Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Dorset with creatures that buzz, fly, slither and flutter

Catching up with a selection of highlights from various walk and wildlife monitoring that Two Owls have been involved with.

Since our last blog I've had a little volunteer time helping out the RSPB with reptile monitoring, one we did about eight weeks ago during the hot weather we only found three Slow Worm, one Smooth Snake and a single Sand Lizard.   Our more recent survey was just as the hot weather broke and we had the first of the cooler days.  We went through the day recording five species of of the six reptiles found on the RSPB reserves but Adder was not found all day.  We recorded several Sand Lizard, a single Common Lizard, several Grass Snake and an immature female Smooth Snake with very individual marking which will certainly help identify her again.  We always photograph the Smooth Snakes as the patterns are like a fingerprints unique to the individual and helps when catching them again to track their movements.
Female Smooth Snake © Nick Hull
Female Sand Lizard © Nick Hull
Our Wednesday monthly walk at Durlston Country Park, where we hoped for a few early migrants, was a little dashed by the weather conditions on the morning but highlights were a pair of Gannet that cruised by close to the cliffs and butterflies seemed to be everywhere in all the sunny sheltered spots.
Two Gannets passing Anvil Point © Nick Hull
Female Common Blue © Nick Hull
Wall Brown © Nick Hull
Our Portland and Lodmoor walk found birding a little hard with south westerly winds not being ideal but an hour of seawatching produced a couple of Manx Shearwater, three Fulmar, a possible Sooty Shearwater but it was just to far out to be 100% but the "jizz" looked good for this species. Unfortunately only myself and Angus caught sight of a pale phase Arctic Skua that dodged by the Pulpit Rock.  Our lunch break at Ferrybridge gave us a few extra waders with a count of 75+ Ringed Plover, single Knot and Sanderling and many summer plumaged adult Dunlin with a few young birds scattered over the shoreline.

Lodmoor was somewhat more productive with a good selection of the usual waterfowl with the added bonus of two Great White Egret, three Common Sandpiper, five Sandwich Tern a good number of different aged Mediterranean Gull and a single juvenile Yellow-legged Gull which was pointed out by birding friend Brett Spencer, a real gull enthusiast which enabled us to go through and see many of the features in direct comparison to the immature Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls nearby.
Great White Egret - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
Occasionally I help out with the Bat box monitoring at Arne when I have a chance it's a great way of learning more and getting up close with these super flying mammals. Last Saturday I was able to join Chris Dieck and a small number of Dorset Bat Group.  Checking the RSPB Bat boxes specifically for the Natterer's Bat project.  By the end of the day we had processed 110 Natterer's Bats (a new Arne record), 19 of these had not been ringed before which hopefully adds to the knowledge of the population movement around the reserve.  We also recorded three Soprano Pipistrelle bats and was able to show one or two to the public which was very appreciated particularly by one lady who had always wanted to see a bat up close.
One of the ringed Natterer's Bats © Nick Hull
Jackie also found a Wasp Spider a week or two ago in the lavender in the Arne wildlife garden and yesterday lunchtime we visited to top up on our Hedgehog food and checked to find she was still there. 
Female Wasp Spider - Arne Wildlife Garden © Nick Hull
The Wildlife garden has been an amazing attraction to an enormous amount of insect life if you visit it's always worth a look around there are some amazing creatures to be found feeding on the flowers or feeding on the insects that visit.  Below The Crucifer Shieldbug was a first for me as was the Median Wasp a species which was first recorded in the 1980's and has spread slowly and now has been recorded in Scotland.  They are a large wasp but not as large as the Hornet but like there bigger relative they will catch other insect to take back to the nest to feed the queen.

Crucifer Shieldbug-Eurydema ornata © Nick Hull
Dolichovespula media - worker Median Wasp
We also had a quick check at the new scrape at Sunnyside Farm and what an improvement and it enabled Jackie to catch up on Wood Sandpiper.  There was also Little Ringed Plover and Snipe plus a Hobby came over but with much of the autumn migration left to go this could be a very good place to see passing waders and more.
Distant shot of Wood Sandpiper- Sunnyside Farm © Nick Hull