A bit of catching up to do, so I will start with last Friday when I was out and about trying to find, count and check all the cattle and ponies on the reserves. We have the greatest number at Farlington where the grazing is essential to maintaining the open grassland in the right condition for feeding brent geese in the winter and breeding lapwing in the spring. Without grazing it is very difficult to maintain grassland habitat, the only usual alternative would be to mow, but this is time-consuming and not always practical. At present we have 112 cattle and four ponies at Farlington, although a good few should be leaving soon. Over on Southmoor there are 19 cattle with another five at Hookheath and six at Swanwick. I am pleased to say that all were present and correct.
To count the animals it is necessary to visit all the sites and usually have quiet a thorough look around. Walking around Farlington I saw my first real group of brent geese of the winter, they were hard to count on the choppy water of the Harbour but an estimate made by someone else of about 60 seemed reasonable.
If you visit the reserve you may wonder what has happened to the back of the seawall to the south of the Lake. The answer is that the vegetation has been removed from the back of the wall as a preliminary to works to reinstate the back slope at a more shallow angle. I am still not sure when this will start or how much disruption there will be for visitors to the reserve, this is not for the want of asking and as soon as I know I will post details.
I did see a bit of wildlife on my way round including the little egret below that was quite happy just beside the seawall until a large walking group with bright yellow jacketed marshals came along, I am not sure how much risk there was of them getting run over on the seawall.
Although blowy the sun did come out and with it a few butterflies including one of my favourites, a small copper.
There were also several small heath, they often bask with wings closed angling themselves to intercept the most sun, it seems a bit odd when with wings open the surface area would be greater, but perhaps the darker underwings absorb more heat.
As already noted in the earlier post I was not on the reserves at the weekend, this was in part because I returned to my previous reserve at Blashford Lakes to say thank you and farewell to the band to reserve volunteers and the Education staff, Jim and Michelle. We met for a walk around the reserve followed by a buffet and barbecue. We saw the great white egret that has been visiting the reserve for the last nine years, although it was too far off to get a picture, unlike the pheasant at the Woodland hide!
There was a good turn out and they rather turned the tables on me and I ended up receiving a gift from them, a most amazing set of turned wooden wine goblets made by one of the volunteers from wood collected off the reserves. They are treated so as to allow them to be used just like a normal glass, apart from not being suitable for the dishwasher, they even gave me something to put in them as well!
The Blashford volunteers experience almost unfailingly good weather when they do their tasks on Thursday mornings, would that this applied to the Swanwick team. I worked with them today and got pretty wet in steady rain during the morning. We were taking a bit of the height off the hedge along the entrance track and constructed a dead hedge from the cuttings. In moving the material about a sharp-eyed volunteer spotted a butterfly pupa on a nettle, it was of a red admiral, the gold patches make it look more like a piece of jewelery.
It did brighten up in the afternoon and we saw a few butterflies and dragonflies, but the thing which most caught my eye was a forest of fungi growing in the woodchips around the garden at the Education Centre. I do not know the species but I have read that a number of new species to the UK have been found on woodchip mulches in recent years, the explanation seems to be that this is a “new” habitat and so offers a new opportunity.