Another Autumn Day

We have had a rather vigorous few days, I arrived on the reserve on Saturday in heavy rain. Perhaps foolishly I ventured out when it eased a bit, only for the heavens to open again, so I took refuge in the Tern Hide (sorry, it is not open, I had the key with me!). Sat on a post near the hide was an adult male peregrine looking very miserable. It is not a great picture but it was raining hard and quite dark.

peregrine

Despite the weather it was not hunkered down, but looking about and head bobbing all the time then, suddenly, he was off, low over the water towards the western shore. It was raining hard and none of the birds on the island seemed to see him coming, in no time he was on them and grabbing a coot that had been feeding on the top of the island. Coot can be quite a handful, they have a powerful kick and sharp claws and there were a few minutes of struggle before the peregrine won out. Such a large bird was too heavy to be carried off whole so he stayed and fed where he was. I think the foul weather was the secret of the success of this particular hunt, I had felt a little sorry for him stuck out in the open, but I think he knew exactly what he was doing.

There was almost 20mm of rain in just a few hours during the morning and the Docken Water rapidly flooded.

Flooded woodland along the Dockens Water

The river was full of leaves, the rain and wind seems to be making short work of the autumn splendour of the trees this year, still they look good on the ground too.

Autumn leaves – oak, field maple and birch

There are probably several reasons why some trees are already almost leafless whilst others of the same species nearby remain well covered. Some birches were losing leaves in August this year, probably due to drought but where they still have them they are in fine colour now.

birch trees, as you can see it did stop raining!

Having started the day in driving rain it ended with largely blue skies, I even saw a red admiral butterfly.

30 Days Wild – Day 6

The Blashford volunteers were out in force today and we were pulling Himalayan balsam along the Dockens Water, I am delighted to say that we found very little until we got down to the very lowest part of the stream, just where it leave the reserve. All the years of work seem to be paying off. This lower part of the stream is an area where we have been allowing the stream “to do its own thing” a little bit of rewilding, if you like. This has been the approach for over ten years now and all we do in there is clear rubbish washed down the stream and control invasive alien species, such as the balsam. It has developed into an amazing area of habitat.

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Wet woodland along the Dockens Water

We came across a strange patch of red in the stream at one point, I think it is a red alga presumably exploiting some mineral seepage, but I may very well be wrong about that!

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The red stuff!

The reserve was generally quiet, but as I locked up the Tern Hide I noticed a second calendar year Mediterranean gull close to the hide, it had a colour-ring on the left leg and luckily it was showing well enough to read the code.

colour-ringed Med gull

colour-ringed Mediterranean gull

I think it was ringed in Ireland and I will update when I have found out details form the scheme organiser.

Very Wet Woodland

More rain today and overnight has made for a soggy reserve and one with few visitors. To be fair it did dry a bit in the afternoon and even warmed up a bit. I ventured out to check on some damaged trees and went over the boardwalk south of the Ivy South hide where the Dockens Water was flowing across a wide front through the willow swamp.

flooded woodland

Further down the Dockens Water a fallen oak tree has partly blocked the flow, although this can be a problem where it can result in flooding upstream, in this case there is no difficulty as the upstream area is wet woodland and quite capable of taking the flooding, in fact the wet woodland it creates is actually an important wildlife habitat. Such fallen branches can collect debris and form debris dams, in extreme cases these might obstruct the passage of migrating fish such as sea-trout, but again this is not likely to be a problem here as there are alway routes for fish to get through.

oak branch fallen into the Dockens Water

This wet woodland is home to lots of insects including many rare species, I did get a few pictures of some wet woodland insects, but none of them rare ones. The one below looks rather like a cranefly, many of which are wet woodland specialists, in fact it is not a true cranefly, I think the species is Ptychoptera contaminata, but don’t quote me, if it is the larvae are aquatic.

Ptychoptera contaminata (probably)

Another characteristic group of damp sites are the snipeflies, Chrysopilus cristatus is one of the common species.

Chrysopilus cristatus

The slightly warmer and drier spell in the afternoon also brought out a few hoverflies including a lot of Helophilus pendulus.

Helophilus pendulus

Closing up at the end of the day it was pleasing to see that the common tern chicks are still doing well despite the rain, which can often chill young chicks to death. I think a combination of  lots of food and their use of the chick shelters we provide ar ethe twin secrets of their success. Several pairs are still feeding three young and as they only lay three eggs are still on course to another very successful season. I also saw the oystercatcher chick on the western side of Ibsley Water, there appears to be only one, but it is growing very well. Like the terns the oystercatchers at Blashford are very successful rearing young almost very year, which is actually a very unusual feat.