Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Broad Leaved Helleborine

Following on from Saturday's successful morning where I managed to see 25 species of butterfly, I had high hopes for our trip to Dorset on Sunday. Unfortunately, the weather forecast that I had seen was, to say the least inaccurate, and the sunny spells turned out to be cloudy, cool and breezy.
We started off at Ballard Down near Swanage, where I hoped to see the very local Lulworth Skipper, which like all Skippers like the Sun. A few butterflies were out, enjoying the expanse of Wild Marjoram, such as Meadow Brown and Common Blue, with single Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus. Even when the sun did appear briefly, we did not see any skippers. Colin did pick up a Wall Brown among the Meadows, but it did not linger, and apart from a few Painted Ladies and Commas on the brambles that was it. Maybe next time it will be warm and sunny.
We went to Bentley Wood, where despite the odd shower and dull conditions Painted Ladies and Silver Washed Fritillaries were flying. As expected from previous visits, there were many spikes of Broad Leaved Helleborine in flower.
In order to avoid the joys of the M25 we came home via the Chilterns not far from Tring where I hoped to see two other Helleborines-Narrow Lipped and Violet. The hill I chose from my guide, Pulpit Hill turned out to be a very heavily wooded iron age fort, not a good place for chalk down butterflies. Not all that good for orchids either as we failed to find any. The local and very vocal Red Kites circling over head were a nice distraction, but due to the heavy canopy I was unable to get any images.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Symonshyde Great Wood

At Symonshyde Great Wood this morning, I met up with Jim from Amwell. The clearing opposite the farm held many butterflies-Comma, all three whites and Peacocks being the most numerous. There were quite a few Speckled Wood, Painted Lady, Purple Hairstreak, and single White Admiral, Holly Blue, Red Admiral and White Letter Hairstreak. Our main target, Silver Washed Fritillaries took a long time to find, but in the end three, maybe four worn individuals were seen. Gatekeeper and Ringlet took the species total to fifteen.
Nearby, Jim showed me a Red Legged Partridge on a nest that he had found earlier in the week.
On the Pegsdon Hills, Common Blue butterflies were numerous, but it took a while to find Chalkhill Blues. Single Marbled White and my first Clouded Yellow for two years were a nice bonus. Overhead, a pair of Raven were joined by Red Kite and Buzzard.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


With the planned weekend trip for butterflies out of the window thanks to the wind and rain, I decided to pop into Amwell for a few hours this morning. Most of the morning was spent chatting-William had just come back from a Hebredian cruise with Basking Sharks, Minke and a host of great birds, and Phil had been in Madera where photographs of bats, petrels and orchids featured. Unfortunately William was just too late for the River Warbler at Applecross.
As many of us are into butterflies we discussed various sites in Hertfordshire and beyond, apparently Chalkhill Blues and Silver Washed Fritillaries are on the wing at the moment, so I will have to see what I can do next week.
The only birds of note were Common Sandpiper and a Little Ring Plover. Two Teal were among the moulting ducks, and Coot and Lapwing numbers were very high. After the frequent showers there were small flocks of House and Sand Martin over the water, as well as some Swifts and Swallows. Hobby seems to be scarce this year, and only one seems to be present at the moment.

Monday, 13 July 2009

After Friday's fun fighting off Purple Emperors, Saturday did not look all that promising for insects, so we decided to twitch the White Winged Black Ten at Fen Dreyton. Since we were last here, the RSPB has taken over and restricted access to the pits-a few years ago we were able to walk round the shore of one of the big lakes and found a lot of good birds, dragonflies etc. Today we have to view the lake from a footpath a long way from the shoreline.
When we arrived, the Tern was sitting on a spit with various other terns and waders, but flew off and spent a lot of time over a distant arm of the lake. At this point Two old friends, Derek and Sue from Rye Marsh reserve arrived. Luckily we were able to see the tern for some time before it appeared to fly off high to the south. It had in fact moved on to a different lake. Colin went to investigate and managed to get a few images of it before it flew back to its favoured stretch of water.
Derek suggested we visit a site in the brecks at Santon Downham, an area I had not been to for many years. We found the right clearing and explored hoping to pick up Woodlark. Well we heard them, but failed to see any-something that seems to be happening to me with this species these days. Several Tree Pipit were found and I managed to get a few images of one of them during it's parachute display.
There were a lot of butterflies here, mainly browns and skippers-the latter seemed to favour the stands of Wood Sage, as well as single Red Admiral and Small Copper.
Since we were nearby, I thought we ought to visit Thompson Common, where the pingos are the main place in Norfolk for Scarce Emerald Damselflies. We found lots of Emeralds, they were everywhere, but the only Scarce that I managed to see was a mated pair deep in the reeds.
Darters were starting to build up in numbers-Common and Ruddy seemed to be equally abundant, but there were few hawkers and chasers. Leaving the woods, we stumbled on a Marsh Tit which showed well, but the light was so poor I never got a good image.
Finally, we spent an hour at Weeting Heath, where after much perseverance, a Stone Curlew decided to walk up out of a hollow and show itself for a few minutes.

Friday, 10 July 2009

This young Green Woodpecker has been visiting over the last week, sometimes with an adult bird. Sometimes it gets very close to the kitchen window, but this is the first time I've been able to get a decent image.

Purple Emperor

Finished work rather early this morning, in order to visit Broxbourne Woods as the weather is due to go downhill over the weekend.
I met two people at the usual stake out who had not had a good morning, but decided to carry on up the ride. I met Bill, one of the Amwell regulars at the top, and after a chat we decided to visit one of the clearings I know. There were several Brown Hawker and Common Darter flying, but butterflies were scarce-the Agrimony is not yet in flower. Apart from Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Whites, the only ones of note were Comma's of the form Hutchinsoni and my first Gatekeeper of the year.
Things changed when we got back to the track when Bill saw a 'White Admiral' fly past and settle on some Holly. The wings opened and the purple iridescence flashed in the sunlight. Yesterday a male Purple Emperor had settled nearby for about twenty minutes, and this was probably the same one. Over the course of ten minutes, it kept flying around us, landing on our jeans and gave superb views on a damp section of the track.
A family joined us shortly before it flew off, and we continued around to the main ride investigating the pond and the open area of heath. Apart from Southern Hawkers, and family parties of Nuthatch, Long Tail Tits and Chaffinch it was pretty quiet.
Back on the main ride we spent a long time scanning the trees, picking up many Purple Hairstreak and a single White Admiral, being joined by several others, most of whom had managed to see an Emperor.