Sunday, 13 June 2010

Orchids and Butterflies

The plan on Saturday was to go back to Whitecross Green and look for eh Black Hairstreaks. As the morning was a bit cool and cloudy we decided to hit a few other sites first.
Never been to Warburg near Henley, but we will be going back again, its a great place. Couple of Red Kites circling overhead as we got going, and a single Wood White fluttered past in the car park.

  Met one of the local visitors photographing some of the Common Spotted Orchids, and some of the other abundant flora and he gave us a few guidelines. Did not take long to get onto the first Greater Butterfly Orchid colony. Shame the nettles were at face hight. A Marsh Tit doing a good buzzy impersonation  of a Willow Tit was a bit of a bonus. It was stocking up on grubs, so a nest must have been nearby.

Not too far away we found a very nice area of short grazed turf full of Common Twayblades. Looked promising for snakes and lizards too, but could not find any-it was still a bit cool.

On the return leg, I searched a large area of Beech wood hoping to find Birds Nest Orchids, but without success. However, after a chat to the wardens in the centre, and a quick visit to see the Fly Orchids in the garden we eventually got onto a small colony. Compared to the ones we saw last year, these were a lot bigger and in more open woodland. We also found a single White Helleborine.

Thinking that the recent rain and warm weather would have helped with some of the downland species, we headed off to Noar Hill near Selbourne, with the interesting sight of a Honey Buzzard circling a wood on the way down.
Plenty of White Helleborines in the scrubby woodland, and Common Spotted and Common Fragrant Orchids were abundant. The Pyramida'ls were largely in bud and as it turned out, the Musk Orchids (among others) were yet to get going. Lots of Common Blue butterflies, as well as Small Heath and Large Skippers. A Dingy Skipper posed for us.

We eventually got to Whitecross Green mid afternoon, but worryingly the weather still looked a bit uncertain with plenty of cloud and a cool wind at times. On the way down to the main area, a female Red Deer was a bit of a surpirise-as it slipped back into the wood it flushed a Little Owl.We eventually got down to the mown section of the ride and sat down, not expecting anything to happen. However, during the brief sunny periods something like ten Black Hairstreaks could be seen at the top of the Blackthorn bushes and the small Oak trees. Occasionally one would come lower, but not into camera range. On our return, we bumped into several parties who had been concentrating on another area. This had a few Honeysuckle and Rose flowers for the Hairstreaks, but though they would come down to feed occasionally, it did not happen while we were there, and they were still too far away for the camera anyway.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Marmora's Warbler

After last years bonanza of lifers, this year has been pretty poor, with only the frustration of Lesser Kestrel dip. We were planning on a major Butterfly and Orchid trip for the weekend as the birding was getting a bit quiet. Plans change suddenly.
The news on Thursday of a Marmora's Warbler on territory in south Wales was exciting, but would it remain until the weekend, and suffering from some sort of virus would I make it. Yes to both, though I was not exactly awake for most of the journey.
We arrived just north of Blaenavon just after nine, to find a completely full car park, but we were able to park on the road. A steady stream of happy birders was a good sign, but by the time we got down to the lower car park, it was a different story. Apparently the warbler does a circuit and can go missing for quite a while. The sight of many so many Whinchat was good to see, as was a number of Tree Pipits and Ravens. Eventually, some movement at Colin's end of the crowd suggested the bird was showing. Apparently it had been singing behind an old wall, and when I arrived was in a stunted Hawthorn. Suddenly it dropped into a small patch of Gorse right in front of me.
It sang for a bit and then flew off. About twenty minutes later it reappeared in a Holly bush to our south before flying off to the hillside again. It remained on view for a while, though distant, then flew down to the roadside briefly, but I could not get the camera on it as it was largely hidden. It then perched on the wall again where it sang for some time.

While all this was happening, Colin had moved the car down to the lower car park saving a long unsteady walk back up the hill, and we departed just after eleven.

 I had decided to call in at RSPB Nags Head in the forest of Dean as it was in an almost direct line home.
A Spotted Flycatcher was the first decent bird, but it took a while to find a Pied Flycatcher, a male bird feeding on the path and perching on the fence. Towards the northern end of the reserve, a number of Wood Warblers were heard singing, and I managed to locate one high in a tree. Alarm calls did not register for a moment, and then a huge female Goshawk drifted over just above the tree.
The heath area was full of Green Tiger Beetles, but not much else was found until we encountered a small crowd watching a pair of Pied Flycatchers feeding young in a nest box.
The light was awful but I did manage to get a few images of the birds flying in and out.

Our final call was at Whitecross Green Wood where we hoped to see Black Hairstreaks. Unfortunately, though it was very warm and humid, it was very overcast. The only butterflies found were large numbers of Common Blues, and the Common Spotted Orchids were only just starting to flower.
The one stunning sight was a fresh Eyed Hawkmoth.