Monday, 23 May 2016


After a two week break it was good to get out and about yesterday-last weekend was a dead loss, a cold and hay fever is not the best combination.
I didn't fancy anything long distance, so the Dalmatian Pelican in Cornwall and the Lammergeier that hasn't exactly been pinned down in Dartmoor were non starters. The long staying Great Spotted Cuckoo on Portland was possible (though the Black Billed Cuckoo that was found on North Uist yesterday would have been even better, but not exactly doable in a day on my restricted budget).
So we decided to do the usual spring trip to Hampshire for butterflies and see what turns up. The trip down was ok but the news of the (presumed) Dutch Stilt Sandpiper at Pennington was tempting, but I had left some of my birding kit behind in order to travel light, and having seen a superb breeding bird many years ago there was no real need to divert.
We initially called in at Noar Hill, with rather worrying thick cloud and cool damp conditions and we weren't expecting to see much and so I just took my new 135mm Zeiss lens and the Nikon PN-11 extension tube with a view to get some orchid images. I stuck the 35mm lens in my pocket as well just in case something suitable came up.
We parked, as we have done recently at the west end, and it was a short but slippery muddy walk to the quarry. Not a lot in here so we didn't linger. The Cowslips were still looking pretty good, though a lot were going over (my garden ones peaked well over a month ago) and the few Early Purple Orchids were past their best. A few on the north facing slopes still looked good and there were a few really huge examples. I spent a bit of time trying and failing to get a good image of the abundant Milkwort and in the process disturbed a pair of Duke of Burgundys. Because it was still cool one soon settled down and was very approachable.

 As we climbed the hill, exploring one or two areas new to us the Sun tried to break through and it got a bit warmer.This brought out a few Dingy Skippers and Small Heaths. Common Spotted Orchid rosettes were seen here and there, and the Common Twayblades are starting to look good. We headed down to the south east gate (with some difficulty as the vegetation has grown substantially over the last three or four years). The wood edge here had been cut back a few years ago, to the detriment of the fine start of White Helleborines-my last search failed to locate any. The subsequent regrowth has helped, but the massive increase in nettles and Mercury, coupled with the rather late spring meant that the few plants I could locate were not looking good. Two were in bud, and the remaining four or five spikes appeared to be blind.
One bonus while I was surveying the area was that Colin picked up a Green Hairstreak. This posed for the 135mm/PN-11 combination (the first field test) but the limited focus travel took some getting used to. Might have been a bit better had I took the 100mm macro instead, but I think the results speak for themselves.

We picked up a few more Burgundys on the way back-maybe six all morning, a couple more Dingy Skippers and Small  Heaths and a pair of Green Hairstreaks.
Very little from a birding point of view unfortunately. Turtle Doves have been heard on previous visits-none today. One vocal Garden Warbler, a few Yellowhammers and Whitethroats, and some tits were seen, plus a few Swallows by the cottages.
With the poor showing of the Helleborines it did not seem worth calling in a Chappett's Copse so we went to Bentley Wood. The car parks were full, so we had to park off the road, it had really clouded over and showers were on the way so we didn't say long. The recently cleared area north of the stream was the most productive with lots of Bugle flowering-the southern side seems to be getting more overgrown. Did not take long to find the first of maybe four Pearl Bordered Fritillaries but they were very mobile and only one settled for a brief spell.

Walking north failed to produce the expected Tree Pipits in the usual clearing, so I spent a bit of time on one of the spurges and a rather small moth which I have yet to identify.

The showers arrived shortly after this so we called it a day. Got home to discover it had remained warm and dry all day, and the resident Holly Blue (plus a White) had been in the garden most of the time.

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