About Two Owls

Friday, 9 September 2022

August Wildlife Roundup

Migration starts at the end of July with a few Green Sandpiper and the odd Spotted Redshank moving back through, but August things start to increase a little more. Our month has been a little less intensive wildlife wise as we have been spending time with the grandchildren whilst they have been on holiday.  We also been out on a couple more boat trips in the harbour which have given us good views of various Osprey, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and of course White-tailed Eagle which is still hanging around.

White-tailed Eagle G801 Poole Harbour © Nick Hull

Only 76 species seen this month though we did have some quality, a bird boat trip up the Wareham Channel on the 4th August produced several Osprey and view of the White-tailed Eagle.  This was followed by an early phone call on the 12th Aug from Shaun to say they had caught an Aquatic Warbler at Lytchett Heath.  So we forgot about breakfast grabbed the camera and headed off to the heath and had closeup in hand views of a juvenile Aquatic Warbler our third for the patch. We also saw a few Sedge Warbler too which was good to see the comparison between the two species.

Aquatic Warbler compared to Sedge Warbler Lytchett Heath © Nick Hull

Though Jackie and I have been part of the team looking after Poole Harbour's breeding pair of Osprey it wasn't until we had a late afternoon walk to the Lytchett view point on the 21st Aug that we managed to get one on our patch year list.

A walk at Bestwell on the 23rd was fairly quite but we did find a family party of Spotted Flycatcher which performed very well.  On the 25th Aug we had 3 Spotted Flycatcher in the Oaks on Lytchett Fields and a late Common Swift and a Yellow Wagtail flying over French's SANG when we went for the Little Stint on Frenches Pools, plus added Green and Common Sandpiper to our patch lists as well. 

Spotted Flycatcher - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Nick Hull

On the 27th whilst checking through my moth trap a Common Crossbill flew over calling and next day when travelling to a family lunch at Bowerchalk we saw Red Kite near Cranborne and another at Wyke Down where we added Whinchat to our county list plus Wheatear.

Whinchat Wyke Down © Nick Hull

We also had a quick stop at Martin Down to see if we could see any Chalkhill Blue butterflies but only found lots of Adonis Blue, Meadow Browns, Small Heath.

Adonis Blue (male) Martin Down © Nick Hull

On the 30th Aug we helped out as spotters on a Birds of Poole Harbour Birdboat with views of four Osprey and the White-tailed Eagle again plus Hobby.

Osprey Poole Harbour © Nick Hull

On the moth front I've added three macro moth Hedge and Six-striped Rustic and a Wormwood Pug and only my second Nutmeg.  Though I've caught Sic-striped Rustic before I've not had it for the garden and the Hedge Rustic is a rather nice record I have only seen two before one at Arne and one at Upton Heath DWT.

Hedge Rustic & Six-striped Rustic © Nick Hull

We also added two bee species to the garden list Bloomed Furrow Bee Lasioglossoum albipes and and White-zoned Furrow Bee L. zonaria and ended the month with a new beetle species Chrysolina americana Rosemary Beetle though I found it on our lavender but apparently they also like sage and other similar herbs. The photograph doesn't do it justice as in the sunlight it looks like a metallic jewel and as a none native species is there are monitored as they could become a pest but as we have a wildlife garden I don't think it will be a problem here.

Rosemary Beetle Home garden © Nick Hull

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

July, When There Should Be More

July I feel is a strange month, you always feel that there should be more birds to see and catch-up on.  What is usual is some breeding birds are going for their second brood, some are finishing and thinking of leaving, then towards the end of the month others will be returning and migration starts all over again.  For us birders we tend to go off and look at butterflies, dragonflies and do a little bit more moth trapping.  I certainly do all of these, though always keeping an eye out for the birds to, as we walk around doing our surveys of some of Isle of Purbeck rarest invertebrates.

On the bird front we broke the 200 species mark, though we could have done a little better if we had twitched one or two species earlier in the year, but we still have the autumn to go and I'm sure a few species will be added between now and the end of the year.  Our bird highlights of the month must go to a Honey Buzzard that flew past us in the New Forest on the 6th, White-tailed Eagle at Arne on the 20th and a Great White Egret on Lytchett Fields on the 26th July. 

Imm. White-tailed Eagle from a Bird boat in Wareham Channel © Nick Hull

Great White Egret - Lytchett Fields © Nick Hull

Our 10km challenge is now on 162 we are a little behind what we hoped but we have been away on holiday and been looking for other wildlife. We will get started again trying to catchup on a few that we missed in the spring and hopefully add a few of the winter species that we haven't listed in the latter period of the year.

On the 2nd July I caught a Striped Hawk-moth in the the trap and what was nice it was the last moth found in the trap as it was on the inside of the trap cover.  This was a first for me one I've always hoped to catch one day. They are a stunning looking moth as you can see in the shot below.

Striped Hawk-moth - Home garden © Nick Hull

Also the hot sunny weather has brought other migrant moths to our shore though for me other than the Striped Hawk-moth the only other that has really stood out from the crowd has been the Jersey Tigers which I've caught a few of this year.  Four Spotted Footman can also be a migrant though I think may also breed here now and another which I've been catching in good numbers has been Rush veneer a paralid micro moth though intersting isn't what you would say a stunner.

Jersey Tiger - Home Garden © Nick Hull

Rush Veneer - Home Garden © Nick Hull

I've also been catching a small grass moth called Oncocera semirubella this is a moth I catch on occasions and is of National importance.  Again this is a fairly small moth but with a touch of colour.

Oncocera semirubella - Home garden © Nick Hull

Our granddaughter has joined me in the Arne reptile survey team and has been out helping us.  She has seen her first, second, third and fourth Smooth Snake though the Grass Snake moved so quickly she only saw the tail as it disappearing into the heather.

Closeup of a Smooth Snake - © Nick Hull (Taken Under License)

As we were finishing one of our reptile surveys we came across a Hornet Robberfly they are a noteable species which are declining in many places but can still be found around the Purbeck Heaths.  There main prey is grasshoppers and they lay their eggs in animal dung so now that there are cattle and horses grazing on the open heath it should help this species recover here.

Hornet Robberfly – Isle of Purbeck © Nick Hull

Jackie and I went for a walk along the Hartland Moor Plateway to see if we could find and count the Purbeck Mason Wasps but after a successful season last year it appears this year has been very poor and we only found a single female. On our return to the car we had our first Gatekeeper which I took a couple of photograph off.  When I was editing the shots at home I noticed the small beetle and recognised it as one I had seen before there in 2019 after a quick check and a search for the previous photograph I was able to confirm it was the same species Calomicrus circumfusus and as it turns out it is also a Nationally important species and very notable.

Gatekeeper and the beetle - Calomicrus circumfusus - © Nick Hull

Closeup Calomicrus circumfusus © Nick Hull

Another species which I help survey is the Heath Tiger Beetle this is another Nationally important species which over the last few years some active management has gone into trying to create the right habitat to preserve and increase their numbers. Unfortunately I couldn't go out on the survey day with everyone else, so Jackie joined me on a warming morning to walk over part of the survey area.  We walked around a 100m up and back over the area I usually find them and counted 32 individual my highest ever count. Talking to a friend a few days later who went on the survey day they had 49 the best counts of the last few years so hopefully this trend will continue for this superb predatory beetle.

Heath Tiger Beetle (male) - Isle of Purbeck - © Nick Hull

What is also nice Terry one of my co-surveyors and myself now think we can differentiate between the two sexes. It appears that the white tusk like mandible sides are longer in the male than in females.  So hopefully in the future we will be able to separate and have a better idea of numbers of each sex that makes up the population at each location we survey.

I think that covers the highlight of for July wildlife, I wonder what August will bring.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

In Search of Island Birds Part 3

We took a slow cruise past the Calf of Man and then down the Irish coast and arrived next morning at Waterford famous for it's crystal glass but we found the nearest Taxi and headed out to Dunhill to the Anne Valley Wildlife Walk,  a 5km walk along a beautiful river valley. What is really good is the path is suitable for everyone even if you have a disability so it was ideal for Jackie, though we realised she wouldn't manage the whole 5km.   Though in fact because the path was flat and level and there were seats nicely spaced along the route we did a little more than we anticipated.

Unfortunately the little cafe was closed only open at weekends but we had a sunny warm day and we headed off along the path quickly checking off Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting and as we continued on we slowly checked off all the common species including a swimming Grey Heron.

Swimming Grey Heron Anne Valley walk © Nick Hull

The best find of the day must go to Jackie when she saw an Otter in one of the ponds and we had brief views when it dived and disappeared.  Jackie and Fran walked on but David and myself backtracked and re-found it in another of the adjoining ponds.

Dog Otter - Anne Valley Walk - © Nick Hull

Large Red, Blue-tailed and Azure Blue Damselflies Anne Valley Walk ˙ Nick Hull

We had a good number of butterflies and both dragon and damselflies and lots of other inverts but I must admit we made an error and we didn't realise until at the end of our walk. Whilst waiting for our Taxi and talking to a couple of local birders who had lead the cruise group along the full walk that the white butterflies we were seeing were Cryptic Wood White and a butterfly lifer for us.

Cryptic Wood White Anne Valley Walk Dunhill

As always we could have spent much more time here but alas we had to leave.  Our next destination was the Isle's of Scilly in fact Tresco.  We are probably one of a few birders that have never been to the islands which have been renown for rarities particularly in the autumn.  So we were very interested in seeing one of the islands even if it was only for a few hours.

As was the norm we caught one of the ribs and were transported to the jetty dumped our lifejackets and checked out the information sign and decided to walk to the Abbey Tropical Gardens. En-route we were greeted by lots of Rock Pipit they seemed to be everywhere.

Rock Pipit - Tresco Isle of Scilly © Nick Hull

A little way on I spotted a wheatear which looked very upright and in the sunlight looked a tad pale I took a few shots but Jackie wanted to move on I took another shot or two and joined her and continued on tothe gardens.  In fact we walked past the entrance probably because our attention had been drawn by a pair of Shelduck with young, the male was attacking another duck which was possibly a female Pochard. We never did find out as when it was attacked it dived and when eventually it surfaced and straightaway flew off low around the lake side vegetation out of sight.

Wheatear - Tresco possibly female Greenland race - Nick Hull

After a while we realised our error and back tracked and found the entrance to the Tropical gardens where we introduced ourselves to the gatekeeper this very hungry Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel - Tresco © Nick Hull

We lunched at the Islands cafe before we explored the gardens. We saw very few birds but the it was a very good insight to the Island and it's wildlife.

Views of the Tresco garden © Nick Hull

On the way back to catch the rib back to the MS Maud we added Stonechat and more Rock Pipit, we also had another look at the Wheatear and saw Common Blue and Green Tiger beetle.

Common Blue and Green Tiger Beetle © Nick Hull

Again we didn't have a great wildlife list but it was great to visit the island and get a feel for the Isles of Scilly and we will return sometime to investigate some of the other islands.  

Our next stop wasn't going to be an Island but a visit to Dartmouth where we took a trip up the river which added another Grey Seal or two and we had Peregrine fly over and surprisingly a lone Egyptian Goose on the riverbank both species additions to our list.

The MS Maud and Dartmouth as we sail up river

Dartmouth Artillary fortalice © Nick Hull

Back in 1336 when the Hundred Year War between Britain and France started to guard against French invasion in 1388 Richard II ordered the mayor of Dartmouth to build a Fortalice and so the building in the top photograph was duly built.

By the middle of the 15th century England was still at war with the French and the townsmen of Dartmouth strengthened their defences by building another artillery tower which was completed by Henry the VII around 1493. It contained the winding mechanism for a river chain which was secured close to a defensive tower at Godmerock on the opposite bank. (lower photo).

Royal Naval College Dartmouth looks over the town.
Of course Dartmouth is also reknown to this day as having the training college for Naval Officers.

The ribs boarding dock

Though not very wildlife orientated we had a very nice visit but we were soon back crossing to MS Maud for our last Rib ride as this would be our last destination before getting off at Dover and the completion of our Expedition Cruise with Hurtigruten.

Seawatching from deck 6 © Jackie Hull

Throughout the holiday most mornings and evening a small group of the passengers and the on-board Cetacean expert Tony and Ornithologist Simon, David, Fran, Jackie and myself plus a couple of other passengers would meet at the front of deck 6 looking over the bow and seawatching.  Over the holiday we managed to see a few things over, in and on the sea.

Apologies for the terrible photograph but this was probably the first highlight of the trip as we were passing Cornwall on our first day. I spotted this summer plumaged Great Northern Diver unfortunately it was to far out from the ship for my 100-400 lens.

Distant Great Northern Diver

Gannet were probably the most common species that we would see on most seawatch's, some would drift right over the bow giving eye level views.

Gannet from the bow of MS Maud © Nick Hull

We would sometimes see a flock resting or feeding, sometimes we would then see Dolphin appear under them.
Feeding Gannet seen from the MS Muad © Nick Hull

Gannet passing the ship heading to the nesting colony © Nick Hull

Over the course of the holiday we were lucky on a few evening usually late evening when we saw several super pods of Common Dolphin on three occasions numbers were in excess of 100 animals.

Common Dolphin heading towards the ship © Nick Hull

Another species which we saw on most seawatch's were Manx Shearwater on one occasion as mentioned in the earlier blog we had a very large flock resting on the sea off Cornwall.

Manx Shearwater © Nick Hull

Manx Shearwater © Nick Hull

Manx Shearwater © Nick Hull

Often we also saw Northern Fulmar mixed in with the large gatherings of Manx.

Northern Fulmar © Nick Hull

Of course when we were sailing around the Hebrides we encountered the odd skua our first was a Dark-phase Arctic skua that passed very close to the bow of the ship which gave excellent views.

Dark-phase Arctic Skua © Nick Hull

On a couple of occasion we also had Great Skua cruising by though we saw most when we were visiting the islands, sea bird colonies.

Great Skua © Nick Hull

Another species that we occasionally saw at sea were Kittiwake though not so many as you would think you might see.

1st/summer and Adult Kittiwake © Nick Hull

Also when we were approaching islands which had large seabird colonies we would see various auk species and the various gull species, sometimes they would fly close pass the ship.

Passing Razorbill passing the ship © Nick Hull

The sunset on our last evening as seen through our cabin window.

Our final sunset and the end of our holiday.