About Two Owls

Friday 30 June 2023

May is coming to an end and it's been a slightly different month for us as we've only added a few birds to the year list but we've been adding Butterflies and various Odonata to the months sightings and one or two beetles.  

Our month started with a walk around the Lytchett Bay Patch where we saw nothing unusual and only recorded a handful of migrants, Whimbrel out in the bay and a number of Swallow moving through towards the north.  The Chiffchaffs were in good song having been on territory for a few weeks now, also we had a male Reed Bunting singing which is not the best song in the world but very nice to hear and know we still have a few breeding territories in the reed beds here. One of our problem is the number of Sika Deer that moving around the reed beds they create paths and flatten the reed and constantly disturb any of the reed nesting birds and we think this is the main reason for lower numbers of breeding territories of Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting around the bay.  It's a real problem with know simple answer though on the upside these paths seem to benefit the Water Rail population which seem to be doing ok.

Holly Blue - © Nick Hull

On the 2nd we headed out of county to Titchfield Haven to meet up with a friend we haven't seen for a while and we did a little birding on the reserve before lunch.  When we arrived the warden team were putting out the nesting rafts for the terns so there was a little bit of disturbance but we were able to see our first Common Terns for the year.  We also had good views of a displaying Sedge Warbler and from the first hide which was the most productive there were a few Avocet which a few breed here on the lagoons most years. Though we didn't see the Roseate Tern which had been observed there on the previous day, probably moved through to its northern breeding grounds.

Sedge Warbler © Nick Hull

On the 8th we had a quick trip to Longham Lakes where we added Swift in fact around 50 swift and heard our first Cuckoo of the year.  Next day I had a couple of hours at Durlston CP NNR on Purbeck doing some sound recording but unfortunately the sea breeze became to strong and brought in a damp mist so I called it a day and gave it up as a bad job. Though I did hear around three Lesser Whitethroat but due to the wind the recordings aren't very good but I had to try.
a few of the 50+ Common Swift at Longham lakes © Nick Hull

On the 14th we were Osprey monitoring along four hour stint but what is nice now we don't need to keep it a secret as the Birds of Poole Harbour have announced there are public visiting and to book tickets and see availability follow this link 
They are popular so hopefully there will be lots of opportunity just keep checking in.

Osprey Screen Shot from the Birds of Poole Harbour Web Cam

On the 15th Jackie and I was just about to leave to go to Durlston when a a text from Ian a fellow patch watcher said I've just had a Little Gull in the mouth of the Sherford River from the Rock Lee VP. So we quickly went and joined him just as the bird disappeared but fortunately we managed to re-find it stood on the mud with a Black-headed Gull. Though Little Gull is on the patch list it was a new tick for Jackie and me.  By the time we left the view point it was getting towards lunch time so we decided to abort our visit to Durlston and we would have a look over Lytchett Heath.  This turned out quite a good decision as we added Dartford Warbler and Stonechat to our patch year list.  In fact the latter has been very scarce on the patch since the winter and was certainly my first sighting of one this summer. Even on my heathland survey plot which I did next day (16th) which added a little excitement to the survey but not quite as much as the Wood Warbler which was singing from a small group of birch trees. Though I think it probably will not be staying but just moving through on migration.  Which is a shame as they have become a very scarce breeding species now in the county and even in the New Forest.

An after evening dinner excursion to North Dorset with the sound recording equipment on the 20th was partially successful in that we heard our target species but again the wind was just a little to strong for a good recording of the Nightingale that was singing in the complement of Blackbird and Song Thrush.

On the 24th whilst taking part on a pond survey for odonata in the new Purbeck Heath NNR I had a Nightjar singing during the day which was a bit odd but not that unusual to happen which was a nice year tick. Now all I have to do is take Jackie out so she can hear one as well.

On the insect front Jackie and I have recorded 19 species between the 17th Feb to 25th May. The early species in March were the usual over wintering species Small Tortoishell, Peacock and Brimstone.  Then we added Orange-tip, Comma, Speckled Wood and Green-veined White in April.  Then May saw us add 13 to the list.
Holly Blue, Small Copper, Dingy & Grizzled Skipper, Common & Small Blue, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Green Hairstreak, Brown Argus, Large & Small White and Wall Brown.

Brown Argus © Nick Hull

The Dragonflies and Damselflies have been a slow start with Large Red Damselfly and Hairy Dragonfly being the first then during the PHNNR pond survey on the 24th I recorded 8 species just over one pond and a 9th over another. the list so far is as follows.
Large Red, Common & Azure Damselflies, Beautiful Demoiselle, Hairy Dragonfly, Downy Emerald, Emperor Dragonfly, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chaser and Red-veined Darter.

male Broad-bodied Chaser © Nick Hull
Other species seen in May.
Whilst I'm surveying for RSPB or the PHNNR we are looking for particular species usually those scarce and rare residents which we have a few ie Purbeck Mason Wasp, Heath Potter Wasp, Smooth Snake, Sand Lizard etc. As this means we have to walk sometime from one area to another from one pond to another we always look for other species that catches our eye and if we do not know the species we photograph it and try and identify it later at home with internet search or if that fail contact local experts etc. Most of course are mostly common species but on occasions we turn up something that is a little rarer.

Here are a few common species that we've seen this month.
This species of Crab spider can change there colour depending on which plants they are on I don't think this one has worked it out yet.

Crab-Spider_Misumena vatia © Nick Hull

Green Tiger Beetles are a pretty formidable beetle and is a real predator with strong set of jaws this is a female as it has the two dark spots above the yellow spots on the eyletra, they are absent on males.

Female Green Tiger Beetle © Nick Hull

This Oak Eggar caterpillar was enormous it appeared it was looking for somewhere where it could safely pupate 

Oak Eggar Caterpillar © Nick Hull

This beetle is a species that is fairly common it can be found in old established deciduous woodland where tree are in various stages of decay.  It can also be found at the base of heather on sandy peaty heathland which is where we found this individual.

Nalassus laevioctostriatus © Nick Hull

This next beetle typically occurs in woodland and moorland habitats and especially in upland areas. They are medium to large carabids, all are unmetallic black and most are of a characteristic appearance which soon becomes obvious with experience.

Abax parallelepipedus © Nick Hull

A couple of the rarer species we found this month. Both of these beetle are rare the Heath Dumble-Dor Beetle in a dung beetle is predominantly a species of southern lowland heathland, with most recent records have come from Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey.

Trypocopris pyrenaeus - Heath Dumble-Dor Beetle © Nick Hull

Agonum sexpunctatum is a rare ground beetle in Dorset which is a heathland specialist. Adults are diurnal, they move fast as they hunt for springtails and small insects.

Agonum sexpunctatum © Nick Hull

A relative to the Green Tiger Beetle is the Heath Tiger or sometimes called Wood Tiger Beetle is another formidable hunter with fearsome jaws and are quick across the ground to catch their insect prey. We survey this species annually and a lot of work has gone into making suitable habitat to help them increase their numbers which seems to be working but more work is required as always.

Heath or Wood Tiger Beetle © Nick Hull

I ended this week going to find Wall Lizards for a forth coming tv program and after arriving at the site it took us a little while to find the correct location and managed to see at least 8 individual scurrying around the rock walls and amongst various vegatation searching for food.  Also one or two males were chasing the females, as the one in the photograph below is stimulating the female by giving her little nips to her body.

Common Green-backed Wall Lizard © Nick Hull

On the 28th Jackie and I visited Cerne Abbas DWT reserve we haven't been there for a few years though we didn't find any Duke of Burgundy or Marsh Fritillary though we did meet another couple who had seen the latter.   It was a little windy to be ideal for butterflies but we did see a few Forester and 5-spot Burnets on the wing, all very fresh so obviously very recently emerged.

The Forester Moth on a Common Spotted Orchid © Nick Hull

Five-spot Burnet Moth - © Nick Hull