Wednesday, August 16, 2017

📖 Diary Update #45

21C Wednesday 15th August 2017 ~ Staying local today I began with a tour of the marina grounds before heading off across the canal to Napton Reservoir. Six Swallows resting up on the wires enjoying the morning sunshine and a distant 'cronk' of Raven. There is still a small amount of Reed Warbler inhabiting the reed beds and along the banks the hawthorn, elder berries and blackberries are ripening up, producing plenty of feeding activity. Mostly young Chiffchaff but Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat & Blackcaps can also be found. Those that still have feeders on the go are enticing the usual hoards of Goldfinch & House Sparrows.

Yesterday evening I counted around thirty or so Pied Wagtails around the pontoons, no sign of any Yellow Wagtails thus far, which generally join up around this time of year.

Record image of Common Redstart
Napton Reservoir, which is currently near capacity held the usual Coot-fest (50+ today), four Tufted Duck and the small population of Great Crested Grebe. A Kingfisher flyby was nice to see, less common here than a few years back and the best of the rest included: Whitethroat, Sparrowhawk, Raven over and juvenile Common Redstart, which was preening along the fences in the sheep field. Migrant, Brown and Southern Hawker dragonflies were all on the wing, along with Common & Ruddy Darter.

One of two Spotted Flycatchers directly over the car!
Napton Hill was reasonably quiet with two Spotted Flycatchers in the gully. A distant Wheatear on the Highland Cattle paddocks was a bonus, thanks to Richard Mays for the phone call and amazingly another two Spotted Flycatchers were literally over the top of my car when I returned, which I'd strategically parked under a tree!

Spotted Flycatcher

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

📖 Diary Update #44

23C Tuesday 15th August 2017 ~ I was inches away from damaging a Muntjac Deer, which ran out in front of me as I was entering RSPB Otmoor, Oxfordshire this morning.

Sadly ~ My best effort for Brown Hairstreak!
Although it was a little early in the day I decided to begin my search for Brown Hairstreak butterflies walking north along the bridleway adjacent to the MOD land. I spent around a half hour with no luck, most of the movement, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Darters and  Speckled Woods. Jim and Carol Timms arrived a short while later and we decided to check out other areas of the reserve, before returning mid-morning. Although successful on our second attempt with two, they remained pretty elusive!

An excellent visit during the remainder of our stay with at least 20+ Red Kites, mainly following a tractor cutting the grassland on 'Big Otmoor' and around a dozen or so Buzzard. Two Common Cranes were across on 'Greenaways' to the north and a Hobby hunting along with at least four Kestrel. Not many waders to be found with Greenshank heard Curlew and a flyby Green Sandpiper. Taking the bridleway west past the hide towards Noke and turning left at the pump station produced the amazing sight of five Whinchats along the farm fence! Although just looking at my grainy distant images one, in fact, could well be a Stonechat!! On route back for the hairstreaks, Carol picked out the first of two Clouded Yellows seen today, as it whizzed past in their normal fashion!

Excellent numbers of Adonis Blue at Yoesden!
After Otmoor a drive out to Yoesden Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire. This was my first visit here, a wonderful little gem of chalk grassland slope filled with wild flowers. Almost immediately we were into several Adonis Blue butterflies, along with similar numbers of Chalkhill Blue.

♂ ♀Chalkhill Blue
The second of two Clouded Yellows while here and other species noted during the visit included: Brown Argus, Small Heath, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Common Blue and Meadow Brown.

Stunning blue of the Adonis!

*Apologies for the slight focus issues on my images today which appear to look slightly off!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

📖 Diary Update #43

🌨15C Wednesday 9th August 2017 ~ After completing a few indoor repairs aboard the boat this morning I decided to take advantage of a break in the weather for a quick trip to Napton Reservoir!

To be honest I was hoping more for a Whinchat or trying to finally get to grips with an illusive Common Redstart, which has been around for a while! A group of gulls were passing overhead and in amongst them a couple of Terns, probably Common but I was a little perturbed that I hadn't managed to get a proper ID, you just never know.

However, I shouldn't have been too disappointed as a short while later a second group dropped down! It was one of those moments when you just know your into something special and one bird, in particular, took the eye! I only had my Canon SX50 with me so no chance of a photo but I'm really glad to have had the presence of mind to take some video. I'd seen a Sabine's Gull at Draycote water a few years back and just wish I'd have done the same!

Sabine's Gull ~ Napton Reservoir
Anyway don't get too excited as the video, like the bird, is extremely brief and the camera and I were all over the place! That said you'll probably get the best features of the bird by stop/starting it. I've also posted the above still I extracted from the video!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

📖 Diary Update #42

🌨13C Tuesday 8th August 2017 ~ Draycote water, only a fifteen-minute drive from the marina and somewhere I should really visit more often. The weather today resembled something more akin to October with steady rain, the wind from the north and only a chilly 13C!

Egyptian Goose ~ In among the Greylag flock
After an initial scan, lots of Hirondines and Common Swifts low over the water, I began with a walk past the sailing club and windsurfing area, stopping short of Hensborough Bank. Here fourteen Common Terns resting up and in among the Greylag flock a single Egyptian Goose. At least three Little Egret across towards the valve tower and out towards the centre, three Common Scoter could be made out in the gloom, thanks to ranger Cleo for the heads up 👍

Ringed Plover at Rainbow Corner
I met up with Bob Hazell along Draycote Bank just as a Kingfisher flew through but just missing a Black-tailed Godwit, which Bob managed a photo of. With the rain a little heavier now I decided to drift back with Bob, adult and juvenile Ringed Plover at rainbow corner as we headed off. Only other species of note was a Common Sandpiper on the windsurfing area before we reached the centre.

One of four Turnstone at Farborough Spit
After Bob departed I took a walk along Farborough Bank as far as the 'Spit' in what was now pretty heavy rain. It was worthwhile though, the 'Spit' producing four Turnstone, Dunlin and another Ringed Plover! Other species of note during my stay: Yellow-legged Gull & Grey Wagtail.

Monday, August 07, 2017

📖 Diary Update #41

17C Monday 7th August 2017 ~ Stayed on the local patch today, beginning at Napton-on-the-Hill and then a good trawl of the marina grounds later in the afternoon.

One of eleven Spotted Flycatchers on the patch today!
I checked the usual hotspots at Napton and was amazed to come across eleven Spotted Flycatchers in total! I'm certain of two families but purely down to the distance of each group I wouldn't be surprised if there were actually three.

Common Buzzard ~ One of the local birds
Quite a bit of Buzzard activity with youngsters circling overhead calling constantly, but unusually no sign of any local Ravens today. During my walk a good passage of Swifts overhead, already on their way back south and who can blame them, what a pants summer!

A large oak tree yielded a very vocal Nuthatch and at least two Green Woodpeckers were active. Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff of note around the church grounds before I headed off to the post office for coffee and cake!

House Martin during the feeding frenzy!
Fully refreshed what greeted me back at the marina was a hive of birding activity! Firstly, I noticed at least 100+ House Martins along the phone wires and in the treeline. Then, as I continued my walk along the west bank it appeared that an insect irruption had brought in various numbers of Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and had even drawn out the Reed Warblers!

Long-tailed Tit enjoying the bugfest
The local House Sparrows were also having a field day and even a half dozen Pied Wagtails were in on the act!

One of a number of Willow Warbler

Later in the evening a Barn Owl, now frequently being seen around the grounds was active once more and the local Tawny Owls are occasionally beginning to call.

Friday, August 04, 2017

📖 Diary Update #40

21C Friday 4th August 2017 ~ A visit to Brandon Marsh, managing to avoid the showers during the duration of my stay!

Sadly this post will deal mostly with the negatives of Brandon Marsh, which if I was making a list seems to be growing by the day! I visit the reserve regularly as my reader will know, birding mostly but in the summer months seeking out butterflies, Odonata and other amazing flora and fauna that can be found in the reserves diverse habitat.

I've also been volunteering at Brandon Marsh for over 10 years now, and yes in recent times less so, but my commitment to the site and passion for its wildlife remains. Sadly over many months now I've seen first hand a major change taking place. It would seem to me that the owners of the site, 'Warwickshire Wildlife Trust' have completely lost sight of what an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) actually stands for! Sites of special scientific interest ( SSSIs ) are protected by law to conserve their wildlife or geology. I see nothing in the trusts recent initiatives that identify the desire to conserve the reserve's wildlife or geology! What I do see is the increasing desire to promote activities throughout the whole reserve which to my mind is only having a distinct impact on the site's wildlife and its habitat.

For me today was simply the straw that broke the camels back! While completing my usual walk around the 'Tip' area, River Meadow and the Farm Field, an excellent area for butterflies, Odonata and bugs my attention was drawn to a noisy group of youngsters. The youngsters, who I am not blaming first hand for the disruption, were crashing through and trampling the long grass and encroaching into the woodland (unsupervised at this point) in an attempt, as I later found out, to hide from members of the trusts education team in what can only be described as a kind of children's war games! Indeed as I continued my walk a second group, faces blacked and dressed in combat gear were also encountered. In an incident a few months ago a similar group, dressed in combat gear came crashing into East Marsh and Teal Pool hides after noisily running up the central marsh path. What possible educational value (wildlife related) this has for the youngsters I'm at a loss to understand.

The areas in question also contain Barn Owl boxes, Tawny Owl boxes and general nesting boxes. More recently I have personally moved family groups picnicking on an area which contained several Bee Orchids, prevented people from walking their dogs (off lead) and in one case stopped a full blown (jumpers for goalposts football game) taking place! In another incident a Pyramidal Orchid, the only example on the reserve was dug up!

The reserve has no designated ranger/warden and it's left for a few members of the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team to actually police the reserve as and when they visit. I've no doubt that the education team at Brandon do an excellent job with schoolchildren and other groups in developing and encouraging future Chris Packham's but surely a decision needs to be made by the management of the trust: Is Brandon becoming a Country Park: An area designated for people to visit and roam unchecked, while enjoying recreational activities in a countryside environment or will it fulfil it's commitment to policing and maintaining a Site of special scientific interest for the benefit of its wildlife? 

This is what Brandon Marsh is really about!

One of two Painted Lady on the 'Tip' area yesterday!

A fresh looking Brimstone on Lesser Burdock

A freshly emerged Migrant Hawker

Friday, July 28, 2017

📖 Diary Update #39

17C Friday 28th July 2017 ~ I joined Jim Timms this morning just before 9 am at Ryton Woods. Jim wanted to try for White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, a species which has thus far this year eluded him, while my target was a Wood White, needless to say we failed on both 😖

One of a few slightly worn Silver-washed Fritillary
That said we enjoyed a nice stroll around Ryton before the cloud and drizzle set in around midday, meeting up with John Osborne from Brandon and his wife Di during our stay. The two Elm trees we specifically identified to search for White-letter Hairstreak did in fact yield a couple of Purple Hairstreak, so all was not lost!

Straw Dot
🦋 Eleven species of butterfly noted with a few day flying moths, including the above Straw Dot. Dragonflies included: Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker and Common Darter, with both Azure and Common Damselfly also recorded.

Holly Blue ~ Best of the day!
Best of the day was this Holly Blue, a year first for me!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

📖 Diary Update#38

19C Tuesday 25th July 2017 ~After an aborted attempt to visit RSPB Frampton Marsh last week (car issues) I finally managed to complete my trip today arriving shortly after 8:30 am.

First birds of the day were five Snipe, which flew over the car park as I was getting organised. A couple of Green Sandpiper, a good sized Linnet flock, Skylarks overhead, Reed Warblers along the reedbeds and a half dozen Ruff in various plumages before I settled into the hide.

One of three Spotted Redshank today..
Some spectacular flocks of Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin, once again in various plumages and just within camera range a moulting Spotted Redshank. At least 30+ Common Terns, which included a good percentage of young birds, two Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint and a selection of other waders: Ringed Plover, Little-ringed Plover, Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Lapwing.

Whooper Swan ~ Not a bird you see every day during the summer months.
Over towards the east bank a group of three Spoonbill, fast asleep and indeed remaining so during the rest of my visit. The long staying Whooper Swan was also active, mostly preening.

Many Ruff in various plumages
From the hide, an anti clockwise walk to the sea wall, stopping occasionally to check out the scrapes. A couple of Hare, more Ruff and a single Wood Sandpiper, which was unfortunately flushed due to some ongoing brush cutting. Across the wet grassland to the west the only Marsh Harrier of the day and a group of five Greenshank in the channels!

Record Shot of Pectoral Sandpiper
A large gathering of birders is always a good sign, this one along the sea wall and all enjoying good views of a Pectoral Sandpiper! I enjoyed some decent scoped views myself but only managed some appalling record shots! While enjoying the cat and mouse antics of the Sandpiper, which constantly moved in and out of the long grass a Yellow Wagtail became the latest addition to the daylist and a Whimbrel another, dropping in among a group of Godwits.

After a good look at the Pectoral and a chat with a few other birders, I continued on and had lunch in the East Hide. While here a small movement of Swifts with Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin also noted.

Corn Bunting along the reedbed trail...
After lunch a pleasant stroll around the reedbed trail, which produced the usual Yellowhammers, along with Whitethroat, three Corn Buntings and a Grasshopper Warbler, which despite singing well remained elusive.

Year first Migrant Hawker
🦋  Despite the dry conditions, not too many butterflies or dragonflies on the wing, only managing Large White, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies, plus a single Migrant Hawker dragonfly, a year first for me....

Thursday, July 20, 2017

📖 Diary Update #37

⛅  Thursday 20th July 2017 ~ Thought I'd give the local patch a look today, with a good search of the marina, Napton Hill and Napton Reservoir!

Excellent year for ~ Reed Warbler
It's been another excellent year at the marine for Reed Warblers, with several broods noted flitting around the reeds and even now birds are singing, often through the night, in truth a little annoying when we happen to be moored right next to the reeds. However, this is easily remedied by turning the boat around for the duration so that the bedroom is furthest away 😴

Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat is another of the marina's regular nesting birds, but thus far, despite birds singing regularly, no sign of any fledgelings.

Spotted Flycatchers back at Napton
Napton-on-the-Hill was particularly quiet with only a distant view of a Common Redstart across the fields, plus a couple of local Ravens. However, just as I was giving up hope of seeing the first Spotted Flycatchers of the year a group of noisy individuals in the tree canopy got my attention. In fact a family group of at least four youngsters, along with the parent.

Black-tailed Skimmer
Napton Reservoir produced two Common Terns, Yellow Wagtail and as per usual Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly's seemed abundant.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Diary Update #36

☀️ Monday 17th July 2017 ~ I've not had much chance recently to get out a little further afield so decided it was time to make amends. With the Bee-eaters at East Leake, Nottinghamshire still in residence and the sun set to shine I thought why not!

One of four Bee-eaters at East Leake
I have to say that of the few 'twitches' I've attended this one was very well organised! Five quid for the car parking (split between RSPB and the farmer apparently) and once pointed in the right direction a 15-minute hike has you at the viewing area! Today only around 15 or so were there to witness this rare UK treat. Four birds were showing very nicely, although at distance and happily feeding, returning to the same preferred tall tree and offering some record shots for posterity!

Another record shot!
On the trek back to the car park a Lesser Whitethroat in song and at least three Yellow Wagtails, although I suspect there were more.

White Admiral to the year list!
Where to next? With the sun still shining and plenty left of the day a quick plot on my GPS had me heading for Fermyn Woods Country Park, Northants in search of Purple Emperor butterfly! A couple of enjoyable hours here and a nice selection of butterflies and dragonflies. Unfortunately, despite some tree top sightings of Purple Emporer I never managed to find a ground dwelling one for that record shot.

Silver-washed Fritillary
Still, 18 species of butterflies is a decent haul, including White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary and Purple Emporer to add to the year list!

Southern Hawker at Fermyn Woods

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Diary Update #35

☔  Sunday 16th July 2017 ~ Visits to Brandon Marsh last Friday and today and frankly with the amount of disruption both on the pools and in the reedbeds, which seems to occur daily these days, I'm always surprised to find anything of interest during my visits to the hides! This is one reason why I've adopted the idea of bypassing them in favour of exploring the woods and meadows that Brandon's diversity provides.

Small Copper ~ River Meadow
Friday, despite cloudy skies I managed a nice selection of butterflies and moths, particularly around River Meadow, where a single Purple Hairstreak was along the treeline.  The meadow itself provided the usual array of Meadow Brown and Ringlet butterflies. Five Small Copper but no sign on this occasion of any Marbled White, doing so well this year. Gatekeepers are in abundance now and another butterfly seemingly doing well, Red Admiral, with 15 sightings throughout the reserve!

Shaded Broad-bar
I'm spending more time seeking out moths, for me a real learning curve and came across Common Carpet and Shaded Broad-bar, feel free to correct my ID at any time! Both Six-spot Burnet and Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet could be found along the 'Tip', plus several Cinnabar. Dragonfly's included: Brown Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer and both Ruddy and Common Darter.

Gorgeous Broadleaf Helleborine

Today, no surprise to find East Marsh pool disrupted once more, ringing birds seem to take priority, to the detriment of any visitor but to be honest, my visit was mainly to catch up with the Sunday regulars! After a brief spell in East Marsh hide a walk over to the 'Tip' area and River Meadow.

Broadleaf Helleborine ~ Lovely shade loving Orchid!
On route, a look at a nice specimen of Broadleaf Helleborine, so often bypassed by visitors and despite the rain now falling, a couple of Common Blues on the 'Tip', possibly 2nd generation and a welcome find (pretty scarce on the reserve this year!)

Green Lacewing
Purple Hairstreak once more along the River Meadow treeline and an opportunity to photograph a Green Lacewing near the Farm reedbed ended another frustrating visit!

Purple Hairstreak ~ River Meadow

Monday, July 10, 2017

Diary Update #34

⛅   Sunday 9th July 2017 ~ A nice cruise back to our home mooring on Sunday evening after an enjoyable stay out on the canal.

Grass Snake ~ Amazing swimmers!
On the cruise home Dee managed a nice photo of a Grass Snake swimming alongside the boat.

⛅   Monday 10th July 2017 ~ I decided on a visit to Brandon Marsh today, arriving a little after 10:30am. As per usual these days I spend little time in the hides, preferring to tour the woods and meadows, which are less disrupted!! Despite the overcast conditions there was still plenty on offer and after passing through Horsetail Glade, where I encountered a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, I took time out at the bench. Scanning the surrounding vegetation I was a little surprised to find a White-letter Hairstreak, not in the best condition I might add but a species I've not encountered in this area before.

White-letter Hairstreak opposite the Horsetail Bench!
From here a walk to the Ted Jury hide with stops at East Marsh and Teal Pool hides along the way. As predicted nothing too much of note, four Common Terns and two recently fledged Little-ringed Plover the best on offer!

Juvenile Grey Wagtail 
On route across to the 'Tip' area a juvenile Grey Wagtail along Goose Tail posed kindly for a few photos. The 'Tip' had plenty to offer with at least four Six-spot Burnet moths, a trio of Mint Moths and my first Brandon Gatekeepers, baring in mind I haven't visited for a few weeks!

Six-spot Burnet moth
I bypassed River Meadow on this occasion (too breezy), instead continuing on around the farm area and top reedbeds. Still plenty of Marbled White butterflies, enjoying a bumper year it would seem but yet again not a single Common Blue, sadly the other end of the spectrum!!

One of a trio of Mint Moths

Sneaky peek at a young Dunnock