Monday, July 04, 2011

Weekend cruise

Dark-green Fritillary
We met up Friday evening for a BBQ with our mooring neighbours, who’d been out cruising for the week, at one of our favourite mooring spots, bridge 100 of the Oxford Canal.

The cruise down in the warm evening sunshine took around 90 minutes and had the usual selection of bird species, with Yellowhammer in good numbers and it looks like they’ve had an excellent breeding season. Lots of Butterflies too along the towpath with Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small and Large White and Small Tortoishell.

After an excellent evening I took the opportunity, if I’m being totally honest feeling a little hung-over, early Saturday morning to take a stroll along part of the old LNWR railway line. The old rail bridge is right next to our mooring and trains ran along this branch line from Weedon to Leamington Spa, with stops along the way at Napton & Southam, Stockton, Flecknoe and Long Itchington. The line closed to passenger traffic in the mid 60's but freight trains used it for a little while longer, it’s a superb place to explore and can throw up the odd surprise too!

Skylarks were in good song as I made my way along the old line with several Brown Argus and good numbers of Small and Large Skipper Butterfly very evident, along with Common Blue Damselfly and Southern Hawker Dragonfly. Birds of note included Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Tree Sparrow and a Red-legged Partridge took flight as I almost stepped on him.

On the return journey I took the path back towards the canal towpath arriving at Nethercote Bridge 101, taking the opportunity to photograph a number of summer plumage Linnets and various Butterflies, including a very good looking Dark-green fritillary. I spent a while on the bridge enjoying the early sunshine and watching the first boats pass under when I was suddenly aware of a purring noise I’d not heard in the UK for a number of years. Coming from deep within a field of crops, I’m not entirely sure of what crop, the distinct call of Turtle Dove!

Quite excited by my find I then spent the next 30 minutes trying to find a needle in a haystack, the crops were at least 6ft high. Notwithstanding I decided to track back around the towpath towards the old rail bridge and was rewarded by the sight of one of my favourite birds perched and calling from the power line. As I approached for the perfect photograph he was off, a couple of appalling record shots all I could muster.

Anyway my first local patch Turtle Dove and as Dee and I sat on the towpath a little while later having breakfast the bird returned twice to the same power line, unfortunately making off each time I approached with the camera!

On the cruise back to the marina on Sunday morning a Red Kite floated over at Flecknoe, followed shortly after by a Hobby, doing his level best in search for breakfast. Other notables for the weekend included; Adder, Common Shrew, Stoat and Common Frog!