Thursday, 30 June 2016

Thursday June 30

A largely cloudy morning, but quite warm with some sunny intervals and a moderate south-westerly breeze. This was my last chance to add a year-tick in June, but unfortunately nothing new appeared.

I parked at the church and walked to Netherstead along the road before returning across the fields. The birding highlight was the large numbers of Swifts over the field behind the pool, over 100 again.

This gives some idea of the Swifts milling about
The pool itself contained a juvenile Little Grebe, but I am sure it has arrived from elsewhere and was not home-grown.

The young Little Grebe skulking at the back of the pool
A female Tufted Duck at Clowes Farm pool was accompanied by nine newly-hatched ducklings.

The Sedge Warblers at the dragonfly pools were again feeding young.

As for insects, there was plenty to see, but they were generally species I have already seen here this year.

A female Emperor calmly egg-laying
The egg-laying process for Azure Damselflies is rather more frenetic
Another deerfly. This one appears to be Twin-lobed Deerfly Chrysops relictus
Actually I am starting to realise these flies are harder to i.d. than I had thought, so I may need to seek some expert guidance.

Common Wasp
Yikes! A scary looking horsefly. Research underway.
Finally, I am pleased to say that the Robin nest in our garden now contains newly hatched young which are being well attended by both parents.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Sunday June 26

An initially sunny morning with cloud building and a light to moderate westerly breeze. I was joined by Dave for the first time for about three weeks, and we soon noticed good numbers of Swifts culminating in a new site record count of 130.

Other birds on view included a Little Grebe on the pool, seven Lapwings, five Green Sandpipers, and a Little Ringed Plover on the flashes, a pair of Sedge Warblers feeding young at the dragonfly pools, two Sand Martins, and a photogenic young Great Spotted Woodpecker.

There were plenty of butterflies on the wing, with good numbers of Large Skippers, Meadow Browns, and Ringlets in particular. Right on cue came my first couple of Marbled Whites of the season.

Marbled White
In the grasslands we saw several Small Heaths, and I was particularly pleased to find a male Common Blue butterfly. They should be renamed the Increasing Scarce Blue butterfly.

Common Blue
Meadow Browns
Keeping with the lepidoptera theme we located two very attractive moths.

Blood-vein moth
Cinnabar moth
The Cinnabar is regularly seen here during July, but I cannot remember ever having seen a Blood-vein before.

Dragonflies on show included two Emperors, at least five Black-tailed Skimmers, Four-spotted Chaser, numerous damselflies, and the first Common Darter of the year.

Four-spotted Chaser
A female Banded Demoiselle
The newly emerged Common Darter
Finally, we made the grizzly discovery of a deceased young Red Fox, and saw numerous other interesting looking insects including lots of Dark Bush Crickets and a Splayed Deer Fly.

Dark Bush Cricket
Splayed Deer Fly Chrysops caecutiens
So the country may be about to go down the plug-hole but Morton Bagot keeps delivering.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Thursday June 23

A momentous day in history but one thing is for sure, in Europe or out of it, our government will continue to ignore green issues while all the time professing to be greener than the opposition.

So while the nation decides, I popped down to the patch (I did vote by the way) to see what I could find. We were rather busy today, so I didn't arrive until 16.30. Cloudy and humid with virtually no wind.

Although the flash pools continue to be extremely hard to view, I did manage to see some waders. These were four Green Sandpipers, a Redshank, and nine Lapwings.

Despite the late start there were some insects to look at and puzzle over. My first Black-tailed Skimmer this year was flying around the main pool, and a few common butterflies were still on the wing.

I'm starting to get very fond of umbellifer heads, they are like mini Serengeti Plains for insects.

The tricky bit is trying to work out what they all are. The striking black and yellow creature is another Ichneumon wasp, this time Amblyteles armatorius. Here is a better photograph of it.

At the moment I have been unable to put a name to the insect to its right. I thought it might be another soldier fly Nemotelus aliginosus, but its seems that they prefer salt marshes so its either a bit lost or more likely something else.

Another flower head revealed the presence of a micro-moth.

I am pretty confident that this is the Nettle-tap moth, which is evidently quite common. Goodness knows what the tiny insects plastering the petals around it are.

I got back to the car and decided to try to photograph some House Martins and Swallows which were briefly landing on the stones. This was pretty unsuccessful, but while I was waiting, a young Brown Hare hopped into view and then started to explore a wood stack, completely oblivious of my presence a few metres away.

Shortly afterwards a Brown Rat scurried along the edge of one of the barns. It is strange that the hare is widely loved while the rat is much hated. They are both small furry mammals, and yet I have to admit that even I shuddered when I spotted the rat.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Sunday June 19

A largely sunny morning, with cloud cover slowly increasing to become total by mid-day. A light south-westerly breeze.

As far as birds are concerned it remains predictably quiet. The Little Owl was showing well, and the flash pool contained five Teal, a Gadwall, and three Lapwings. The Cuckoo was calling, and I think there were two Reed Warblers singing.

Little Owl
The Teal "flock"
I soon started focussing on insects, both ones I could identify and ones I could not. Butterflies seen were Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, about 10 Large Skippers, Speckled Woods, Ringlet, Meadow Browns, and Small Heaths.

Large Skipper

Sticking with lepidoptera, I had a go at photographing one of the little grass moths which get kicked up as you proceed through the long grass.

I believe the species involved has the slightly disappointing English name of Garden Grass Veneer, or in latin Chrysoteuchia culmella. 

I am on firmer ground with dragonflies, and recorded both Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, and Azure Damselflies, Emerald Damselflies, Broad-bodied and Four Spotted Chasers, and Emperor Dragonfly.

A male Banded Demoiselle
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Emerald Damselfly
The fun really starts with other insects.

A soldier fly Four-barred Major Oxycera rara 

A hoverfly Helophilus pendulum apparently also called Footballer Hoverfly
Another soldier fly, this time a Banded General Stratiomys potamida 
If anyone reading this knows what the insect in the last photo is, I'll be pleased to hear from them. I am guessing it is some kind of overfly. However, you may be too late because I have now added a caption giving the result of my research.

Hours of fun!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Friday June 17

After a week of rain, today was cloudy and damp under foot, but also quite still and moderately warm.

The birding was predictably quiet, with many of the regulars feeding fledglings, and the Little Owl showing in its oak tree. The only signs of the turning year were about four returning Teal, and a fly-over Starling. The pool and flashes are so full of water that not a single wader was present.

Despite the cloudy conditions there were plenty of insects about.

Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown
Large Skipper
An Ichneumon wasp probably Ophion scutellaris
Many of the flower heads of umbellifers are often packed with insects, such as the ichneumon wasp shown above and a rather unassuming noctuid moth which I photographed with the intention of working it out later. I find moths really difficult, but after much deliberation I am reasonably sure that this little critter;

mystery moth
is a Middle-barred Minor. This is new to me, assuming I have got it right, but to be fair my personal moth list largely comprises the thirty or so species which have made it through our bathroom window.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Wednesday June 15

A momentous day for our garden as after 11 years of zilch, we finally have a bird nesting in it.

Can you see it?
The sharp-eyed among you will spot the beady eye of a Robin staring back. The shot was taken through the kitchen window.

Our patch of the UK is frankly quite small, and our garden could be described as a work in progress (me), or a wilderness (Lyn). Anyway, this year the bushiness of it is most satisfying, and the sitting Robin is just reward for years of neglect careful management.

I will keep you posted on progress.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Sunday June 12

I arrived at approximately the same time as the light drizzle intensified, and as a result this was an extremely soggy visit.

Insects were off the agenda due to the rain, which just left the birds. Hmmm, to paraphrase Springwatch, "I have some very bad news to report regarding our Barn Owls"

"And unfortunately our Shrews have not faired any better"

"Or indeed our Pheasants"

The demise of the Barn Owl is particularly upsetting, and I cannot come up with any suggestion as to how it met its end. The Shrew is less surprising as you only ever see them dead. I imagine it succumbed to a fight with another Shrew. It is either a Common Shrew or a Pygmy Shrew, the relatively long hairy tail may suggest Pygmy Shrew but the corpse was in a bit of a state, so I am not certain which species I had found.

I did see a few living birds, the best being a pair of Little Grebes back on the main pool, along with a newly hatched brood of Coots. Two Grey Herons waded around before flying off, and I noticed that the Canada Goose brood has been reduced to a solitary gosling.

With the soaked grass stems causing torrents of rainwater to trickle down my wellies and into my socks I decided to check out the flash field and return home. Unfortunately the cattle in the field are completely failing in their duty to keep the grass down and as a result I couldn't see the furthest flash, while the nearest was also largely obscured but at least contained a single Lapwing and a Black-headed Gull.

Not one of my better visits.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Holiday Report

We have just returned from a week in Hampshire, and you were spared regular updates because some bozo (ok me) forgot to pack the technical gear (chargers etc).

We stayed in Pennington which was ideal for forays to the nearby Keyhaven Marshes and the New Forest. The accommodation was fine, and the weather couldn't have been better.

I also managed to rein in my selfish gene and ensure that Lyn and I did most things together. Happily that included birdwatching at a variety of locations which allowed for good disabled access.

The main locations visited were the superb Keyhaven Marsh, which contained saltmarsh, brackish lagoons, and extensive reedbeds, and also Blackwater Arboretum in the New Forest.

The long list of birds seen included Spoonbill, Little Terns, coastal wading migrants like Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, and Turnstone, and many New Forest specialities like Dartford Warblers, Nightjars, Goshawk, Firecrests, Redstarts, Woodlark, Siskins, and Crossbills.

Here are a few photos.

Spoonbill at Keyhaven Marsh
Curlew Sandpiper at Keyhaven Marsh
Distant Dartford Warbler at Keyhaven

Keeled Skimmer

Sandwich Tern
Lyn in camouflage shirt
Holding a tree up
I actually saved 83 photos, but I will spare you the rest.

Suffice to say it was all excellent and I am very envious of anyone who has Keyhaven Marshes as their local patch.