Sightings for week ending 29/01/2017

dsc_0509Nearly the end of the month! January has flown by in a flurry of Brent geese and waders! This week has been a good one too. I have spent some time down at Farlington and you may see our hedge laying work down by the building. I’m quite pleased with it, the volunteers have done an excellent job, especially as for many of them it was their first time laying.I also remembered to take my camera out with me for once as did our student from Sparsholt (thanks Gwyneth) hence the overload of images on this post.

The star of the show, in my opinion, this week has been the Marsh Harrrier which has been cruising over the reed bed for a few days now. It is quite obliging and regularly pirouettes mid air whist quartering.  No less impressive have been the Bearded Tits which have been seen a lot up by the building and the feeder, even in the thick fog at the start of the week. I filled the feeder on Thursday so hopefully this may draw them in this weekend.

dsc_0484

Marsh Harrier

aqbb16792-copy

Black Tailed Godwit and Teal – Gwyneth Mitchell

The usual high numbers of Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Avocet and Dunlin have been in the lake at high tide and Widgeon, Teal, Pintail and Lapwing have been in good numbers across the site. Three Short Eared Owls are still around, using the Point Field and the Main Marsh.

I am please to say that the Brent Goose numbers have rocketed in the last week and where we were only getting a few hundred, well over a thousand are now using the fields, especially the hay meadow. This is much more in line with what we would expect. I was surveying this morning, looking out to Farlington from Broadmarsh. Hundreds of geese were along the foreshore and between the islands and they steadily moved into the marsh at high tide.

The Robins are, to be completely honest, getting to ridiculous numbers in the bushes at the moment. Whilst cutting scrub on Thursday there must have been 20 over the four patches we were clearing. There were also a few Stonechats coming over to see what we were unearthing. One of our wardens thought that they saw a Black Redstart so worth keeping your eyes peeled, it’s a great little bird.

dsc_0523

Stonechat inspecting our handiwork

Southmoor was also very good today. 40 Red-Breasted Merganser were off the point, mingling with Gadwall and Widgeon. There was also a Greenshank sitting on the end of the stream.

dsc_0553

Greenshank

dsc_0452

Marsh Harrier

The Swanwick feeders have been as busy as usual with Nuthatch, Bullfinches and Marsh Tit.

dscn0586

A beautiful pair of Bullfinches – Gwyneth Mitchell

dscn0610

A handsome Marsh Tit – Gwyneth Mitchell

Advertisements

Notes of April

Where does the time go? Three weeks have past and I haven’t found the time to put finger to key on these pages. Its been a busy time out on the reserves and to be honest the only interesting things I have seen have been while doing other things. These past three weeks have mostly been spent at Farlington, stuck firmly in fencing mode. But after another full on day with the Farlington Volunteers today, Im glad to say we have managed to get the whole place stockproof once again.

New fenceline in the aerial field

New fenceline in the aerial field

April is a fantastic month with lots of spring species either migrating back, popping up out of the ground or hatching. In between busying ourselves I did manage to note a few of these so I shall give a brief overview of April’s highlights;

For a week or so around the 5th a Juv Little gull frequented the south marsh, around the deeps and the willow pool.

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Sandwich tern made a welcome return to the harbour also around the 5th with Common tern and Little tern arriving a week or so later.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Two Whimbrel were sighted off the point on the 5th as well as a male Wheatear on South marsh. A single Avocet on the 14th was unexpected as well as two adult Spoonbill. A Greenshank was noted on the lake and I even had a treat of seeing a Weasel!!- a first for me on the reserve.

Wheatear

Wheatear

Further into the month, on the 21st I saw my first Redstart of the year – a female on the fence lines at Southmoor. This area is a hotspot for passerines and I also noted Blackcap (male and female), Whitethroat, with Willow warbler and Chiffchaff in song.

As we approach the end of the month good numbers of swallows are now on the marsh, and can be seen collecting mud from the wet areas of north marsh, next to the track. Lapwing are now busy sitting on eggs with sightings of three chicks already! Another wheatear was noted today as well as a Lesser whitethroat in song right next to the hut.

Nails, Rings and a Dagger

We were back at Farlington again today to continue work on the boardwalk, the aim being to complete the job started on Friday. Today’s volunteers were the Beechcroft team and they so nearly got it done, it was only a shortage of nails that stopped them just two boards short! Whilst they were working on the boardwalk I continued topping the fields and mowing the edges of the bramble clumps in the Bushes. Before I started the bramble cutting I went to check if the ringers had caught any waders on the roost along the Stream, I would not have wanted to flush the birds by charging about in the tractor. Luckily they had already caught and very successfully, catching 12 teal, 17 greenshank and 60 redshank. The waders were colour-ringed, this allows field sightings to be made and if the combination is seen well the individual bird can be identified. This allows the movements of an individual to be tracked and also such data as survival and longevity to be studied. All this is important as we still know rather little about many of the waders that visit us, although we do know that populations of most species are falling. Obviously we would like to be able to take action to help them but to do this with affair chance of success we need to know much more about where the problems are.

colour ringed redshank

colour ringed redshank

As I spent most of the day in the tractor cab I saw rather little wildlife, a small group of sand martin along the Stream and a few yellow wagtail with the cattle in the Hayfield were about the highlights. However as I got back to the Building at lunchtime I found a caterpillar on the hedge and very smart it was too, a part grown grey dagger larva.

grey dagger caterpillar

grey dagger caterpillar

They have a most extraordinary “spire” on one of the segments towards the head, it looks a bit like a thorn, but it fleshy, rather than the more usual tuffs of hair that many caterpillars have.

Skittish Skippers and Moody Blues

I was out and about for part of the day looking at tasks for the Access to Nature volunteers. One of the places we went to was Milton Locks, I confess it is a while since I was down there. This tiny site on the northern shore of Eastney Lake on Portsea Island is of note as it is one of very few places where the shore has a natural slope from grassland down into a narrow saltmarsh zone and onto the intertidal. In the sunshine it was looking very pleasant and the long grass was alive with butterflies.

Milton Locks

Milton Locks

There were lots of marbled white and a fair few small skipper, large skippermeadow brown and the odd common blue, but all were well able to avoid my attempts to photograph them in the hot sunshine.

We then headed up to Farlington Marshes where there were more signs that, despite the high summer weather, autumn is coming. Along the Stream there were 2 common sandpiper and I saw at least 11 greenshank flying over the reedbed to roost on the Scrape, all waders on their way back south already. On the fence of West Mudlands a family of swallows were perched, the juveniles allowed fairly close approach and I got a “digibin” shot of one of them.

juvenile swallow

juvenile swallow

As we went up to the ponds north of the A27 we came across a garden tiger caterpillar in the gateway, these are the “woolly bears” that used to be so common but have not been so in recent years, but perhaps they are making something of  comeback as I have seen quiet a few this summer.

garden tiger caterpillar

garden tiger caterpillar

This was not the most notable moth of the day however, that title went to a moth caught in the trap run overnight at Beechcroft, it was a species I have seen only once before, a white satin.

white satin

white satin

Come into my Parlour…

It has been quite a hectic few days and I have not had a chance to post. Summer has arrived and we have been working in weather that has been verging on being too good. On Monday the Beechcroft team were path clearing at Southmoor, we hope to lay the hedge here next winter which will hopefully reduce the problems with it closing down the path width and make the whole length much better for wildlife as well.

path clearing at Southmoor

path clearing at Southmoor

The hotter weather has also resulted in a surge in the numbers of insects around. There are now good numbers of meadow brown and small heath flying over the grasslands and summer brood small tortoiseshell and comma seem to be doing well too. Small tortoiseshell have been in very short supply in recent years so seeing good number of them is especially pleasing. More insects has been good for the spiders too and I have got several shots of them cashing in on the abundance over recent days. First a zebra spider on the outside wall of the Building at Farlington.

zebra spider with fly

zebra spider with fly

Then a larger spider on a wild carrot flower head near the Lake at Farlington.

Tibellus oblongus

Tibellus oblongus

Lastly a small spider inside the Buidling at Farlington that was taking on a horsefly.

spider with horsefly

spider with horsefly

The hot weather is not good news for all though. Yesterday I went to the sluice at the Lake to clear any debris at the grill and found it partly blocked with dead flounders. They all looked fine and only larger fish were involved. The spring tides at present mean the Lake level gets very low at  low water and the water heats up resulting in severe oxygen deficit, the fish may well have tried to get out through the sluice but were too large to exit and so died in the deepest water still available to them. I have seen this before in hot dry spells and I think only eels can successfully survive int he Lake in all conditions.

dead flounders

dead flounders

The low Lake levels are allowing the wader roost to build and a sign of approaching autumn is the number of redshank and now greenshank that are gathering. I saw three greenshank but fourteen were reported yesterday. I was pleased to see a half-grown redshank chick on the south side of the Lake though, it is often very difficult to assess their breeding success but this seems to have been quite a good year for them.

 

 

 

 

 

First Chicks and Last Rafts

Two days in one again. Wednesday saw me in the office all morning, a bit strategic as it was raining for most of the time, but I did get down to Farlington in the afternoon to check the cattle and lapwing. I was pleased to see my first lapwing chicks of the year with broods near the Scrape and Deeps, both were only small so they have a long way to go. Several other pairs seem to have failed, but a good few are still sitting, so there may well be other chicks very soon.

Generally the reserve seemed quiet though with just a few swift, swallow and a couple of sand martin hawking for insects over the fields. When the sun came put there were a few insects including quite a number of hoverflies visiting buttercup flowers, these two seemed to getting on well.

Eristalinus sepulchralis

Eristalinus sepulchralis

There was also a Helophilus trivittatus, my first this year, this is the larger cousin of the common H. pendulus.

Helophilus trivittatus

Helophilus trivittatus

Looking out over the Harbour around high tide I did see a drake red-breasted merganser.

North-east Langstone Harbour

North-east Langstone Harbour

At the Lake a single greenshank and a grey plover were roosting and along the Stream 6 ringed plover, 7 dunlin and 2 common sandpiper.

Today I was at Blashford again to finish the task of putting gout the tern rafts and in rather better conditions than on Monday.

tern raft with terns

tern raft with terns

I eventually got all four out and three of them had common tern on when I left, although the other had black-headed gulls.

Ivy Lake

Ivy Lake

 

Bluebells and Adder’s Tongues

I went to Farlington today with the idea of doing a survey of the nesting lapwing, I had help with me as well, unfortunately the wind was so strong and cold that the lapwing were keeping their heads down. In addition it was difficult to keep binoculars still enough to make a good search. An estimate of territories made from the number of males present suggests a few more than a couple of weeks ago, although some of these are unpaired. It was also good to see that at least some of the birds sitting nearly three weeks ago are still doing so, this should mean we could see chicks in the next week.

Luckily the weather did improve as the day went on, although the wind did not let up, so we shifted attention to the area north of the A27 and looking at plants. The area so completely cleared by the powerline company is starting to show some signs of recovery, the ferns are doing especially well and a small clump of bluebell on one of the banks was a  nice surprise.

bluebell and fern

bluebell and fern

It was especially pleasing that they showed every sign of being true bluebell (in a non-politic sense), being so close to suburbia the risk is that any pure bluebells hybridise with garden forms, either Spanish bluebell or their hybrid with our native species. Bluebells are a bit of a speciality of the British Isles, the carpets of blue are only found here and on the very nearest edge of the continent.

The greater shelter north of the A27 meant that some butterflies were out, although they were all speckled wood, which will fly pretty much whenever it is worm enough even if the sun is not out. The several that we saw today were my first of the year.

speckled wood

speckled wood

We also went looking for the adder’s tongue, a small plant with an unusual form that is characteristic of old, unimproved grasslands. There used to be good patches of it in the Aerial field and we found it there still and also in the north-east slip field, although there it is in danger of getting overwhelmed by brambles.

adder's tongue

adder’s tongue

Generally speaking it was a quiet day for birds with 2 greenshank, 2 wheatear, 2 raven and 3 swift being the highlights. There was some suggestion of a light passage of hirundines with a scatter of swallow and a single sand martin over the Stream.