Monday, 28 July 2014

Purbeck and the New Forest

With the kids breaking up for school and everyone deciding that Saturday had to be the day to travel, it was probably not the best idea to try and visit some sites on the south coast, but we went anyway. I wanted to go last weekend but the weather forecast did not seem all that good at the time so we held off until this weekend.
Luckily despite it being a hot sunny day, the journey down went very well with no delays and we got to Ballard Down before 10am. The heat was already quite high, but being so close to the coast it was not too bad and there was a slight breeze which helped a bit.
Compared to our previous visit a few years ago, the lower slope seemed to be very heavily grazed while there was a lot more tall grass in the small marjoram filled gully that runs up the slope from the main footpath. However the rest of the area we explored to the south east looked to be very good. There were reasonable numbers of Adonis Blues flying, plus a few Common and Chalkhill Blues, Brown Argus and a Small Copper. Browns consisted of large numbers of Meadows, some Marbled Whites Gatekeepers and a few Small Heaths. Four Clouded Yellows were a nice bonus as was a single Dingy Skipper, but the main reason for visiting, the Lulworth Skippers were much harder to locate, but eventually after about an hour we had seen three, one of which posed during a brief cloudy spell.

We left Ballard Down at 1100, and made our way back through Wareham and Poole passing long queues of traffic as we headed to the New Forest.
I had heard that one of the best areas for Scarce Blue Tailed Damsels is currently Ober Water, an area that was new to me. This species has eluded us at every site we have tried in the New Forest and I have yet to obtain any images-the last time I saw one was a long while back and I did not have my camera with me at the time.
Looking at the maps, and seeing how busy the area around the car parks were, we headed south west of the road and explored a promising area-talking to someone later this was the best bit to search. Right by the road, a fine male Redstart was calling from a small tree just above our heads, and it was not long before we encountered hoards of Beautiful Demoiselles and Keeled Skimmers. Large and Small red Damsels were plentiful and we also found several Golden Rings and  Common Darters. Blue Damsels were scarce-two pairs of Azure, one Common Blue and no blue tails of any kind. We had a Cuckoo flying around for a bit, and flushed a Woodcock which was a year tick, and later when we reached Ober Water itself, a Kingfisher flew through.
Butterflies were a bit hard to find, but we saw a few Silver Studded Blues, Meadow Browns Gatekeepers and Brimstones.
Having failed in our search for the Scarce Blue Tails we called in at Crockford Bridge. One Grayling by the road did not linger, and neither did a Dark Green Fritillary. Plenty of Keeled Skimmers, Golden Rings and Demoiselles  and the only Blue Damsels were the expected Southerns. Not sure why but again no Blue Tails of any kind could be found. Apart from the usual Silver Studded Blues, Gatekeepers and Skippers, the only interesting insects were Grasshoppers. At the car park we heard what I first assumed was a singing Grasshopper Warbler, but later discovered that the sound was coming from every bush and small tree. Never did locate anything but I am assuming that they were one of the larger Bush Crickets.
On our way home we made a detour and called in at Bentley Woods. Unfortunately it had clouded over and apart from plentiful Brimstones and skippers there was only a single Silver Washed Fritillary and one Southern Hawker flying. One or two Purple Emperors and Purple Hairstreaks had been seen recently but not for a few days.

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