Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Week in Wildlife

It's perhaps the worst time of year for wildlife watching. Sure, there's always plenty of wildlife to see but the weather is poor and the daylight is short. Nonetheless I've been endeavouring to get out and about where I can and this is my week in wildlife.
Last Sunday I made a quick visit to Blashford Lakes, although I was frustrated by how busy the reserve was. As someone younger than most of the visitors I felt shunned by most of them and no-one showed the slightest inclination to make room in the hides for me. Still, whilst they were all looking out for the Great White Egret amongst other things I managed to bump into it on my way back to the car. It was my best view yet of this stunning bird.
I also managed to get good views of some shoveler and a wigeon. It was the first time I've seen a wigeon so near me so I had an excellent opportunity to admire it's stunning gold crest.
We had our first bit of bad weather of the season on Sunday and Monday as Storm Angus hit the South of England. We didn't get it as bad as some but still had an inch of rain in 24 hours. By Wednesday the local rivers, the Stour and the Avon, had swelled significantly.
However, we've had little rain in the last few months so though the ground is now wet by yesterday there was little sign at the Avon that we'd had so much rain. You could see where the river had swelled and both mallards and mute swans were taking advantage of this.
There was also the usual little egret on the river also searching for food.
It still amazes me just how successful little egrets have become. A few years ago I'd never seen one and now you're hard pressed to go to a stretch of water locally and not spot one.
The rising water levels may have moved on the deer I've been seeing near the river recently. For the first time in over a month they were no-where to be seen yesterday. There's a fair chance they are somewhere near the area but the ground is only going to get boggier over the next few months.
There were plenty of small birds in the trees near the Avon yesterday, especially goldcrests and long-tailed tits. The trouble is that both are small and agile and getting photos of them is really tricky, especially on a murky day. This is the best I managed!
On the farmland near home I saw a field which was full of mistle thrushes. They are a bird in decline so it was lovely to see so many in the area.
Whilst I was admiring the thrushes I saw this huge flock of crows appear in the sky. All the main corvids are around in big numbers at the moment.
Today I headed a little further afield and went for a walk near the village of Studland and Dorset's famous Old Harry Rocks. On a windy November day it was clear it wasn't the best place for wildlife watching.
You look at that photo and imagine that there can't really be much life there. But life always finds away. On top of one of the stacks I saw this great black backed gull sat happily.
And even on those steep cliffs there were birds! I could see lots of small birds hopping around on one cliff- I think they were probably rock pipits.
Despite the winds there were plenty of pied wagtails on Knoll Beach too.
So that was my week in wildlife. I suspect my posts will be a little less regular over the Winter but I will strive to bring you what I can!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Further Fungi Finds

I find fungi fascinating and so I thought I'd do another post on the fungi I've seen. The majority of these were found on just one visit to Blashford Lakes last week.
Fungi come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There are plenty which look like your typical mushroom. These are,  I think, Mild Milkcaps. It's a hard species to identify for certain as some fungi are as they are visually very similar to other species.
This was a tricky one to identify given the lack of distinguishing features but I suspect it's a Stubby Rosegill. If so then it's one which hasn't yet developed the pink colour that gives it its name.
This is another one that's tricky to identify. You can certainly tell it's of the Mycena genus from it's shape but it's very hard to identify individual species. I suspect it's Mycena stipata. 
This one is a much easier one to identify, honey fungus. I've seen this in a few places lately and it's seems to take over wherever it grows. When you look closer at these photos you can see just how far extensive it is here.
I've shared an example of this species before as it looks fantastic. This is a fairly young Shaggy Inkcap. There's only a hint of the inkiness that gives it its name.
Another favorite of mine is the common puffball. It's simple but beautiful in it's own way. I have found a spot where there seems to always be a few of these.
The second example is mature with the hole in the middle having opened up to release spores in a burst.
Bracket fungi grow on trees and look quite different from what you might imagine a fungus looks like. This one is a blushing bracket at a relatively early stage of development- it hasn't yet 'blushed' into a pinky colour.
Of course fungi come in all shapes like this Lemon Disco. You probably walk past fungi like this all the time and don't even notice it. They are tiny yellow cups (up to 3mm across) that grow on wood that has lost its bark.
And here's another ridiculous fungus example with a fantastic name which reflects it's appearance: Dead Man's Fingers.
Fungi are everywhere and so important to our world yet hardly anyone even notices them, let alone know anything about them. I encourage you to look out for fungi and take a closer look next time you see one.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Doorstep Discoveries

Today I thought I'd focus on wildlife which is right on my doorstep. Almost everything I talk about in this post was seen within about a mile of my house. I am lucky that although I live in a suburban estate there's only a very short distance between me and the local farmland and fishing lake.
On a small area of said farmland I have found a kestrel. I've seen what I assume is the same individual, a male, on three separate occasions. It seems to hunt on the fields and sits on the trees and telephone poles surveying its land.
It's proved a tricky bird to photograph as it perches a long way from the path and is so quick in the air. I did get close to it once when it perched on the roof of a house but frustratingly it was facing the wrong way!
Another bird of prey I've also seen lately is this buzzard.
Initially I wondered if it might actually be a honey buzzard given how pale it's breast is. It's very late in the year to see a honey buzzard though and it seems that buzzard colouring varies dramatically and can actually be really pale.
The local farmland is over-run with corvids at the moment. There are groups of noisy magpies and loads of rooks, jackdaws and crows. The crows often gather in huge numbers and swarm when something disturbs them.
I've noticed a few migrating birds finding the local fishing lake lately. It's not a great lake for wildlife really and is obviously managed for fish rather than wildlife. I imagine having lots of pike is not good if you're a bird trying to breed. You can usually see mallardscanada geeseblack-headed gulls and in the summer great crested grebe. I spotted a tufted duck on the lake last week which was unusual and on occasion there's been the odd cormorant roosting on the shoreside trees.
Here's a few photos of some more common birds I've seen in the area.
Mute Swans
Black-Headed Gull
Blackbird- he's been gorging on berries so much his beak is dark
I've continued to see the group of roe deer by the Avon. The stag was still around today, though with only one doe but they were a fair way from the path. Much closer to the path but on the other side to it and the river were four does. They took a good look at me and decided I was bad news so ran off into the long grass.
Finally, this is one of the many local rabbits. It's possible it has myxomatosis as it's eye looks sore. Either that or he's just sleepy.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The White Hart

Yesterday I was extremely lucky to see something very unusual, a white red deer stag, or 'white hart' as they are sometimes known. Sadly I didn't manage to capture a clear photo of it but you can get some idea of the magnificence of the animal.
This was over at Blashford Lakes, on part of the reserve closest to the New Forest. It looked like this stag had developed quite a harem as I saw a white hind on the path and plenty of does hiding amongst the tree- I saw at least ten and there may well have been more nearby.
The colour comes from a rare genetic pattern called leucism which causes a reduction in the pigment in the deer's skin and fur. There is a long history of white stags in the Ringwood area. There's a pub in the marketplace called The Original White Hart, supposedly the first pub to take that name and named after King Henry VII caught a white hart nearby. It's unclear how true the story is but it certainly gives credence to the idea that there white harts near Ringwood around the turn of the 16th century.
In other deer news, I've seen the trio of roe deer near the Avon a few times over the last few weeks. The stag and two does have stayed in pretty much the same area although they have crossed the river since last week, something which might well have been quite a challenge for these smaller deer.
This photo gives some idea of the obstacle these deer had to cross.
Last week I shared another fantastic white creature at Blashford Lakes, Walter the great white egret. He can still be seen around the reserve and yesterday I saw him perched on a tree.
As ever, Blashford proved to be a wealth of interesting birds. This individual was quite a way from the hide but I was pleased to spot it as my first widgeon of the year.
Much closer to a hide was this rock pippit, looking in fantastic condition.
I have seen lots of kingfishers at Blashford this year and all over the reserve. This one was on the small silt pond.
Thanks to a rare day off and the clocks going back I was able to be in the reserve towards the end of the day which meant to I could see the beginning of the enormous roosts that come at this time of year. Here's are the gulls on Ibsley Water:
More were arriving by the second as I sat and watched. Over on the trees around Ivy Lake there's a fairly sizeable cormorant roost.
There was also plenty of opportunity to get close to some more common birds.
I had one more unusual sighting this week. On Tuesday, the 8th November, I saw a red admiral fly past. It was a large one and had to be to be able to survive the colder temperatures- it was -3° C the night before. I can only guess that it had sheltered on or even inside a nearby building. I think December will be the only month of 2016 when I haven't seen a butterfly!