Busy May and Mother Shipton

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You may have guessed from the lack of blogging that we’ve been extremely busy this week, the education team with school groups and the reserve staff with guided walks, path maintenance and volunteer work parties on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Simon and his volunteers from the Trust’s Lower Test Marshes Reserve have been over  helping with fencing and replacing gates. The regular Thursday volunteer group has continued with litter clearance from the woodland by the old concrete block factory on the northern side of Ellingham Drove.

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New gate post put in by the volunteers from the Lower Test Marshes

The only downside of all this work is that it leaves very little time to actually see let alone photograph wildlife.  However I was pleased to get six photos of my favourite day flying moth, the mother shipton, on the meadow by Ivy North Hide at 4.30 pm today. When I looked back the pictures only one was worth posting here. The unusual name of this moth comes from Old Mother Shipton, a 16th century Yorkshire witch, as the markings on it’s wings have been likened to a caricature of an old hag in profile, with a conspicuous eye and hooked nose! I’m not sure I see it…

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Mother shipton moth, nectaring on a bugle flower

A large number of presumably migrant swifts, probably between 250-300 were present over Ibsley Water on Thursday evening, with smaller numbers today. 6 Dunlin, 3 little ringed plover and a ringed plover seen were close to the Tern Hide this afternoon. Ringed Plovers are slightly larger than little ringed plovers, have orange legs and and an orange and black beak.

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Ringed plover, Tern Hide

Smew, Ivy Lake

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Ed didn’t manage to post this yesterday when it was still current (the smew hasn’t been seen today unfortunately) but this picture of the redhead smew, taken by Andy Johnson on the 29th January, is still worth sharing.

Thanks for the photo Andy!

Jim

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Smew, Ivy Lake, 29/1/14 copyright Andy Johnson

Grey plover, herons and hides works…

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Birds reported in the hide log books today:

Ibsley Water: grey plover, ruddy duck 2, goldeneye female, great white egret

Ivy lake: great white egret, water rail 2

Woodland Hide area: c.60 siskin feeding high in tops of alders

The grey plover is an excellent record for Blashford Lakes, hopefully it’ll be there tomorrow so I can see it.

Today saw Adam and I in flurry of chainsawing and strimming activity, coppicing some leaning willows by various footpaths and strimming back rush and brambles to create winter feeding areas for wigeon and lapwing. So not much wildlife seen by us other than a large buck fallow deer by the goosander hide.

A massive thank you to genius wildlife photographer Noel for sending us these fantastic photos taken on the reserve earlier this week. They pretty much blow all the recent pictures on this blog right out of the water!

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Ibsley Water sunset

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Old faithful Walter White, our autumn returning great white egret and mallard friends.

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Great white Walter White egret

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A hat-trick of herons, from the northern screen on the Rockford track.

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Little egret in flight

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Grey heron in flight. Checkout the primary feathers on this bad boy. A fantastic photograph!

If you’re interested you can checkout more of Noel’s amazing work here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/n031/

On Monday we will hopefully have a contractor working on the Goosander Hide and in front of the Tern hide so if you’re visiting the reserve, you’ll be better off going to the other hides first.

The lakes get a top up.

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A wet miserable day with very few visitors today. Ibsley water had the pick of day with a female goldeneye, a first winter yellow-legged gull, 2 dunlin, 8 house martins and 6 swallows. Unfortunately all very distant, so I only managed a few pictures of the usual commoner species. A red kite, two spotted redshank and a ruff were reported in the Tern hide log book for yesterday but no such quality today.

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Tufted duck

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Moorhen

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Coot and drake gadwall

After a few pitiful nights mothing with just 1-2 moths in the trap, this mornings catch was slightly better. The catch included:

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Satellite

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Chesnut

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Large wainscot

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Large wainscot

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Rusty dot pearl

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Black rustic

This great diving beetle was a surprise. This individual is a male, told by the shiny, smooth wing cases as oppose to deeply grooved in the female. They fly at night and are occasionally attracted to moth traps.

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The nemesis of tadpoles

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With a pen for scale.

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Kissy kissy

Return of the GWE

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The great white egret turned up Ivy lake on Wednesday at about 5pm, it was right in front of Ivy north hide but unfortunately by the time I had returned with a camera it had moved behind the reeds. It was also present on Thursday morning, but hasn’t been seen since as far I am aware. A little wader migration has occurred  with common sandpiper, green sandpiper and a few dunlin all putting in an appearance on Ibsley water. Two ravens, grey wagtail and ruddy duck have also been seen today on the reserve.

This morning we carried out a mothing event has part of the national moth night events over the weekend. Tiger moths were the target this species this year and thankfully we did manage to catch a garden tiger moth. However the catch was quite low in numbers perhaps because of the rain during the night. We did catch a few interesting species including burnished brass, sallow kitten, canary-shouldered thorn and poplar hawk-moth.  For more information on national moth night see here: www.mothnight.info

Earlier in the week this absolute brute of a long-horned beetle turned up in the moth trap, Prionus coriarius, a local species with it’s stronghold in the New Forest so perhaps not totally unexpected at Blashford Lakes.

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 Prionus coriarius

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The moth trap literally crawling with micro moths. No we didn’t identify them all!

The buddleia and purple loosestrife by the pond at the back of the centre is currently heaving with nectaring butterflies. So far we have recorded 11 species: small white, large white, green-veined white, red admiral, peacock, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, brimstone, small copper, silver-washed fritillary and gatekeeper. Plus a few silver y moths and the large hoverfly  Volucella zonaria. If you see anything else please let us know! Hummingbird hawk-moth is surely on the cards but camberwell beauty or monarch butterfly would be nice!

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Red admiral

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Purple loosestrife full of white and brimstone butterflies

A survey of Grasshoppers on the lichen heath revealed plenty of meadow, field and best of all mottled grasshoppers. They proved very jumpy and difficult to photograph though.

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Female mottled grasshopper

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Male mottled grasshopper

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And their extremely brittle lichen heath home.

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The heather at the edge of the heath was buzzing with bees and hoverflies. Spot the gatekeeper butterfly.

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A shed grass snake skin in the long grass.

All things ornithological at Blashford lakes

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As there hasn’t been much about birds on this blog lately and birds are one of the best things in life, I thought I better write an update on all things ornithological at Blashford lakes. Recent sightings on Ibsley water have included an excellent 256 lapwing, with probably a few more hidden from view amongst the grass. Other interesting species present were 12 oystercatchers, 4 black-tailed godwits, the first returning green sandpipers of the autumn and a fly over raven. There seems to be a bit of an influx of coots at the moment with at least 200 present this morning but counting them was extremely difficult as there was a lot of tufted ducks too resulting in a mass of diving birds over the western side of the lake. One keen female tufted duck was seen close to Tern hide with 12 ducklings! Much easier to count were 74 mute swans, a black swan was also reported in the Tern hide log book last week.

Ivy lake now has 2 pairs of great crested grebes both feeding single chicks, which are both pretty large now and hopefully over pike dinner size. There was still 13 common tern chicks on the rafts today too so they haven’t all fledged yet.

The woodland is pretty quite at the moment, although a pair of bullfinches have been on the woodland hide feeders most days.

Unfortunately I can’t post any bird pictures as my camera is rubbish!

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Moody weather over Iblsey water.

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Canary-shouldered thorn in the moth trap

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Eyed Hawk-moth caterpillar found on the reserve. It’s head is on the left!

Moth-ers of the universe

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Some pretty decent hauls of moths over the last two nights, 38 species yesterday and 46 today. Including:

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Green silver-lines

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Bordered beauty

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Burnished brass

Rarest of all and most difficult to identify was this Kent black arches.

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Kent black arches

We also caught Britain’s biggest cranefly Tipula maxima.

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Tipula maxima

Bird wise the reserve has seen an influx of  around 500 Lesser black-backed gulls on Ibsley water, with a Yellow-legged gull in amongst them yesterday. Common terns have been fledging on Ivy lake with a few making it over the road on to Ibsley water yesterday afternoon.

Where are all the moths?

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The last two nights have produced very little in the way of moths in the over night trap. Yesterday’s catch was just two moths and today had only four. We did get a nice light brocade, which is a new species for the year.

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The most interesting event of today was the finding of an injured green woodpecker on the lichen heath, it couldn’t seem to fly but could just hop extremely quickly! The bird was caught and taken to the local wildlife rescue centre, hopefully it will make a speedy recovery.

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This bird is a female as it has a black moustachial stripe as opposed to red one for a male.

The Ivy south hide can now be accessed by two doors instead of one as the steps now have anti-slip mesh on them and a new hand rail has been put in place.

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Signs of Spring?

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Apologies for lack of posting,  but I’ve been having a few problems with getting onto the internet over the last couple of days so here’s just a quick blog of some highlights from Sunday and Monday.

A scheduled guided walk on Sunday was entitled ‘Spring Firsts’ and although the conditions weren’t very spring-like we did manage to see a few token indicators of spring. The native daffodils were well in flower as were a few greater celandine. The 100+  sand martins over Ibsley water and a fine male scaup seen from Gosander Hide confirmed that birds are on the move.

Later that day we were lucky enough to catch up with a couple of little gulls (an adult and a juvenile) hunting over Ibsley Water. I believe they’ve were seen on  Saturday, but weren’t in evidence today (Monday). I know gulls aren’t everyone’s idea of exciting birds, but it’s always good to see something a little different. I managed a few distant images which show some of the field marks and behaviour to look out for.

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Adult Little Gull – smaller than black-headed and lacking any black on wing tips

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but they have very dark underwing and if you look closely a pinkish wash to the belly

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a butterfly like flight , dipping into the water with their dangling feet as they pick-up food from the surface – often flying along the same path then flying back to repeat the run over the same patch of water – a bit ‘tern like’ in this respect

Several hundred black-tailed godwit have  also been making use of Ibsley water, many roosting on the peninsula to the right of the Tern Hide. Some ten of these are carrying colour rings on their legs and Pete Potts , co-ordinator of “Operation Godwit” and who has been ringing these birds both at Farlington and in Iceland, was trying to check out these rings. He reported that several had been ringed locally and some in Iceland and at least one of them was first ringed 18 years ago, when it was already an adult.

Pete would be very grateful if any colour ring records of black-tailed godwits that visitors might make could be e-mailed to him at pmpotts@tiscali.co.uk.

Just a  few of the black-tailed godwit on Ibsley Water -  some in their breeding plumage

Just a few of the black-tailed godwit on Ibsley Water – some in their breeding plumage

One of the features of this time of year has been the influx of more woodland birds onto the reserve, and into many gardens, as the depletion of natural food and the fact that many birds are starting to move back to their breeding grounds, has led them to make greater use of the food we put out.  Whilst lesser redpoll and siskin numbers on the reserve are still high, the number of brambling have increased significantly with up to twenty taking spilt niger seed from around one of the feeders outside the Woodland Hide.

A few brambling picking through the spilt niger seed

A few of the brambling picking through the spilt niger seed