Saturday, June 23, 2018

πŸ“– #42 ~ Harbury Spoilbank

☁️21C Saturday 23rd June 2018 ~ Harbury Spoilbank: Created from the construction of the Leamington to Oxford railway in the 1840s, the lias clay spoil banks now host a species-rich grassland dotted with cowslip, early forget-me-not and hairy violet, with wild strawberry, yellow-wort and hoary plantain.

The primary reason for today's visit ~ Dark-green Fritillary Butterflies.

After my short break this week I hadn't actually planned to do much this weekend but a phone call from Jim Timms Saturday afternoon changed my plans.

Dark-green Fritillary ~ Harbury Spoilbank
Jim was telling me about some Dark-green Fritillary butterflies he'd just been photographing at the relatively nearby Harbury Spoilbank, a small nature reserve managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. As I had a little food shopping to complete in Southam the reserve is only a further 10-minutes drive.

Dark-green Fritillary
By the time I arrived the sun had in fact disappeared due to some high cloud but butterflies were still on the wing and thankfully I managed at least six Dark-green Fritillary. There was also a good population of Marbled White, along with Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper and my first Six-spot Burnet Moths of the year.

Six-spot Burnet

Dark-green Fritillary

Friday, June 22, 2018

πŸ“– #41 ~ RSPB Frampton Marsh

☀️22C Friday 22nd June 2018 ~An overnight stay in Boston gave me the opportunity to start early and spend the day at RSPB Frampton Marsh before heading off home. This is one of my favourite reserves, which, unlike other reserves I could mention is very well managed, and always seems to produce the goods.

It was another glorious day weatherwise, the wind, such a feature over the last few days, finally easing off. I began my walk by taking the Grasslands Trail, which leads you firstly through low trees and Hawthorn, Lesser Whitethroat heard while along here, before opening out by the road, where the residing Turtle Doves seem to spend most of their time. It was actually very frustrating! I could hear at least two birds but they spent the whole time calling from deep within the rapeseed field, refusing to materialise!

Broad-bodied Chaser
Back onto the trail, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Yellow Wagtail but there was plenty on offer away from the birding. Two Brown Hares over the grassland and my first Small Skipper butterflies and Common Darter Dragonflies of the year. This along with Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, plus Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, the latter producing a total count of eight.

Record image of Red-necked Phalarope which stayed pretty distant!
I'd just about reached the seawall when news came through of a Red-necked Phalarope on the pools over towards the 360 Hide. Greenshank and Marsh Harrier across the saltmarsh and a Little Gull fishing just as I reached the road down to the centre, where I could see a small group of birders marking the spot. The Phalarope was in with a small group of Black-tailed Godwit, which looked pretty stunning themselves in summer plumage, and preferred unfortunately to keep its distance, but as I said earlier Frampton always produces and here was the evidence.

I continued on after the Phalarope, rejoining the sea wall and completed the circuit of the reserve taking in all hides. The strangest sighting was at the East Hide, where a lone Pink-footed Goose was sat on one the Islands, strange in itself but this bird sported a large blue neck collar, with numbers I couldn't make out, pretty over the top actually! From here I managed to locate one of the apparent four Spoonbills on site today, asleep as normal tucked into the reeds.

As you'd expect at this time of year wader species were in smaller numbers but further sightings of note today included a second Little Gull, Curlew, Oystercatcher, single Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed PloverLittle Egret and 20+ Common Terns.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

πŸ“– #40 ~ Kilnsea and Spurn

⛅️ πŸ’¨ 21C Thursday 21st June 2018 ~ After an overnight stay at Bempton on Wednesday night, I drove the 90-minutes or so down to Kilnsea Wetlands Nature Reserve and Spurn. This was my first visit to the area since the December 2013 Storm surge. The sea rose that night by 2 meters on top of a high tide, washing the temporary road away! The natural event resulted in Spurn being cut off from the rest of Holderness and on certain high tides it is now the Uk's newest tidal Island.

View from where the Wash-Over area begins at Spurn
The primary reason for today's visit ~ To see first hand the change in geography at Spurn and visit the Little Tern colony at Beacon Ponds.

My first stop was at Kilnsea Wetlands Nature Reserve and after parking up, I made my way around to the hide. Although It was a pretty windy day and of course the longest day too it was what I would class as a typical English summers day.

Sandwich Tern heading out to fish
From the hide, a number of Sandwich Terns were resting on the Islands, occasionally heading out to sea for fish. A mixture of adult and juvenile Black-headed Gulls were in good numbers and a single Mediterranean Gull was noted, the only waders of note were Little Egret and Avocet.

Brown Hare along the track
After a while in the hide, I made my way around towards Beacon Ponds, encountering a Brown Hare and Roe Deer along the route. Reed Warblers were singing along the banks and plenty of Reed Bunting activity too.

Little Tern
Although there's obviously no access to the Little Tern colony good views can be achieved from the opposite side from the beach, just a short walk around the lagoon. From my position, the colony seemed to be doing well, with well over 50 or so birds along the beach nesting area. Occasionally one bird in particular would fish close by offering the chance for some flight shots. Just a few waders to be found with a group of six Dunlin and Ringed Plover in flight.

Plenty of Little Tern activity
After Kilnsea I drove around to the new Spurn Discovery Centre for lunch. Later on I walked along to see first hand the geographical change to the area. It was plain to see the Wash-Over with the lighthouse and lifeboat centre cut off and way off in the distance. That said it is possible to walk across, provided of course you check the tides! Bird-wise it was pretty quiet, a party of six summer plumage Golden Plover the best on offer. A brief stop at the church field to see the Turtle Dove, I heard it calling alright but couldn't quite connect before I headed off for tonights stay in Boston.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

πŸ“– #39 ~ RSPB Bempton Cliffs

☀️☁️20C Wednesday 20th June 2018 ~ A late afternoon visit to RSPB Bempton Cliffs in the East Riding of Yorkshire. With the wife away in France I've taken the opportunity to have a few days birding a little further afield.
The primary reason for today's visit ~ Breeding seabirds, including Gannet, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake and Fulmar.

Juvenile Gannet from today's visit
The hard chalk cliffs at Bempton rise are relatively resistant to erosion and offer lots of sheltered headlands and crevices for nesting birds. The cliffs run about 6 miles (10 km) from Flamborough Head north towards Filey and are over 330 feet (100 m) high at points. The cliffs at Bempton are some of the highest in England. Beachy Head in East Sussex is the highest at 530 feet (160 m)

Perfect conditions for flight shots!
I arrived at Bempton just after 3pm after dropping Dazza off at Luton airport 4 hours earlier. Although the weather was quite bright on route when I arrived there was a brisk wind and some threatening clouds just offshore. It was, in fact, perfect conditions for flight shots with many birds just hanging in the wind at eye level. Particularly Gannet of all ages, which were putting on a fantastic show of aerobatics.

As you would expect the cliffs were awash with breeding birds including large numbers of Gannet and Kittiwake, plus many Guillemot and Razorbill. However, Puffin and Fulmar were in smaller numbers. It was a really enjoyable visit and although we all know Gulls taking young is all part of the cycle of life in the birding world, witnessing several young birds being taken during my stay is still heart-rending!

Razorbill showing its yellow mouth interior.
Other species of note during an excellent few hours included displaying Meadow Pipit, Tree Sparrow and Whitethroat.


Tree Sparrow




Sunday, June 17, 2018

πŸ“– #38 ~ Weekly Update

After Monday's excellent visits to Glapthorn and Barnack Hills nature reserves the remainder of the week has been spent locally, with several year-ticks to mention. Monday's glorious blue skies were actually the best weatherwise, with the rest of week being dominated by the resurgence of the jet stream and of course ‘Storm Hector’, which thankfully wasn't too disruptive for us.

☁️ 15C Tuesday 12th June 2018 ~ Taskers Meadow and Stockton Cutting

A later start this morning heading over to Taskers Meadow and Stockton Cutting. A generally overcast visit with occasional brightness but it did produce a couple of year-first butterflies: Marbled White and Ringlet. Other year-firsts for Odanata and Orchids included three White-legged Damselfly and Bee Orchid. The meadow is also a great place to find Butterfly Orchids and there were still several showing very well.

Marbled White 

White-legged Damselfly 
Bee Orchid 
⛅14C Wednesday/Friday 13th/15th June 2018 ~ Ryton Wood & Brandon Marsh

It was a bit blustery at Ryton Wood on Wednesday with intermittent sunshine but the brightness managed to bring out several emerging White Admirals. Also of note during my stay a single Wood White and Roe Deer

Newly emerged and Year-First White Admiral
Roe Deer at Ryton Wood
Another event which occurred was distinctly confusing. At first what I believed to be a Willow Warbler suddenly switched to the song of a Chiffchaff! Apparently, this is not such a rare event as you would imagine but it was another first for me ~ Related Article HERE

The view that greeted me from the Car Park at Brandon Marsh
I spent my whole visit to Brandon Marsh on Friday around the Tip, River Meadow, Farm Field and Top Reedbed area, with the large fire just across the river at the scrapyard a major disruption. It was no surprise, therefore, with acrid smoke and ash blowing constantly across the reserve, even blocking out the sun on occasions that things were pretty slow.

Red Admiral

Large Skipper
Best of visit Hobby, Small Heath (4), Large Skipper (2), Red Admiral (1), Speckled Wood (8), my first Brandon Bee Orchid and plenty of Chimney Sweep moths during the brief time I spent on River Meadow.

Monday, June 11, 2018

πŸ“– #37 ~ Hairstreaks and Orchids

☀️ 25C Monday 11th June 2018 ~ Spent the morning at Glapthorn Cow Pastures meeting up with Jim Timms, his wife Carol and Tony Harman. The weather today was once again glorious with clear blue skies and sunshine throughout, perfect conditions for butterflies.
The primary reason for the visit ~ Black Hairstreak

Glapthorn Cow Pasture
Is a 28.2-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north-west of Oundle in Northamptonshire. It is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. A mix of developing blackthorn scrub and high woodland, its designation as an SSSI site is because of its wildlife value and in particularly it's breeding colony of Black Hairstreak butterflies.

Black Hairstreak
Black Hairstreak
We met up on site at just after 09:30 and once through the gate and into the reserve we were immediately on to double-figure Black Hairstreaks! An amazing spectacle for me, considering this was my first visit here and even for those like Jim who'd visited on many occasions over the years, it was an unprecedented sight!

Scarce Chaser
Also of note during the visit Broad-bodied Chaser and a surprise Scarce Chaser, my first for 2018.

Barnack Hills a Holes NNR
After leaving Glapthorn we drove the short distance across to Barnack Hills a Holes NNR. Covering an area of around 50 acres the grassy slopes are home to a profusion of rare wildflowers. In fact, this type of meadow is now all too rare: half of the surviving limestone grassland in Cambridgeshire is found at the Hills and Holes.
The primary reason for the visit ~ Orchids and Wildflowers

Again another site first for me but a really enjoyable visit with many Orchids to be found, some just emerging, others past their best. We did in fact, thanks to one of the volunteer wardens get to see one of the few remaining Pasqueflowers, (Pasque meaning "like Paschal", of Easter) apparently during this Easter period the place was awash with these magnificent wildflowers.

Also of note today:
Man Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Fragrant Orchid, Knapweed Broomrape and Pyramidal Orchids 

Birds: Yellowhammer, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Red Kite

Man Orchid                         Knapweed Broomrape
Fragrant Orchid

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

πŸ“– #36 ~ Wyre Forest

☀️ 23C Wednesday 6th June 2018 ~ A day out in the Wyre Forest (Dowles Brook) meeting up with John Osbourne, Bill Gill and Alan Boddington at 07:30 ~ Completing an anti-clockwise circular walk west from the car park along Dowles Brook, returning along the disused railway line. The weather today was glorious with clear blue skies and sunshine throughout, perfect conditions for butterflies. The primary reason for the visit ~ This is a good time of year to see both Pearl-bordered Fritillary, which is now at its limit and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, which are just emerging.

Circular route from Dry Mills Lane
I was first to arrive at the car park and while enjoying a coffee sat watching a pair of Nuthatch gathering food a Spotted Flycatcher appeared high in an adjacent tree, a year-tick! After meeting up with the others the first part of the walk was quite chilly under the high tree canopy and it was no surprise that the birding, to begin with, was quite slow. Chiffchaff, Coal Tit and Blackcap singing but no sign of any Dippers along the brook, a Grey Wagtail the best here. A Muntjac Deer appeared on the path and shortly after passing Knowles Mill a Marsh Tit was seen feeding young.

A very pristine looking ~ Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary & 'Early' Bumblebee
The canopy now begins to open up and while checking for Dippers along the brook next to a bridge and small meadow, a ♀Goosander suddenly flushed from underneath the bridge, taking us completely by surprise! On the meadow the first butterflies had begun to appear. In fact, it was the exact species we were here to see, newly emerged and pristine looking Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

One of a number of Wood Warblers, mostly under the canopy gathering food.
Before we turned to head back along the disused railway line we stopped in various other locations. At one point while enjoying a coffee a ♂Common Redstart appeared briefly with a bill full of food, in fact, most birds observed today were busy gathering food, a good sign of how well things are going. This also included at least five Wood Warblers, with a couple more singing, possibly looking to produce a second brood?

Spotted Flycatcher ~ One of three for me today..
Two more Spotted Flycatchers, once again high in the canopy and probably late arrivals were also noted along the route before we found a small area of meadow with some wet areas to explore.

Heath Spotted Orchid
Beautiful Demoiselle
Remarkably, one small body of water in particular, no more than a large storm puddle, held Tadpoles and Smooth Newts, while another larger pool had two Four-spotted Chasers ovipositing. While here I'm certain a Cockchafer Beetle was flying high above the trees and the meadow below held Common and Heath Spotted Orchids. A couple of Beautiful Demoiselle was also noted, along with Brimstone and Speckled Wood butterfly.

This Pearl-bordered Fritillary looking rather tatty now.
The walk back to the car park along the disused railway track held a few more rather worn Pearl-bordered Fritillary, plus more Wood Warblers and a second ♂Common Redstart, the latter singing high atop one of the conifers, sadly though, no sign of any Tree Pipits!

White-barred Clearwing
At one stage along the track, we met up with Dave Cox, Denis Woodward and Paul Cashmore who were good enough to let us see White-barred Clearwing moths which they were studying. While here a newly fledged group of Pied Flycatchers also entertained.