green sandpiper on Ibsley Water. Plus some migration of around a hundred or so house martins. A female mandarin duck  was seen by the sand martin wall and wasp spiders in the grassland by Goosander hide. A lesser spotted woodpecker at the woodland hide was the first in some time. The highlight today for me was a water shrew in the tool store this afternoon. I have no idea what it was doing in there, they eat invertebrates and it wouldn’t have been interested in any of the stored bird seed. Unfortunately any attempt to photograph or catch it was foiled as it was just too quick and ran out the door! As far I can work out this is the first record for the reserve.