Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sunday June 18

A very hot morning. Dave and I decided to walk along the road in the hope of some shelter from the heat, although this meant we were walking back at the hottest part of the day across the fields. Strategy is not our strongest suit.

We saw plenty of butterflies including our first Ringlets and Marbled Whites of the year. The sunshine and heat made them very reluctant to settle though. The flash field was hiding whatever birds were in it due to the long grass. We eventually discovered there were at least 40 Lapwings and not much else.

Dragonflies were also well represented, and were slightly more obliging than the butterflies. We saw at least three White-legged Damselflies.

Female White-legged Damselfly wafting its pheromones about
Also new for the year were several Black-tailed Skimmers, Emperor Damselflies, and Common and Ruddy Darters.

Immature Ruddy Darter
Common Emerald Damselfly
We were the only species to note the presence of so many dragonflies. I spotted a falcon circling a little way south of us and called it as either a Peregrine or a Hobby. While I struggled to get my scope up Dave stayed on the bird. It got closer and was firmed up as a Hobby, the first of the year.

We also kicked up several moths on the walk around, the most attractive being a couple of Blood-veins.

A quick look at the main pool resulted in the discovery that the Mute Swan pair has successfully hatched a single cygnet.

Mute Swan and cygnet
Finally, it is strange to relate that throughout the whole of the ten years we have been coming here we have never proved that Pheasants (or Red-legged Partridges for that matter) manage to breed successfully. I have always wondered if the population is totally reliant on autumn releases. Well this morning we came the closest yet to proving Pheasant breeding when we were confronted with a female Pheasant which stood its ground along the edge of the ridge field, making strange clucking noises.

The bold Pheasant
We felt sure it was signalling to chicks somewhere in the grass, although we couldn't see them.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Sunday June 11

A morning of sunny intervals with a rather brisk south-westerly breeze.

Although June can be a bit of a struggle, bird-wise, there is often something to lift the day. This morning that moment was heralded by Dave performing a strange set of hand gestures as he tried to indicate to me that a Kingfisher was not only present, but showing well for once.

Adult male Kingfisher
To give a little context. This was the second this year, the previous one being heard only during March. We normally see the odd Kingfisher here from July to about September, but they usually see us before we see them. This one was clearly unphased by our proximity and even caught what looked like a cranefly when it dipped into the pool and then landed even closer (but partially obscured by vegetation) before returning to its previous perch.

Until this incident I had been struggling to get clear shots of insects in the swaying grassland, and the bird sightings had been restricted to the usual species. However, it was occasionally possible to find a sheltered spot and a number of interesting insects were spotted.

Meadow Brown
Butterfly sightings included the first Meadow Browns of the year, and several Large Skippers, Small Heaths, and Speckled Woods. Moths included a Straw Dot and the first migrant Silver Y of the year.

Silver Y
Not many dragonflies were on the wing because of the annoying breeze, but I still managed to see male Common Blue Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, my first female Common Emerald Damselfly of the year, and a particularly well marked Four-spotted Chaser which was also my first this year.

Four-spotted Chaser
Emerald Damselfly
As usual there were numerous other insects to admire. Here is a selection.

Roesel's Bush Cricket apparently egg-laying (or pooing)
A Longhorn Beetle called Rutpela maculata
Finally, a couple of birds. A calling Red-legged Partridge and a juvenile Coot which resurfaced in the dragonfly ponds from under a mat of algae making itself look rather ridiculous.

Other birds noted included singing Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, recently fledged Common Whitethroats, about 20 Swifts, and a Little Owl.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Sunday June 4

The sunny start was brief in duration and for most of the morning it was cloudy and cool, with a few light showers.

Dave and I trudged round with reduced expectations of seeing many birds, and the best we could manage were a Little Egret, and a Little Ringed Plover, while a singing Reed Warbler and a singing Cuckoo were also present. All of these birds have been around for at least a week.

Despite the temperature and gloom, insects were slightly more interesting. We saw the first two Large Skippers of the season, puzzled over what I thought was a bee, but was actually a soldier fly called Oxycera rara, and disturbed a number of moths.

The highlight was a spotted Roe Deer fawn which disappeared into the woodland before I could photograph it.

Here are some shots I did manage to take.

Banded Demoiselle
Large Skipper
Oxycera rara
Straw Dot
Silver-ground Carpet

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Sunday May 28

A sunny start with cloud increasing during the morning. A very light south-westerly breeze.

I got off to a good start, spotting an adult Peregrine on a distant pylon, and then a Common Blue butterfly near where I had parked the car. Things got better when I noticed a Red Kite drifting overhead.

Red Kite
By good fortune Dave arrived while it was still in sight, and so also saw it. We then headed for the road where a singing Lesser Whitethroat was actually visible for a change, albeit rather silhouetted.

Lesser Whitethroat
I was fortunate to press the shutter just as it lunged for a passing insect.

We returned to our usual circuit past a singing Sedge Warbler at the main reedbed, and on to the small pond where I was very pleased to hear and then see my first Reed Warbler here of the year. As the main reedbed gets drier every year the chances of recording this species are likely to decrease.

Moving on to the pool and flashes we were pleased to see a well-grown Lapwing chick, and a Snipe. Dave spotted what was probably the Little Owl when I flushed it without noticing the bird at all. I was probably looking at my feet for insects.

We spotted a late female Orange Tip, numerous Small Heaths, a couple of female Common Blue Damselflies, and a Roller (unfortunately the moth not the bird). I promise not to make this joke again.

Female Common Blue Damselfly
Common Roller
Timothy Tortrix Aphelia paleana
A sawfly called Tenthredopsis nassata
Thought to be a Dock Bug
I have now added captions to the insects, and appreciate the help of Mike Southall with regard to the excellently named Timothy Tortrix. Presumably the plant, Timothy, grows somewhere on the patch.

One tricky to identify bird was fortunately singing its head off, so was quite easy.

My next visit will be in June, just in time for the summer slumber. There will be plenty of insects, but not too many birds.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sunday May 21

Dave joined me this morning hopeful that some of the species seen on Friday might still be present. There was a light southerly breeze, but it didn't feel all that warm in the occasional sunny intervals.

Two Hares and Red-legged Partridge were in just about the most artificial habitat that Morton Bagot possesses.

Wildlife on the show jumping arena
Skylarks sometimes sing on the ground

On the morning of my last visit a flock of 10 Bee-eaters were stopping off from an over-shooting migratory flight at Barford, little more than 10 miles away. If only I had known at the time. They were not seen subsequently, so we headed straight for the beehives. Nothing doing of course.

We also tried the Mandarin Pond (as it is now known). Nothing there either.

Normal service seems to have been resumed. The Corn Bunting had gone, but a Cuckoo was still singing. The Little Egret was still present, and we also located the Little Owl. No Gadwalls or Teal, but the Little Ringed Plover was back.

Inevitably, with no new birds to entertain us, I started looking for insects and other mini-beasts. Here are a selection of the ones seen this morning.

Banded Demoiselle
Seven-spot Ladybird
Nursery Web Spider
Mother Shipton moth
Thought to be an Orange-tailed Mining Bee - Andrena haemorrhoa
Same as above
Azure Damselfly highlighting the U shaped mark on first segment
Hoverfly - thought to be Melangyna cincta

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday May 19

I had just about given up on spring for this year, and arrived in light rain intending to do my final transect of the year with little optimism for anything new. It just goes to show, you never can tell.

Things got off to a steady start as I went down to the flash field to see if the rain had dropped anything in. There is no longer any mud showing due to a week of continual rain, but at least I spotted a distant Little Egret, the pair of Gadwall, and a female Teal.

Once the rain stopped I returned to the road and started walking south. As I reached the hill past the village I glanced at the new pool which had been created by removing some hedgerow and damming a stream, and found a drake Mandarin staring back at me.

Although they probably breed along the river Arrow, just five or so miles away, this was the first I have seen here since 2013.

I continued and bumped into Sue Matthewman on her way out of the Netherstead entry road. I flagged her down and told her about the bird. Sue had been texting me with news that a Barn Owl had been seen recently, which was very good news.

A little further on I heard a Willow Warbler, finally saw the Cuckoo which had been singing for several weeks, and then heard a second bird cuckooing back to it. Attempts were made to video it in flight, but they weren't very successful. Then the Barn Owl flew across my path and dived onto a prey item in front of me. It eventually took off again and I managed a rather fuzzy shot of it.

Barn Owl
Could the morning get any better? It could. On the return journey I flushed a moth from the grass. I don't actually keep a moth life-list, so I am not sure if I have seen one of these before.

Green Carpet
It was still very overcast, and this was pretty much the only insect I saw today. Anyway, as I was skirting the ridge field I noticed a single blob on the wires running across the field. I had left my scope in the car, but alarm bells were ringing and I decided I ought to get a bit closer to rule out the possibility of Corn Bunting. Each time I stopped I took a photo and the image in the back of the camera still looked like it could be anything, but I still couldn't rule out Corn Bunting. Then I heard a faint snatch of song. The books say the sound is like a jangle of keys. It isn't. It's more like a Yellowhammer which runs out of puff half way through the song phrase. I quickened my stride and finally got close enough for a recognisable image. It was definitely a Corn Bunting. My first spring record here, and the first since August 2015.

Corn Bunting
Thirty seconds after this shot was taken it took off and flew strongly south.

I resumed my original course and ended up back at the flash field. Here the Little Egret had got a little closer.

Little Egret

Still just a record shot, but a satisfactory end to a terrific morning.

Never give up.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Sunday May 14

Sunny intervals with a light south-westerly breeze.

Another morning to be spent surveying birds, although a new migrant did pop up just as I walked to my starting point. A female Whinchat appeared briefly on the reeds at Netherstead, before flying to another stem, and then vanishing when I got the camera out.

The actual survey produced no surprises, but at least the sunshine gave me the chance to finally get off the mark as far as odonata is concerned, as I saw two male Large Red Damselflies and a female damselfly which may also have been that species.

Large Red Damselfly
The good thing about knowing next to nothing about moths is that any I do see are likely to be new to me. Thus I photographed a micro moth, which I correctly guessed would be from the Tortrix family. At home I learnt it has the English name (according to one website) of Common Roller. If only it had been a bird of that name.

Ancylis badiana - Common Roller
Butterflies seen included a Brimstone, a Red Admiral, several Orange Tips, and a couple of Small Heaths.

Small Heath
Meanwhile, the flash field and pool both contain too much water to attract waders, so I had to settle for a Little Ringed Plover and several Lapwings. One of the latter was feeding in the horse paddocks at Netherstead, which is unusual.

As far as bird migration is concerned, it feels as though spring is just about over for another year. But you never know.