Thursday, 24 July 2014

Odds and Ends from the Last Two Weeks

I have been really busy at work of late and barely had time to get into the field or to add to my Blog but here are a few bits and bobs from the last few weeks.

Sarah and I spent the weekend of the 12th July on the Isle of Wight seeing my family. I snuck off for a few hours on the morning of 13th July visiting Newtown and Town and Walters Copse but it wasn't until I got to Brook Down that the sun shone. This is a stunning piece of downland with amazing views of the west coast of the Island and was one of my favourite butterfly sites when I lived on the Island. It was great to visit again. Highlights of the visit included Chalkhill Blue, Clouded Yellow, Dark-green Fritillary, Small Copper, Wall Brown, Downland Robberfly Machinus rusticus and thousands of the scarce pyralid moth Mecyna flavalis. I remember seeing Mecyna flavalis at the site in small numbers previously but never in the profusion that I saw on this visit with tens being flushed with each footstep through the chalk sward.

View of Compton, Freshwater and Tennyson Down from Brook Down

Male Chalkhill Blue - Brook Down

Underwing of male Chalkhill Blue - Brook Down

Female Chalkhill Blue - Brook Down

Ringlet - Brook Down

The Robberfly Machinus rusticus - Brook Down

Small Skipper - Brook Down

Pyramidal Orchid - Brook Down

On the 14th July I popped into Bentley Wood on my way to a survey to see if I could finally get decent views of Purple Emperor. I even went armed with over ripe bananas to place in cunning places around the woods but to no avail, just the usual tree top views that I always get. However, arriving early I was probably the first on the 'switchback' trail and saw two juvenile Goshawk, hunting in the grass and over a log pile, I can only assume that they had a prey item cornered which had taken refuge in the log pile. It was odd seeing these large predators running around on the ground. Other than this I saw little although there were many Purple Hairstreak flying around the oaks as well as small numbers of Dark-green Fritillary. Willow Warbler chicks were out in force foraging through the undergrowth but otherwise the woods were quiet. I soon had to head off to my survey in Nailsea - what a contrast from a beautiful oak woodland to a 1970's shopping centre.

Juvenile Goshawks - Bentley Wood

Willow Warbler - Bentley Wood

The usual treetop view of a Purple Emperor, and…..

The usual treetop view of a Purple Hairstreak

On 21st July I was working in the New Forest for much of the day so popped into Pennington Marshes before my first survey. Wader passage continues to gain momentum with now around 150 Dunlin, 8 Greenshank, 120 Black-tailed Godwit and 9 Little Ringed Plover present on the lagoons but little else of note. The first returning juvenile Black-tailed Godwit were present but the majority of birds were adult birds in summer plumage.

Adult Summer Black-tailed Godwit - Pennington Marsh

Dunlin - Pennington Marsh

Dunlin - Pennington Marsh

On 23rd July I was working in Chelmsford so could not resist an early start to have a go for the Collard Pratincole at Minsmere. I have not seen any Pratincole species in the UK so the extra 1.5 hour drive was too much to resist but alas it was not to be. I waited in the East Hide from 09:30 until 11:15 before having to leave to find out that the bird was seen flying from the East Scrape to the South Scrape at around 11:30, the bird was then seen on and off for much of the early afternoon on the South Scrape - bugger! There was a good selection of birds on the East Scrape with 4 Greenshank, 9 Spotted Redshank, 12 Dunlin, 6 Knot, 6 Common Sandpiper, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 3 Ruff, 4 Sandwich Tern, approximately 120 Common Tern and 4 Little Tern. The highlight was a flock of around 70 Little Gull, this is easily the largest flock that I have seen in the UK previously and consisted of a range of ages, many of which were in moult.

Greenshank - Minsmere

Part of flock of around 70 Little Gull - Minsmere

Nesting Sand Martin - Minsmere