Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday July 30

We were greeted by a sunny morning, although cloud built up steadily and we were caught by a shower late in the morning. A light south-westerly breeze.

As we approached the pool we were treated to a fantastic aerial battle between two adult Hobbies and a Swift. The latter got away eventually but the speed the swooping Hobbies got up to was something to behold.

The pool was as disappointing as it was on Friday, but the nearest flash pool held a Little Egret and a few Green Sandpipers and Lapwings. We then managed to find a place where better views of the flash could be obtained without trespassing, and this revealed at least eight Green Sandpipers. Dave spotted a Sand Martin, which I missed.

A hawker dragonfly perched helpfully, and was revealed to be a Southern Hawker.

Southern Hawker
A bit further on I was counting a small party of Swifts moving through, 10 altogether, when Dave nudged me to point out a Kingfisher. At this point I had intended showing the video I took, but I am having trouble with YouTube, so you'll have to make do with a photograph.

Finally we found a deceased Mole. I don't think I've ever seen a live one. Exactly how it died is unclear, maybe the recent heavy rain has something to do with it.


Friday, 28 July 2017

Friday July 28

Cloudy and cool with a moderate westerly breeze, and persistent drizzle setting in. These are exactly the conditions you don't want when you are showing a friend around your hallowed patch.

I walked around with Richard Brooke after making the schoolboy error of revealing my wish list of potential year-ticks as we drove there.

We saw very few interesting birds, and the passerines we did see, such as Lesser Whitethroat, disappeared into the hedgerows within seconds of popping out. The main pool still has a substantial muddy edge but no waders, and the furthest flash remains full of water and screened by long grass.

The nearest flash did produce an impressive 12 Green Sandpipers, and 25 Lapwings, while two Roe Deers, which charged across the field, flushed a single Snipe.

With very few insects on the wing we were left to look at mammals, which consisted of another Roe Deer, a Brown Hare, and a Fox (on the drive back).

Roe Deer trotting along a tramline in the wheat field
The ridge field contained lots of Ragwort, and each plant was being fed upon by Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

Finally, we decided that the champagne moment was a Sparrowhawk which powered low into the field and emerged abruptly pursuing a small bird (possibly a Goldfinch) in a brief aerial dog-fight before giving up and heading away.

Even on a rotten visit, you always see something.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sunday July 23

After some torrential rain over the last few days, we arrived to grey skies and a few showers. Coats and wellies were donned, and inevitably the weather proceeded to warm up over the course of the morning, with blazing sunshine by mid-day.

The hope was that there might be some more water in the flash pools and main pool resulting in some new and exciting wader turning up. Well one out of two isn't bad, the flashes now both contain water.

There were some encouraging signs, such as five Green Sandpipers, and an adult Little Ringed Plover. We flushed an adult Little Egret from the main pool, while the hedgerow margins hosted plenty of young Common and Lesser Whitethroats.

Little Egret
As the morning warmed up we saw more and more butterflies and dragonflies, but nothing especially unusual.

Painted Lady
Small Red-eyed Damselfly
A coupled pair of Common Darters
Veering away from familiar insect groups I also spotted an impressive hoverfly, Volucella inanis, which mimics Hornet in order to parasitise its grubs, and a common grasshopper, the Meadow Lesser Marsh Grasshopper.

Volucella inanis
Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
Finally, I sort of saw a long overdue first for Morton Bagot, as Dave, walking a few paces ahead of me, suddenly gave a yelp and leapt backwards. He had almost stepped on a Grass Snake. I just about witnessed it slithering rapidly into the long grass where it disappeared.

PS: Thanks to Bjorn Bechmann for correcting my Grasshopper identification on records.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sunday July 16

A cloudy morning, but quite warm, with a very light westerly breeze. A light shower late in the morning.

The early signs were quite promising, with a large tit flock in the copse near Netherstead, and a Sedge Warbler carrying food in a hedgerow by the dragonfly pool. As we approached the pool I noticed a falcon sitting in a dead tree near Stapenhill Wood. The scope, and camera, revealed it to be a Hobby.

The main pool was, as expected, still losing water through evaporation. A Little Egret stalked behind the island, while the large areas of mud contained several Pied Wagtails and a single juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

Little Ringed Plover
The flash field was even more disappointing. The furthest flash has no muddy edge and contained a few Mallard and a Coot, while the nearest flash is almost entirely drying mud and held a couple of Grey Herons.

Inevitably our attention turned to insects. A bumblebee-mimic hoverfly, Volucella bombylans, showed well. They can apparently mimc either Red-tailed or White-tailed Bumblebees, this one looked like the latter.

Volucella bombylans
There were plenty of butterflies still in evidence, but the only new one was a Small White, and I took too long trying to get a shot. One pool which still had plenty of water also contained a Kingfisher, and the first brood of Tufted Ducks of the year.

Tufted Duck family
Numerous little grass moths fluttered up, but we generally ignored them. However, I did recognise several Shaded Broad-bars, and a micro called Agapeta hamana. I think I have seen them here before, too.

Shaded Broad-bar
Agapeta hamana

The most interesting insects we saw were the crickets. There were loads of them. Most were Dark Bush Crickets, but Roesel's Bush Crickets were also well represented. We also found a couple of Long-winged Coneheads. I have probably seen one of these here before, but on that occasion I didn't get a shot and I left it as a probable. This time, the first was a nymph, in other words one stage away from being a full grown female, and the other was an adult male.

Dark Bush Cricket
Roesel's Bush Cricket
Long-winged Conehead - nymph
Long-winged Conehead - male
Finally, Dave headed off, and I stopped at the farm by Bannam's Wood to get some eggs. I then decided to back track to the new pool just outside the hamlet in the hope it might hold a Common Sandpiper (with the site drying up I am beginning to fear I will miss this species this year). It didn't, but I did get a notable species.

Adult male Grey Wagtail
More typical later in the autumn, a July record is unusual here.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday July 9

A largely sunny morning with a very light westerly breeze after another week lacking precipitation.

I was joined by Dave who quickly swung into action by spotting an owl in a sallow on the far side of the pool at Clowes Wood Farm. It was difficult to see well, but we eventually established that it was a Tawny Owl.

Spot the Tawny
As with last week butterflies abounded, with rather more Gatekeepers but fewer Ringlets and Meadow Browns. All three Skippers were seen, along with several Marbled Whites. However, we managed to find a butterfly which is probably fairly common here, but is rarely seen. This is because its preferred habitat is the top of oak trees. Dave picked out the first one, but it disappeared before he could be sure. We then went to the other side of the hedge, to get the sun behind us, kicking up an adult and two juvenile Pheasants in the process. After about thirty minutes of brief views we were finally treated to excellent views as one of the butterflies flew down to eye level and landed on a bramble leaf. I refer to the Purple Hairstreak.

Purple Hairstreak
We headed for the pool to see how much water was left in it. The answer was not a lot. Unusually the pool was playing host to 59 Lapwings, as well as the first Green Sandpiper of the autumn and a Little Egret.

The Lapwings
Green Sandpiper
Little Egret
We moved on to the Flashes and found that the furthest one was full of water, but obscured by long grass, while the near one was almost bone dry.

I suggested we move back to the main pool to see if we could find any Small Red-eyed Damselflies. In the event we did find one red-eye sp, but it refused to land. More obliging was a female Emperor which was egg-laying.

Other dragonflies on view included a Black-tailed Skimmer, a Ruddy Darter, and earlier a Brown Hawker. None of these was at all willing to pose for a photograph.

We were running short of time, so I suggested we head back via the dragonfly pools. A family of Kestrels has clearly fledged as we counted five individuals on wires in the ridge field. The dragonfly pools revealed the next surprise as it was full of mating Small Red-eyed Damselflies. I had never seen one on these pools before.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Also showing well were an adult Ruddy Darter, an immature male Common Darter, and a few Black-tailed Skimmers.

Ruddy Darter
Common Darter
Black-tailed Skimmer
Another enjoyable visit comes to an end.

One thing I should have pointed out is that the Little Egret is clearly a juvenile. Events at nearby Arrow Valley Lake have been very exciting, with at least one Little Egret incubating with an uncertain outcome, but possibly a second pair tucked away out of sight. Could this bird be proof that the second pair was successful?

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sunday July 2

A warm sunny morning with a light south-westerly breeze. Dave could not attend so I decided to try to count the butterflies along the usual circuit. The flower-rich grassland and hedgerows are excellent for butterflies at this time of the year, and I ended up with the following counts:

110 Meadow Browns
167 Ringlets
6 Gatekeepers
6 Small Heaths
11 Large Skippers
26 Marbled Whites
36 Small Skippers
5 Large Whites
1 Small Tortoiseshell
7 Essex Skippers
1 Painted Lady
1 Comma

So the vast majority were brown ones, and I am sure I missed many more than I saw. I also stopped to take a few photos.

Large Skipper
Small Skipper
Essex Skipper
Essex Skipper (same insect as previous shot)
Marbled White
Painted Lady
This post is turning into a butterfly festival, so I should mention that other creatures were seen. The water level in the main pool was very low, and the mud had attracted two Little Egrets, and two adult Little Ringed Plovers, while a juvenile Little Grebe was floating in the deep end. The cygnet is still alive, but I'm not sure of its prospects if the site continues to dry out. Five juvenile Starlings were a sign of early autumn.

One of the Little Egrets took to the dead tree

Little Ringed Plover - adult
Little Grebe - juvenile
The flash field pools contained 33 Lapwings, three Teal, and three more Little Ringed Plovers, two of which were juveniles. Could they have bred here?

Little Ringed Plover - juvenile
One of the Little Egrets called when it chased the other, a sort of "kark" like a cross between a Grey Heron and a Muntjac. I cannot remember hearing one before.

Other insects seen included a hoverfly called Marmalade Fly and a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper.

Marmalade Fly
An enjoyable morning.