Radipole Lake has a good reputation for attracting rare and interesting Gulls. Over the years we've had several American species such as Franklins Gull and Laughing Gull which always attract a lot of interest. But probably my favourite gull that occasionally features as Radipole is the Little gull. It’s the smallest gull in the world and a great species to watch with its tern like flight. So you can imagine my excitement when I noticed a juvenile Little Gull flying around outside the visitor centre window this morning.
They have become quite a rarity at Radipole these days. They used to be much more regular whereas now, we only get a couple a year. This individual is the first one seen at the reserve so far this year. They are quite attractive as juveniles and are quite distinctive due to all the markings on the back of the bird.
I do apologise for the quality of the pictures. Sadly the bird didn't hang around long and the weather isn't very good. Both factors certainly don't help when trying to photograph a bird at distance!
August is a very busy month for birds at Radipole and Lodmoor. Thousands of sedge warblers and reed warblers are heading south for the winter. But how do we find out where they go? Well, by ringing them of course. Bird ringing is something that’s done throughout the UK and the rest if Europe and involves placing a small metal ring on the birds leg. The ring is stamped with a unique number which allows us to follow an individual throughout its life. Whilst we have the bird in the hand we can also take measurements and look at the bird’s condition which gives us a valuable insight into their lives.
Radipole has always been a hotspot for ringing large numbers of birds. A lot of effort was made in the seventies and early eighties with a lull through most of the nineties. Then a big effort was made either side of the turn of the millennium when thousands of birds were ringed during the autumn migration. This gave us a real insight to the shear number of birds that use the nature reserve as a re-fuelling station on their long southward journey.
This August we have had a few mornings ringing and we've ringed a reasonable number of birds so thought I’d post a few picture of some of our reedbed species in the hand.
I'll start off with Sedge warbler which is a common species at Radipole and is often over looked because of this. This time of year most of the sedge warblers caught are birds born this year. The adults leave quite quickly once the young have fledged. This photo is of a juvenile.
Occasionally we catch something a little more unusual. This mornings surprise was a Grasshopper Warbler which doesn't breed at Radipole but does use the reserve on migration. Due to its extreme skulky habits, birders very rarely see them whilst out birdwatching.
We also got our first Yellow legged Gull of the autumn which appeared outside the visitor centre breifly this afternoon.
A common sight around the reserves of late for the early rising visitor has been the alarming sight of Anne - our most dedicated and conscientious Estate Worker - lurking in the undergrowth bedecked in a chemical suit, rubber gauntlets and goggles replete with knapsack sprayer and loppers. The purpose of this elaborate guise is the eradication of one of our most dogged and damaging 'alien' plant species, the dreaded Japanese Knotweed. Since undergoing conversion to organic status in the 1990's JKW has been managed by cutting/ pulling and burning - an almighty undertaking and not terribly successful in inhibiting its spread.
Last year Anne researched alternative treatments and we settled upon a technique trialled by the University of Exeter involving the cutting of the stems upon flowering and injecting them with the pesticide Glysophate, having firstly removed the organic status of the areas affected. This has had a dramatic affect on the extent of knotweed and has allowed native vegetation to again flourish in its stead. The open area at the top of Buddleia Loop was awash with Marsh Woundwort this summer whereas last year it was clogged and overwhelmed by the more vigorous foreign invader. During the winter we cleared areas where knotweed grew amongst dense brambles to enable Anne access to the hitherto inaccessible stems and thanks to her determination we at last appear to be winning the war. That said a patch of equally damaging Himalayan Balsam cropped up near a drain on Radipole Park Drive last week after a 7 year absence. Thankfully we spotted it and pulled it up before it seeded, but it goes to show that with invasive alien plant species one cannot rest on ones laurels!
The past week has seen an enormous influx of hoverflies on Radipole, (also elsewhere I'd assume but cannot confirm as I don't get out much!). I know very little about them other than they are flies that hover and make good photographic subjects if you employ a little patience.
Volucella zonaria (female) above Eristalis pertinax (male) below.
Myathropa florea (female, summer brood)above; Eupeodes latifasciatus (female? v. difficult to tell from a photo) below.
Episyrphus balteatus (female?) below.
Above, left to right: Melangyna umbellatarum (female); Eristalis pertinax (male?); Can not ID the last one.
Eupeodes latifasciatus (male, again v. difficult from a photo).
Thanks to Chris Dieck RSPB Dorset Heathland Project's resident entomologist for his IDing skills.
We are in the process of getting some new mobile interpretation around the reserves, and as the wild flowers are at their peak that is where we are concentrating our attentions for now. Nothing too flash - a name a photo and a little information. None of our library pictures of Hemp Agrimony were really suitable for this purpose so, Canon in hand, I ventured forth to see if, by some miracle I could fare better.
Given the blustery weather I wasn't terribly optimistic of success but was very lucky to encounter a few really obliging Red Admirals feeding on our prime target species as well as a pristine Small Tortoiseshell guzzling away on some Fleabane. Both the flowers and insects amply demonstrate that common or garden can hold their own with the exotic for sheer beauty.
Red Admiral on Hemp Agrimony above and Small Tortoiseshell on Fleabane below.