Monday, 19 May 2014

Birds, Butterflies and Orchids


A glorious weekend with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures and we had a very busy time ahead of us.  On Saturday we were taking a delightful couple from London into the New Forest meeting them at lunchtime and going through to dusk.  Before we left a message came through to say a Wood Sandpiper was in the bay so Nick popped out quickly and found the bird, which also started singing.   

It seemed a good start to the day! We started at Acres Down and up the hill to the viewpoint for a bit of raptor watching.  It didn’t take long before a male Goshawk was found perched in a tree giving great scope views.  A Cuckoo was calling continuously and everywhere we went we heard them even late into the evening when it was quite dark.  The stars of the show were definitely the Wood Larks with very good views, on the ground, flying and eventually even singing.

We arrived at Holmsley in the evening to wait for dusk and the more specialist birds to be found here.  It was quite late before the first Woodcock appeared only to rode once which seemed strange.  Then the amazing sound of the first churring Nightjar, only just back in so it was good to hear them again.  We heard at least four individuals but unfortunately we did not see them, but then the Snipe started their “yapping” call.  We were heady with all the sound and then the familiar grunt of a Woodcock which flew one area of the heath across in front of us to the woodland on the other side.  A superb way to finish our day.

Our Sunday monthly group met at Martin Down and were greeted in the car park by singing Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and Skylark.  Crossing over to Kitts Grave our first butterfly of the day was Small Blue, back to birds we had a Tree Pipit singing from the wire and Common Whitethroat.  Walking the woodland path we had Speckled Woods and Brimstone butterflies, singing Blackcaps and the quiet call of a Bullfinch.  There were Bluebells and Ransoms just going over and the simple but lovely Woodruff.  Though we never did see any of the Blackcaps we heard we did get to see a female Bullfinch.   We also had Song Thrush, Willow Warbler and Green Woodpecker.  We found a few spikes of Early Purple Orchids now just past their best, while the Common Spotted Orchids were not quite out yet and a Roman Snail was found on the path. 

Woodruff with accompanying Crab Spider
Back on to the main reserve we had Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Common Whitethroats with us all the time but it was the butterflies and plants that kept our attention.  Nick was the one to spot the very tiny Early Gentian and we found two plants, but the Burnt Orchids made an amazing display and drew many admirers.  We also had some beautiful butterflies and a full list is below.

Early Gentian © Nick Hull
Burnt Orchid © Nick Hull
Small Blue, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Dingy Skipper, Green-veined, White Peacock, Grizzled Skipper, Marsh Fritillary, Adonis Blue, Small Copper, Green Hairstreak, Common Blue, Orange Tip & Brown Argus.
Brown Argus © Nick Hull

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Wiltshire, Dorset & Hampshire visits this week

Monday 5th May - Wiltshire & Poole Harbour

Bank Holiday Monday and the sun was shining excellent for our first outing to Bentley Wood this year.  Plenty of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrest singing as we walked to the Eastern clearing and almost immediately we had a Pearl-bordered Fritillary.   We were lucky to see quite a few and as we searched for a Duke of Burgundy we had Tree Pipit, Marsh Tit and Garden Warbler.   However the Duke avoided us, though we did see Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock and Speckled Wood.  A high flying Sable & Argent moth flew by and after a bit of a chase it did finally settle for a quick photo before it was off again.  We also noted Bee Fly, Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum, Green Tiger Beetle and it was nice to see some Water Avens Geum rivale in flower.


Our next stop was on Salisbury Plain, as it was early afternoon we didn't expect to much, however Skylark and Meadow Pipits were displaying, Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Whitethroats singing.  Our highlight was definitely a splendid male Whinchat sat up a little mound, occasionally running down to pick up a morsel and then back up again.  Using the car as a hide meant we were able to be close without disturbing him at all, until someone came in front of us and took 2 excited dogs for a walk!  We finished with a very distant Stone Curlew, so a brilliant day.

Male Whinchat - Salisbury Plain
Actually our day hadn't finished, hearing that a Spotted Crake had been heard in Poole Harbour we just had to go back out again in the evening.  We started at Middlebere whilst still light and listened to Dartford Warbler and Song Thrush, while a fox stood on the road watching us with interest.  As darkness fell a Snipe started drumming, such a wonderful sound and though we could hear him we couldn't see him.   On to Ridge to listen for the Spotted Crake, we were lucky almost straight away thankfully as it then started raining and became far too heavy to listen any more.

Tuesday 6th May - Longham Lakes

Longham Lakes near Ferndown our venue for the Tuesday group, walking round the South Lake.  Lots of Swifts hawking over the lake with a few Swallows and House Martin.  Whitethroats were in good voice in the hedgerows and Reed Buntings in good numbers as usual.  Along the causeway in a small reed bed we had 3 Reed Warblers and further on another couple of males singing.  A Cetti's Warbler gave it's loud short song and in the distance a Cuckoo.

Singing Reed Bunting - Longham Lakes
Wednesday 7th May - Bolderwood

This time it was our monthly Wednesday group meeting at Bolderwood and we started on a high.  Fran pointed our Redstart on the other side of the green, we were then treated to super views of a pair and Jess had a pair of Bullfinch nearby.  Then Joe bought our attention to our raptor and Nick quickly called "Goshawk", we all managed to get a good view of it as it flew low overhead.  Through the wood we had songs of both Goldcrest and Firecrest but views were very difficult to obtain.   A Marsh Tit did prove more confiding but it was the Wood Warbler that stole the show.  We heard the Wood Warbler singing and were able to get close enough to watch it giving that little "shimmy" as it poured his heart and soul into his song.  Such a beautiful warbler and a distinctive song. 

On our walk we noted Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Green-veined White butterflies, Bloody-nose Beetle, Water Measurer, and Fallow Deer and Nick found a very busy Wood Ant nest.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Day of Firsts

Yesterday was a day of "firsts" as when I came to update the list for the last blog Common Redstart and Swift were new for the year.  When we arrived home we decided that we had to get down and do some of the domestic duties, so we decided to do some gardening.  As you know, if you're into wildlife, you easily get distracted and I noticed a butterfly on the Choisya which turned out to be a Comma our first for the garden this year.

Comma in the garden © Nick Hull
After our chores were done and a well deserved drink break we had a walk around Lytchett Heath in the hope of seeing a few reptiles.  All we found was a Common Lizard followed shortly after by another first for the year for me on the Patch a pair of Large Red Damselflies in tandem.

Large Red Damselflies - Lytchett Heath © Nick Hull

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Fritham, New Forest

Up early and out the door into a very cold morning to meet everyone at Fritham in the New Forest for a slightly late Dawn Chorus by the time everyone had arrived.  But there was a lot of bird sound going on with Blackbirds, Robins, Wren, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Blackcap and Blue and Great Tits just from the car park.  Just as we moved off towards Eyeworth Pond Jackie brought our attention to a distant Cuckoo.  Our walk down to the pond added Goldcrest and Chiffchaff and once at the pond the local Mallards were accompanied by five drake Mandarin.  We stood listening and watching by pond for a while and watched the comings and going of various common species coming to bird food which someone had put out and we had good views of Marsh Tit and Nuthatch taking an advantage of this extra food supply.  

Drake Mandarin one of five Eyeworth Pond
Continuing on we could hear Stock Dove singing from somewhere deep in the wood, then I heard one of our target birds of the day a Common Redstart. He was a little hard to find but Jackie managed to pick him out at the top of an oak and we had reasonable scope views.  As we moved out onto the heath we needn't have worried as we came across several pairs and had a chance to see the female birds.  As we walked on we had plenty to look at and as we neared the point where we were to turn and head back on our circular route, I scoped across the plain to the north as I saw a raptor soaring high over the wood and had an unexpected surprise it was a male Goshawk.  Fortunately everyone got onto it quickly before it went into a shallow stoop and was gone from view behind the wood.  We were on a bit of a roll here as just after a 'crest' was picked up in a holly bush and it popped out to revealed itself as a Firecrest.  

Todays group walking back happy after seeing Goshawk
As we walked back across the heath feeling lucky on seeing the Goshawk we had no idea that we had another surprise in store for us before the walk ended.  Out on the heath we added Skylark and Meadow Pipit both treated us to their flight songs.  A little further on near some farm building we added Grey Wagtail a super male foraging for food, no doubt expectant hungry young were nearby.   Just before we arrived back at the car park something caught my eye soaring above us putting up my bins to get a better view there was no mistaking what it was once you saw the deep forked tail a Red Kite was moving south over us.  While admiring this bird we added Swift, House Martin and Sand Martin, what a way to end a walk.