New Bay Work Day (plus cake & caterpillars)

 Another busy day down the reserve on Monday. First on the agenda was the heavy work of island clearance on Main Pool. Several were cleared with brushcutters, whilst one small island was re-profiled with picks and mattocks to make it more attractive to waders, hopefully to both breeding and migrant birds. Maybe as well this one won’t be swamped with Cormorants as it’s further away from the colony.

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Island clearance and profiling on Main Pool

   Lunch was needed after that, with the time spent out on the marsh scoffing Victoria sponge. Though some of the meadow flowers had faded away, the Water Mint was still dishing out the nectar for the butterflies. Plenty of Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Meadow Browns danced around with small numbers of Gatekeepers but only one Common Blue seen which is concerning. It’s also a shame that the meadow isn’t accessible  all of the time as it really was alive with insects on Monday. Out on the water, good numbers of Brown Hawkers and Black-tailed Skimmers patrolled the muddy edges.

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Peacock basking on a bed of Water Mint, Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet

  After lunch a few volunteers continued to clear and manage the ditches of invasive weeds along the boundary of the reserve to encourage Water Voles with help from Tame Valley Wetlands. Good news is that the rust fungus employed to slow down the Himalayan Balsam appears to be working but more about that in a future blog post.

 The rest of the team started work on the New Bay area which is getting rather overgrown. The bay used to be connected to the Main Pool by a good strip of open water or exposed mud but now is swamped with vegetation meaning invisible Snipe and less feeding areas for migrant Green Sands. So cutting some wide channels with the reed cutter and mowing down the encroaching reed and balsam should hopefully open it up a bit for water birds. At the far end, the small willows in the bay were encroaching on the marsh and drying it out so were took down to the ground. Unfortunately in the process, we felled the home of a huge, juicy, luminous green caterpillar instantly recognisable as a hawkmoth larva! An absolute beast of an insect, the white stripes and spiky blue tail pointed to it being a beautiful Eyed Hawkmoth, a great find.

  Other highlights from the day included a juvenile Cuckoo skirting past Riverwalk Hide, a Yellow Wagtail on the marsh early in the morning, a single Red-legged Partridge running for it’s life around the main gates and later the car park as well as new broods of Tufted Duck (7) and Little Grebe (2).

  Thanks go to all involved on Monday, we got plenty done but there’s still loads of work scheduled in for the summer weeks. So if you can volunteer, we would love to hear from you, there will be cake. Just contact us through the blog.

 On to the moths. The weather overnight hadn’t been great, rather gusty winds and showers through the night meant that we weren’t particularly optimistic. We’d decided to try out a different position and sited a box on the path below the line of poplars. Appropriately the box was full of Poplar Hawkmoths and head warden Pete was on hand to show off the impressive haul of 7 in one box! Species diversity was low but good numbers of several species were had, as well as 3 lovely Gold Spots being new for the year. Undoubtedly the highlight though, was the appearance of 2 Angle-striped Sallows, one in each trap. As far as we are aware this a new species for the reserve and is a Nationally Scarce B species with two well separated populations, one in the Spey Valley and Great Glen of Scotland and the other stretching from the Welsh Marches across the Midlands to Lincolnshire. So this is fantastic news that Ladywalk seems to be a refuge for them.

Species List;

Canary-shouldered Thorn 18, Coxcomb Prominent 4, Swallow Prominent 5, Light Brown Apple Moth 2, Brimstone 1, Bordered Beauty 1, Carcina quercana 1, Poplar Hawkmoth 9, Mother-of-Pearl 12, Acrobasis advenella 3, Straw Dot 6, Blastobasis adustella 1, Single-dotted Wave 1, Riband Wave 2, Common Rustic 11, Angle-striped Sallow 2, Large Yellow Underwing 4, Chequered Fruit Tortrix 2, Oegoconia sp. 1, Ypsolopha parenthesella 1, Catoptria pinella 1, Brown House Moth 2, Flame Shoulder 4, Brown China-mark 1, Clouded Border 2, Pale Prominent 2, Iron Prominent 1, Chevron 1, Straw Underwing 1, Blood-vein 3, Gold Spot 3, Lesser Yellow Underwing 1, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 2, Pebble Hook-tip 1.

116 moths of 34 species.

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