Thursday, 31 May 2018

Light Crimson Underwing confirmation

This is just a quick post for all of those that joined Two Owls at Bentley Wood.

Do you remember the caterpillar we had at lunch time in the car park.  I thought I recognised it but couldn't put a name to it at the time.  Well when I got home I did a little checking and quickly realised that if it was what I thought, it was a pretty special species to find.

So I sent photograph to Phil Sterling and he was able to confirm from the photographs that I was correct that it was the caterpillar of the Light Crimson Underwing, a rare species found in mature Oak woodlands the larva are rarely seen as they believe they feed in the high canopy.

Light Crimson Underwing © Nick Hull
For a little more information and to see the super looking adult moth follow this link.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Part 2 Bentley Wood on Hampshire - Wiltshire Border

Part 2 continued from previous blog.

Our next walk took us to the Hampshire/Wiltshire border at Bentley Wood famous as a site for Purple Emperor Butterfly it is also good for birds though our visit here was a general wildlife walk.  The morning didn't promise good weather and we had heavy downpour on our way and as we gathered in the car park there wasn't to much optimism, but I said a little humidity would be good for the butterflies.  It didn't take long to pick up Brimstone both male and females, then I found the first Pearl-bordered Fritillary of what turned out to be many, they seemed to have done pretty well here this year.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Bentley Wood © Nick Hull
Also common here is Speckled Yellow a species of day flying moth which larva feeds on Wood Sage.  Another day flying moth which you can find here is the Argent & Sable which is a scarce and local species in the south more common on Scottish moors. The larva spins the leaf of Bog Myrtle of Birch to form a cocoon and we found a number on these on the birch tree around the clearing and later I found a single flying adult which landed long enough to get a couple of shots of.
Argent & Sable- larva spun leaf cocoon and adult moth © Nick Hull
We also came across a couple of other day flying moths one Pyrausta aurata a micro moth sometimes called Mint Moth the other was a Cinnabar Moth whose yellow and black caterpillars are found on ragwort plants. I also saw a single Burnet Companion but it disappeared into the grass before others managed to see it..
Pyrausta aurata ©Jackie Hull and Cinnabar Moth © Martin Wood
These are a few more species seen on our morning walk ranging from Oil Beetles, Broad-bodied Chaser and other butterfly species like Green-veined White, Grizzled Skipper and Speckled Wood.
female Oil Beetle © Nick Hull - Broad-bodied Chaser and Speckled Wood © Martin Wood
Grizzled Skipper upper side © Martin Wood - Underside © Nick Hull
We also came across a small stack of rotted wood where we found a number of Common Lizard soaking in the sun and warmth.
Common Lizard © Nick Hull
Bird highlights recorded were both Garden Warbler and Blackcap, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Kestrel, Buzzard and a male Goshawk as well as the more commoner species.

We ended our day visiting the RSPB Winterborne Downs reserve at Newton Tony in Wiltshire where we were looking for downland species and successfully seeing Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Whitethroat, Lapwing, Linnets, we also had an immature Red Kite drift over us showing signs of moult in its inner primaries.  Our target species had been seen by others but for us was keeping well out of sight.  It's good job that Jackie and I had a backup site not too far away and we headed off there.  Fortunately it took me just a minute or two scoping across the arable field to find one at the edge of the grass-line and the cultivated ground not just one but two an adult and a chick Stone Curlew.  Martin then picked up the other adult just a little way to the right and we were able to get good scope views of these amazing looking birds.  A little while later Ann and Tim managed to find another pair in the adjacent field and a Red Kite flew over us a perfect end to an excellent day.
Stone Curlew ©free internet photo
Thanks to all that came along for making it such a good and varied day.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Three Counties Wildlife Part 1


Well, it's that time of year when you're out walking and you come across all sorts of wildlife, though here at Two Owls we are primarily looking for birds we never pass anything without pointing it out.  From beautiful Orchids, Butterflies, Dragonflies right down to bugs, beetles to the larger mammals we think it makes for a better more interesting walk.

So here today as usual we are catching up with highlights from our recent walks locally and further afield in fact from three counties Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Our walk in the Wareham Forest was fairly uneventful other than we had a chance to get back to basics and used our ears to listen to many of the common species and identify them from their songs and calls, which everyone enjoyed and some surprised themselves with recognising a number of species which they don't have locally to them.  A Mistle Thrush, always nice to hear sat as is usual at the top of an oak singing well and gave a photo opportunity.  We also heard and watched the singing display flight of Siskin, Meadow Pipit and Greenfinch, also watching Dartford Warbler, Linnet, Stonechat and nicest of all screaming Swift and a Cuckoo.
Mistle Thrush aka "Storm Cock" Sherford Bridge ©Nick Hull
Our next walk was to Holt Heath, near Wimborne.  We started in the car park with Goldcrest singing in the Scots Pine over our heads, as we moved off out onto the heath we started checking off all the common species such as Robin, Chaffinch Song Thrush and migrants such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Once out on the heath itself we watch a Common Whitethroat doing its display song flight and had several Linnet singing and Swifts screaming through the sky above us along with a couple of Common Buzzard.

As we walked on Jackie heard our first Tree Pipit but it took us a while before we managed to locate it singing from the top of a dead tree.  Also we were serenaded by Woodlark and its relative Skylark just before seeing our first Dartford Warbler which seemed to be busy collecting food.  We located several Stonechat on our walk but only heard a single Cuckoo and Kestrel.  Though probably the best of the bird sightings were the three pairs of Curlew that were displaying over the bog.

During our walk we came across a couple of large beetles which always seems to add interest.
Minotaur Beetle (male) Holt Heath © Nick Hull
Ground Beetle Carabus arvensis Holt Heath © Nick Hull
Adding to the variety of wildlife recorded we added Beautiful Demoiselle, Azure and Large Red Damselflies and Broad-bodied Chaser, Brimstone, Common Blue, Green Hairstreak and Green-veined White Butterflies. Also we found our first Common Spotted Orchids for the year.
Green Hairstreak Holt Heath © Nick Hull
To be continued:-

Monday, 7 May 2018

Poole Harbour & Beyond

It seems to have been a very long and enjoyable week of birding for us, on Saturday (28th April) we joined the Birds of Poole Harbour early Birdboat down the Wareham Channel.   We had plenty of migrating birds to keep us busy, starting with a single Swift over Poole Quay and shortly after a group of Common Tern flew high over the boat heading north.  As we entered the mouth of the Frome and we were all watching Bearded Tits giving their "pinging" call in the riverside reeds, Nick called Osprey overhead and as it started to soar a Raven hassled it away towards Arne.
Swift over Poole Quay © Nick Hull
We had more Swifts, with Swallows and Sand Martins with just a few House Martins hawking over Swineham. Along the river a Kingfisher sat allowing good views as did Common Sandpiper momentarily landing then flying back and forth along the river.   We had calling Cetti's Warblers, plus a distant Cuckoo.

Around off Arne we had the usual Common also known as Harbour Seal and passage waders with Whimbrel, Dunlin, and Bar-tailed Godwits, also Common and Sandwich Terns fishing in the harbour which will soon be nesting on Brownsea Island lagoon.  Jackie picked out a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers along the Brownsea shoreline which is an unusual sighting for the time of year.

On Sunday 29th, we had a group out on a very early morning walk at Bolderwood in the New Forest, starting from the Canadian War Memorial.  Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and Chaffinch were singing as we got ready and Siskin flew overhead, our first migrant was a Wheatear on the heath opposite.  Wandering on  we had the usual Blue, Coal and Great Tit, Wren and Robin of course, also Chiffchaff.  Then the first Hawfinch flew over, the first of many this morning, though not always easy to get a good view of one settled.
Nuthatch © Nick Hull
Stock Dove called and then the Cuckoo started, we could hear Redstart but we struggled to see it then we heard Wood Lark singing.  Such a beautiful song, we stopped and listened and looked for the songster, it was hidden just out of our view.  Eventually it took to the air and we could see it well and then another, making a pair.  There were several Meadow Pipits also displaying here.  Back into the wood and we stopped to watch Treecreeper and a Blackcap.  Then two pairs of Crossbill were seen sat on top of  their respective conifers, the male looking resplendent in their red plumage.

A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming somewhere in the beech wood but not found, as were Firecrest singing in the top canopy of the conifers.  Nuthatch and Marsh Tit were more obliging and walking back to the cars we had singles of Buzzard and Grey Heron.

We popped to Eyeworth Pond, Fritham on the way home though we only saw one drake Mandarin Duck, we were entertained by the woodland birds with Marsh, Coal, Great and Blue Tit and Nuthatch coming to the feeders.

Nick was taking two ladies from London out birding from Monday to Friday which was very successful, including seeing male and female Golden Orioles on Portland, Bonapartes Gull on Longham Lakes, summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes at Blashford Lakes and Wood Sandpiper at Pennington Marshes.  He will be writing up his report soon.
female Golden Oriole Portland Bill © Nick Hull
Meanwhile I met our Wednesday monthly group in the wind and rain on the 2nd May at Middlebere, but it was all worthwhile.  We arrived at the hide to find a single Spoonbill in the field to the right of the hide, along with several splendid Grey Plover mostly in summer plumage and a few Dunlin, plus a lone Bar-tailed Godwit.  On the opposite side of the channel were a group of Black-tailed Godwits and lots of Shelduck, a couple of Little Egrets while a Common Tern was hawking over the channel.

The rain started to clear and a Swallow dashed about in front of the hide and a couple of Meadow Pipits.  Waders were starting to move off but no apparent reason for a while, then a Hobby dashed past the hide, then suddenly it was in front of the hide coming straight at us (Anthea even ducked), he swerved right over the top of the hide, awesome.  A Whimbrel flew past and two more came and landed in front of the hide giving great views.  We had actually left the hide but one of our group was very late and decided to go into the hide to see what he had missed and Osprey came in and landed on the nest pole, this was lucky for us as we all back into to have a look.
Osprey at Middlebere © Joe Baldwin
Walking back up the track in sunshine brought out a few birds, by the cottages looking over the reedbed we had two male Reed Buntings, several Reed Warblers singing and sat on top of one bush a Wheatear.  Tony had another one a little later and we added Kestrel, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, Stonechat and Song Thrush to the list, finishing with a Swift over the cars.