Friday, 29 June 2012

Scotland Saturday and Sunday

 First thing Saturday morning, I checked the tides for Inverness and discovered that we would be heading out around low tide-the Bottle Nosed Dolphins at Channory Point are usually present on a rising tide, so we decided to head there first particularly as it was cool and windy.
 It took a while but eventually four or five dolphins appeared on the horizon. They were feeding off Fort George where presumably the water was deep enough for them. We stuck it out for an hour but they stayed in the distance-the tide was pretty low and shoals were still present off Channory. While waiting we were entertined by a Grey Seal, some Hooded Crows a flyby Eider and many Arctic

 Eventually we headed off to Bienne Eigh, stopping off at a bridge in Strathconnon where we had seen Dipper previously. It was raining and although we waited for some time, birds failed to appear.

 The drive up to bienne Eigh was much more scenic than I remember-maybe it was the weather. We saw a few butterflies on the way-Green Vein Whites, as well as a couple of Grey Wagtails.

 We explored several areas on the shores of Loch Maree in the hope of picking up the various northern Dragonfly species but all we encountered was a single Golden Ringed in the  boggy area north of Bienne Eigh visitors centre, which  was full of Heath Spotted Orchids. No sign of any divers from any of the car parks-the views were pretty poor through the trees anyway, but we did get a flyby Dark Green Fritillary for our troubles.
 Gruinard Bay failed to produce any eagles, but we saw many Black Guillemots, Guillemots, Cormorants, Shags, as well as a couple of Red Throated and Black Throated Divers, and Red Breasted Mergansers. A few  orchids included some Fragrant and Common Spotted. I went down to the beach to pick up some rocks-the area is Lewisian Gneiss, just about the oldest to be found on the mainland.

 Sunday morning was pretty wet at times. No chnace of any dragonflies or butterflies. We spent a few hours exploring parts of Culbin Forest, aiming for some of the dune slacks that are found there. Bird life was pretty quiet, but the lichens mosses and ferns hepled to make up for it. As mentioned earlier, we failed to locate any Coral Root Orchids, but there were several areas where Creeping Ladies Tresses could be found. These were in bud.
 Lochindorb was also pretty wet, in fact we had never seen the streams so full. A family party of Red Grouse was nice to see, and we encountered a pair of Short Eared Owls hunting.

 We stopped off at Tore Hill where Colin had found a spot where Lesser Twayblade had been seen a few years earlier. We searched in the rain, but could not locate any. In view of the fact that a number of others had not seen these orchids in the area has led me to suspect they may have either gone over or had a poor year.
 We then headed down to Fort William, finishing the day at Loch Arkaig, one of the best Chequered Skipper sites. They were flying a month ago, so we did not expect to see any, but we did see a Small Pearl Bordered among the many Heath Spotted Orchids. A very brief Azure Hawker landed on Colin, but I was too slow with the camera-the only other dragonfly was the more ubiquitous Golden Ringed. The waterfalls near the gate were worth stopping for.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Scotland Friday

Starting to get the images processed.

After the overnight drive, and a kip in the car we arrived at a Black Grouse lek in Perthshire. We were last here in 1994 and found the birds around 1/2 mile south of the published location. Had a hard time getting our bearings because the area had changed a bit. The original spot seemed to be very overgrown  and much harder to see from the car-it did not look suitable at all so we headed off to the proper location. This did not look good at all, but luckily a local drove past and told us the lek had moved a bit further north, but the fields were waterlogged. Stayed for a bit but it did not look likely that birds would show in the rain so we headed off-a flyby juvenile Goshawk was a nice surprise.
 Our next location near Blairgowrie was for orchids. Bill Last had given me a few guides and we were hoping to see Coral Root and Lesser Twayblade here. However the site was badly overgrown with dense sedge and rush dominating the spot shown on his map. Some other areas looked better but a search did not come up with anything.
 Keltney Burn was our next destination. it turned out to be a great location for plants, with large numbers of orchids present. We found about half a dozen Small White Orchids, a few Heath Fragrant, as well as Butterfly, Northern Marsh, Heath Spotted and Common Spotted. The burn itself was a raging torrent after the recent rain. I did search a large area for other plants on Bill's maps but could not reach some of them. Spooked a couple of Roe Deer while negotiating a marshy section.

 Arrived at Loch Garten  around noon. the weather had dried up but there were few sunny spells. The big roadside pool now has a board walk-been a while since we had stopped here. Met up with a dragonfly enthusiast and after some time two Northern Damselflies appeared but nothing else was seen. Popped into the centre and after watching a feeding Common Lizard ticked off the Ospreys then went to the little pool outside. Lots of Large Red Damsels and what appeared to be a Keeled Skimmer-well out of range if it was but I cannot think what else it could be.
The two pools up the road held more enthusiasts watching an emerging White Faced Darter. Several males were also patrolling the pool.

 Tulloch Moor held several pairs of Whinchat, but the walk down to Loch Mallachie did not produce any dragonflies-Northern Emerald was possible. We encountered one Crested Tit in the woods, lots of Tree Pipit, Coal Tit and Siskin of course, as well as two parties of Crossbills. The first lot sounded much like the Commons I hear down here, while the second were rather deeper and sounded like Scottish.
 After checking in at the hotel and eating we called in at Loch Ruthven where several family parties of both Little and Slavonian Grebes were seen. As usual, a Wheatear was seen around the car park. An interesting raptor flew over-I first thought it was a Hen Harrier but as it got closer it was clearly a more robust bird, and we actually speculated on the possibility of Black Kite though the lighting was pretty bad and I could not get details apart from a shallow forked tail. Moulting Buzzard or Marsh Harrier would be more likely.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Back Home

 Arrived home from Scotland today. This is a quick follow up from the last post, photos and more details will follow later in the week.
 Following our trip to Bienne Eigh and Gruinard Bay on Saturday, the weather prospects did not look good for Sunday so we went back to Inverness as it gave us more flexibility. As it turned out I think it was a good move of sorts.
 Culbin Sands Sunday was damp and drizzly. No idea where the Coral Root orchids were but we tried several likely spots without success. Lots of Creeping Ladies Tresses in bud, and the many lichen and moss species was worth the visit. Lochindorb was cold and alternated between heavy rain and biting midges. Nothing on the Loch, but found several families of Red Grouse and a flyby Twite. Also encountered two Short Eared Owls presumably close to a nest. Ended up searching round Tore Hill for Lesser Twayblade but the location seemed too overgrown and none were found. More Crossbills calling.
 Moved down to Fort William and called in at Loch Arkaig. Too late for Chequered Skippers, of course, but found a single Azure Hawker and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary. Abundant Heath Spotted Orchids many being very pale or completely white.
 Monday we headed south to the Lakes. Stopped off at Honnister Pass. Weather poor-cool, low cloud and no Sun. No real hope for butterflies but we went up anyway. Met a fellow enthusiast at the top who had found many Mountain Ringlets despite the completely unsuitable conditions. Went with him and met up with others and we found at least a dozen-and some were even flying. Conventional wisdom for searching for this species appears to have gone out the window.
 Today we called in at Arneside Knott. Plenty of Dark Green Fritillaries but no High Browns. Raven family was nice too. We then went to Gait Barrows with it's fascinating Limestone Pavement. Signs still up for the Ladies Slippers but we were too late. However we found Northern Brown Argus, Grayling, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary and a single High Brown Fritillary. Lots of Common Spotted Orchids and a small number of Northern Marsh in the meadows.

 Decent trip, despite some failures as we managed to see a fairly high percentage of our target species.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Just a quick update so far- pics to follow when I get home Drove up thursday night through heavy rain and got to Perthshire not long after dawn. Pretty poor start-Black Grouse lek was very wet and did not see any birds apart from a juvenile Goshawk. Bills Coral root orchid site was not successful either, just got very wet. Better luck at Keltney Burn, found lots of orchids and other plants. Loch Garten Ospreys showed well and we got Northern Damsel and White Faced Darter. Several Crosbill species heard and one Crested Tit Today saw a few distant dolphins at Channory Point, then went to Bienne Eigh. Weather poor for insects, but no one I have met has seen much here anyway. Up to Gairloch and picked up Red and Black Throated Divers, various auks but no Eagles. Scenery nice in the rain though.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


A few days ago, I came across references to a site in Surrey at Wrecclesham where Glanville fritillaries had been introduced (not exactly authorised) and over ten year or so had grown into possibly the biggest colony in the UK.
The old disused sand quarry proved a bit tricky to get to as there was no obvious access and it took a couple of wrong decisions up narrow lanes before we decided that the best bet was to park at the rugby club and walk.
 It was a bit cool when we arrived, with a lot of cloud and nothing much happened for a while. We bumped into another first time visitor who had been present for a while and had a chat. I left them and wandered down into the quarry itself, thinking that it would be warmer and less breezy. The most obvious wildlife interest came from the very vocal Marsh Frogs which could be heard from a long way off. I found a few damselflies, my first Common Blue and Green Hairstreak for the year and another visitor wondering where the best spots were.
 Withy the sun coming out and the heat building up I returned to the higher ground where the abundant clover and ox eye daisies looked to be the best nectar sources and not long after I found the first Glanville and got fair images. I met up with Colin and the other guy who had seen a couple and over about half an hour we eventually saw about a dozen, including several pairs.
 I then took Colin down into the quarry where we had numerous Broad Bodied Chasers, a Beautiful Demoiselle, and about a dozen Bee Orchids. Glanvilles were   starting to appear along the track as well, and we met up with more visitors including a local who filled us in on the site. Apparently Heath Fritillary was introduced last year despite a conspicuous lack of Common Cow Wheat.

 We had a choice of going on to Frensham or Thursley Heath and the latter won out.
 A circuit of the moat produced numerous damselflies-Common Blue, Azure, Blue Tail, Large Red and red Eyed. Four Spotted Chasers were common and although it took some time we eventually found four or so Downy Emeralds.

 The walk onto the heath itself was not all that productive as bird life was a bit quiet-apart from a single Tree Pipit and a few Reed Buntings and Stonechats. One or two Hobbys were around. Due to the breeze insects were a bit hard to locate though a single Keeled Skimmer was seen. Several stands of orchids were found but most seemed to be Early Marsh, of the form pulchella much darker purple than my local pale pink incarnata.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Little Bittern

News broke on Tuesday of a female Little Bittern photographed at Stockers Lake on Sunday. Initial searches on Wednesday failed but it was relocated and showed   intermittently until early afternoon before flying down river. I had the car ready to leave from work early on Thursday but there was no news, ditto Friday so I was a bit surprised to hear that it had been relocated this morning.
 Despite feeling a bit rough I made my way down to the aquadrome and eventually got down to the river Colne and met up with numerous Herts birders. Ricky from Tyttenhanger had it's back in his scope and that was all we had for a long time as it moved off into the back of the reeds.
 After a long wait it reappeared under one of the willlows perched for a spell and then made it's way down to the base of the trees where we got very good close, but partly obscured views. It remained here for some time before flying into the reeds. I had moved downstream where Darryl had found a viewpoint but was too slow with the camera. For the next hour it fed in and among the reeds and often gave very good views largely in the open.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dragonflies and another Bee

 I had intended to go up to north Herts again this morning, to see the Turtle Doves at Ashwell and check the Deadman's Hill area for Quail. However with it being sunny and warm for once, I decided to go to Amwell as there was a good chance that dragonflies would be flying.
 The usual Sunday crowd was present as I arrived, but soon dispersed, so I headed off to Hollycross. Found a few Common Blue Damselflies on the way, and decent numbers of Red Eyes on the lily pads in Tumbling Bay.
 As soon as I arrived at Hollycross, I ran into someone I knew who mentioned that he had found some Brown Argus and a Bee Orchid. I assumed he had been around   to see the plants that are out of bounds but no, this was not far from the gate.

 Bit of a struggle with the 300mm+1.7 converter due to it's focussing distance.

 On the boardwalk, there were several people present and the Sunday crew also turned up. A few Azure Damsels were flying and a number of Four Spotted Chasers. Eventually we saw several Broad Bodied Chasers-only one blue one though and then Tony and John picked out a female Hairy Dragonfly-I had feared that I would be too late for this early flier. It was ovipositing at the back of one of the pools and had flown out of sight. However I made my way round and got decent views. I then realised that I was standing beside a 3 foot Grass Snake sunning itself. I called the others over but the vibrations of their feet was enough to disturb it and it went as they arrived. despite searching we never found it.

 A male Hairy was seen on the way back, but apart from a single Red Admiral I never saw any butterflies.
 Back at the watchpoint the main item of interest were the two juvenile Little Egrets not long out of the nest. Seems like there are several active nests in the Lea Valley this year.
 The Oystercatchers are still present, as are several Redshanks. Otherwise not much-it's the early summer period when things start to go quiet and the ducks start to moult.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Bee Orchid

Following last week's Kent trip, I got a call from my sister to say that they had found a bee orchid while walking Molly. I knew roughly where they had seen it, but thought it best to wait until they were in so I could go over with them.
Turned out to be quite a nice specimen, with two fully developed flowers and more to come. Not easy to get a good 'pose' due to it's location. Had a search of the surrounding area (Sarah and Ed have kept an eye out too) but no others were seen, but it looks like a good location.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Herts Orchids

Visited the extreme north east corner of Hertfordshire this morning as there are a few orchid sites I have not visited before.
 On top of Therfield heath is Fox Covert, a fairly young 19th C beech wood and an adjoining section of mixed beech and conifer planted for the Silver Jubilee in 1977.
 I went there for White Helleborine, expecting to find a small number, but in the end I think it is the best display I have found with very large numbers of plants. Even though a good 60+% have been eaten, there were still several hundred plants in pretty good condition.

 Nearby Church Hill where the Pasque Flowers are found did not have anything of note.

 Blagrove Common was hard to find but worth the effort. Large numbers of Early Marsh orchids are in flower, along with Southern Marsh (and many intermediate forms). A few Common Spotted Orchids were found too. The damp meadow looked spectacular, covered in buttercups and Ragged Robin.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend

Its Bank Holiday and the Jubilee weekend, so inevitably its cold and wet.

Saturday we took a snap decision to visit Kent as I had heard that Late Spider Orchids were coming into flower-we missed them the last few years. The only location I knew was Wye Downs, but I did not have any specific directions, but Colin had obtained a grid reference. We arrived at 0930 and found the wind to be rather strong, cold and very wet underfoot.
We walked down to the grid ref, finding a small colony of Common Fragrant Orchids on  a bank along a lane-there were a few Common Spotted coming into flower as well. Searching the location failed to find any sort of orchids, and none of the cages we expected to see for the Spiders. Several large stands of Deadly Nightshade were found though.
 After returning to the car we searched the hillside and I found many more fragrants, and eventually a single Bee Orchid. A couple of butterflies were seen-some Small Heath and a single Adonis Blue.

 Sunday was very wet, not ideal for the Jubilee Flotilla on the Thames but I stayed in to watch as there was little point going out.

 Today with better weather I spent the morning at Amwell. The cold northerly wind was not pleasant and we had several light showers too.
 Large numbers of Swifts feeding over the water-apparently 500 were counted, with similar numbers of House Martins and some Sand Martin and Swallows too.
 The Oystercatchers are still around, but the three chicks did not make it. Redshank are still displaying but wether anything will happen now is debatable-it seems a bit late. Lots of juvenile Herons too, though I don't think the Purple lookalike is around.
 Few raptors most of the morning but a few Buzzards, three Hobby and a few Kestrel and Kites did show eventually. The Hobbys were hunting the martins due to the lack of suitable insects