Oh Deer!

I was doing a waterbird count today, but despite this my main memory of the day was of deer, they seemed to be everywhere. On my way to open Ivy North hide a muntjac sauntered across the path in front of me, strictly they are Reeve’s muntjac and were introduced to the UK from the Far East. They are now widespread across much of England aided by being able to breed at as early as seven months! The muntjac was to quick for me to get a picture, or rather I was too slow to get the camera ready. A few metres further on a roe buck was on the lichen heath, but he headed off at speed. However by the Woodland hide there were two young roe and they wandered slowly to the side of the path before stopping to look back at me.

roe deer

roe deer near Woodland Hide

On my way to Lapwing hide I disturbed a groups of fallow deer, these are less desirable as they go round in large groups and can do a lot of damage to our coppice and even pollards, as they will stand up on their hind legs to reach growth as high as 1.8m. This group of fallow is a real mixed bunch with typical spotted ones, white, beige and even black individuals.

fallow

fallow, just beside the path “hiding”

I did count the wildfowl, but I have to say numbers are pretty poor this winter, well below the five year average for almost all species apart from pochard. I found at least 21 goldeneye, but this included only four adult drakes and I know there were six earlier on, so perhaps I missed some, or they have already moved on. Other birds of note were 2 water pipit and two great white egret or just possibly one twice.

The only other thing that really caught my eye was a group of fungi, so far I have failed to get close to a name, so if you have any ideas I would be glad to hear from you.

fungus

unknown fungus

Counting and Estimating

It was a very grey dawn that broke as I waited in Lapwing hide this morning in an attempt to count the goosander roost on Ibsley Water. Unfortunately I think a lot of them  had already left as I saw only 54, I would have expected over a hundred at this stage of the winter. Luckily, although it was very grey, there was almost no wind, making counting the wildfowl quite easy. Overall the counts on Ibsley Water were poor, a few years ago there could have been totals of a thousand or more, but poor weed growth has meant there is little food for many species this winter. The highlight was seeing both of the black-necked grebe together, although they then went their own ways very quickly, one remaining close the southern shore the other up to the north-west corner as usual.

Luckily some of the other lakes do have a good growth of weed, most notably Ivy Lake which held 356 gadwall and 318 wigeon, although only 31 coot was a real surprise as they are also weed-eaters. It seems the coot were mostly on Rockford Lake, where there were 340, but only a few dozen each of wigeon and gadwall. Perhaps they prefer different types of weed or maybe the coot are going after weed in deeper water. Recent conditions may mean that the ducks do not need to follow the coot around to get at the weed they drag up and can feed on floating fragments.

Wildfowl are relatively easy to count on a lake, they do not move fast and if you have a good viewpoint you can see them all, at least if they are not diving. Later in the I encountered birds that were rather more difficult to count.

In the afternoon I was at our new reserve at Fishlake Meadows, to look at what will eventually be the reserve storage area and yard. We will not have access to it for a while but it was valuable to see the site and where service entry points are. Setting up a new site is always exciting but dealing with all the elements that need to be in place to make things work at their best taxes my brain at times.

After dealing with the boring but essential site details we walked the canal path and witnessed the modest but still impressive starling roost. I say modest, but I was quite unable to count them, an estimate would be perhaps 8-10,000, nothing like the 60,000 or more that were seen a couple of weeks ago. They arrived in several groups, the largest landed quite quickly.

dropping down to roost

The flock dropping into roost

Shortly after this a buzzard flew low over the roost which took flight and then mostly landed in neighbouring trees and bushes.

starlings sitting in trees

bushes full of starlings

All the while extra groups of birds were flying in. Quite a sight and they attracted a fair crowd of local people, it is always good to see people able to enjoy wildlife on their own doorstep. There is something especially satisfying about being able to walk out from your own home and see wildlife, or better still be able to see it in, or from your own garden. Wildlife should really be living around us, not just experienced by travelling to special places, one of the great things about Fishlake Meadows is its proximity to the town of Romsey, wildlife on their doorstep.

Departures and Arrivals

Bird News: Ibsley Waterblack-necked grebe 3, sand martin 25+, Egyptian goose 2, water pipit 1, rock pipit 1. Whole Reservechiffchaff 7+.

Well I had a good look round the whole area as I did the last wildfowl count of the season and the overwhelming thing that became apparent was that most of the wildfowl have gone. I saw just a handful of wigeon, gadwall and pochard in fact the only species still present in good numbers were shoveler and goldeneye. There were 2 black-necked grebe, both in more or less summer plumage and it seems I missed one as there were three later in the day, easily done as they spend so much time underwater, either that or I just did not look hard enough! Several species are now back at Blashford getting ready to breed, I saw two pairs of oystercatcher and two pairs of shelduck, both birds usually associated with the coast, but which breed on the reserve every year.

sheldrake

Not the best picture in rather poor light but it does show the large red knob at the base of the bill which confirms it as a drake. Shelduck are unusual in a few ways, but one of them is that the sexes look more or less alike, unlike other ducks where the duck is in camouflage. The only obvious difference at a distance is size, the shelduck is obviously smaller than the drake. These things are related, shelducks nest down burrows, usually old rabbit burrows, so there is no need for camouflage, but it is important that the duck is not too big or she won’t get down the hole.

On my walk round the site I came across about 7 chiffchaff, more than I have seen this spring, but still not many. I saw no other migrants, certainly there were no martins over any of the lakes during the morning. However by the afternoon there were a few sand martins over Ibsley Water and these built to at least 25 by the time I was locking up. I was also told of singles of both rock and water pipit with the mixed group of small birds that have been ranging around the southern shore of Ibsley Water and periodically wander past the Tern hide. Both of these pipits along with their accompanying meadow pipits and pied wagtails will be migrants, although we don’t perhaps always think of them as such. Many of the pied wagtails will be Scottish breeders on their way back from wintering either in southern England or on the near continent. The majority now are males and in a week or so most will be females as they migrate a bit later.

The night was very mild and this resulted in a good moth catch including a smart pine beauty.

pine beauty

As usual at this time of year small Quaker was by far the most abundant species, but there was a good showing by common Quaker and twin-spot Quaker, with a scatter of Hebrew character, clouded drab, dotted border, oak beauty, a lead-coloured drab and a few micros including 2 Acleris notana, one of them very spotty.

Acleris notana