Monday, 29 June 2009

Southern Heaths

Sunday was very hot and humid, especially where we were on the heaths of the New Forest and Surrey.
Although we had left it a bit late, we first visited Hordle Cliff opposite the Isle of Wight just in case a Glanville Fritillary was still flying. Being a bit dull, not much was flying, apart from a few Browns and Painted Ladies. A small bright orange/brown butterfly was seen twice but not well enough for identification.
Offshore, a few fishing Sandwich Terns, and a small flock of Sand Martin were the only birds of note.
Crockford Bridge in the New Forest proved to be very productive. Southern and Small Red Damselflies, Beautiful Demoiselle and Keeled Skimmer were abundant, and there were lots of Golden Ring Dragonflies too. On the heath, Silver Studded Blues were everywhere and we found two Dark Green Fritillaries. Few birds though, no Woodcock, Dartford Warbler or Woodlark as in previous visits, and there were no orchids either.
Nearby, at Hatchett Pond, despite searching we could not find Scarce Blue Tail damselfly, but plenty of Blue Tails, and Southerns were abundant. Also, Skimmers, Emperors and Chasers along with another Dark Green Fritillary.
A try at Mill Lawn Brook for the Scarce Blue Tail failed, but Keeled Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser and Black Tail skimmer were plentiful, along with the smaller blue damselflies.
Finally, a late afternoon visit to Thursley Common was worthwhile. Among the hoards of Common Blue, Azure and Blue Tail Damselflies a single Downy Emerald was flying. On the heath itself, the usual Keeled Skimmers, Emperors and Four Spotted Chasers were on every pool, along with Large Red Damselflies. A single Common Hawker was also seen.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Marsh Warbler

Yesterday evening, a Marsh Warbler was found at Amwell, and luckily it remained today. By the time i arrived it had got a bit elusive, but often sang for long periods. I did get a few bad images. After spending a while at the watch point chatting, I returned to the car, but first paid a visit to the church to see the Spotted flycatchers.

Solstice Eve

Saturday was spent hunting butterflies, largely in Wessex, during which we somehow managed to visit several historic places-Bath, Wells, Glastonbury and Stonehenge. Despite passing the latter less than twelve hours before the solstice celebrations, there were very few people visible, yet 35000 were present at sunrise this morning.
We started the day at Whitecross Green Wood near Oxford. Unfortunately with overnight showers and cloud, it was too cool and damp. We did see several Fallow Deer from the car park and managed to locate a Butterfly Orchid in one of the shady rides.
We then visited Bannerdown near Bath where I hoped to still find Green Hairstreak, though it was getting a bit late-I managed a brief glimpse of one high in a Hawthorn. Many of the browns were flying here-Meadow Brown Ringlet and Marbled White as well as the usual Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. There were fine stands of Pyramidal Orchid too.
Collared hill near Glastonbury is the open site for the re-introduced Large Blue. We saw about a dozen on the very steep hillside, as well as Common Blue and various browns. In the distance we could hear the festival sound system being tested.
We decided to return to Whitecross Green in the evening, and conditions were much better, with several dragonflies present, and a number of Marbled Whites among the Meadow Browns. A small butterfly that flew over our heads was the sought for Black Hairstreak.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

More From Sunday

A few more images from Lakenheath and Strumpshaw.

Monday, 15 June 2009

A Yellow Theme

Following on from a successful Quail session, Sunday promised to be quite good.
With little in the way of rare birds to go for, we decided to concentrate on the fens and broads, targeting a few key species.
The Golden Orioles at RSPB Lakenheath have proved very popular, as at least one nest is usually visible and staked out. A far cry from our early visits many years ago when access was rather more complex and viewing difficult (though on one memorable visit in a thunderstorm saw several males chasing females through the woods).The large crowd showed us where to look, and for once, the nest was in full view, and over a period of half an hour we were able to see the female on the nest, and watch the male visit on several occasions.
There were many dragonflies as usual, a large number of Hairy, and Black Tailed Skimmers, but we did not see any of the recently colonized Scarce Chasers (they are going over now).
The planned visit to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen did not go quite to plan. We did not realise that there was a big butterfly day, and as a result it was not as quiet as expected.
A small colony of Bee Orchid was a nice surprise, but the meadow orchids seem to be a hybrid mix of marsh and spotted species. We saw several Swallowtail here, and we also saw large numbers of Norfolk Hawkers, and a bonus of several Scarce Chasers.
We returned to the car park and then visited the eastern corner of the reserve, where several Swallowtails could be seen at close quarters around the garden, plus we found a female laying eggs on the Milk Parsley.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


This morning I was at Amwell, though things were pretty quiet. Highlight of sorts was a moulting drake Red Crested Pochard and a pair of Oystercatcher.
Plenty of dragonflies on the wing now, including my first Emperor and Black Tailed Skimmer of the year.
I spent a few hours just east of Baldock this afternoon, where several Quail have been calling for a week or so and showing quite well. The area is a stronghold of Corn Bunting, and many birds were singing, and there were lots of Skylark and a few flyby Yellow Wagtails too.
Over a period of about two hours we had three distant sightings of Quail crossing the track, including a pair of birds, and later on one female crossed quite close to us enabling me to otain a few images.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Butterflies and Orchids

With birding starting to wind down for the summer, it was time to start concentrating on other wildlife subjects. The orchid  season is in full swing, and thanks to the warm weather, butterflies are starting to become more abundant. 
We decided to repeat a trip we did at the beginning of June last year, but miss out Devon, in the hope of spending more time searching for some of the scarcer subjects.
Martin Down in Hampshire is classic chalk downland, and harbours a great variety of plants and insects. Small and Common Blue butterflies seemed the most abundant, apart from the ubiquitous Small Heath, and there were several Brown Argus too, but Adonis Blue seemed to be scarce compared to last year. Grizzled and Dingy Skipper numbered one each, and we had all but given up finding Marsh Fritillary until we stumbled on a local butterfly group looking at one. 
Apart from Common Spotted Orchids, we only found a few Common Fragrant, and three or four spikes of Burnt Orchid.
Bentley Wood is a well known complex containing a great many butterfly species. Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary were everywhere, and were easy to distinguish from the older, worn Pearl Bordered of which we saw at least two. One surprise was when I was following an interesting butterfly, looked down and found a Duke of Burgundy, despite assertions from locals that our chances were zero. There had been reports of Willow Tit and Tree Pipit in the large clearing, but we did not see any.
Chappet's Copse is a wood not far from Old Winchester Hill (of White Throated Sparrow fame). It is best known for its large population of Sword Leaved Helleborine. I was concerned that we had left it a bit late, but there were several good spikes still left though most were going over. There were a few White Helleborines which made for an interesting comparison, and three or four Fly Orchids. Following guidance, and some help from a local dog walker we found three or four decent spikes of Birds Nest Orchid one of the chlorophyl free saprophytes. 
Wishing to avoid the motor-way problems we headed north through the Chilterns east of Oxford. The most prominent bird was the Red Kite-they seemed to be everywhere and we seemed to encounter one every few minutes. A far cry from our long journeys into Wales in the hope of finding one or two.
We finished up on the river Thames at Goring, hoping to find Club Tailed Dragonfly, a species that eluded us last year. Despite better conditions we failed again. Plenty of Banded Demoiselles and White Legged and Red Eyed Damselflies though.