Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Pennington Marsh and New Forest - 29th and 30th August

It was a glorious Bank Holiday weekend and on Monday Sarah, Tobias and I went for a walk around Denny Wood. Much of our time was taken up with climbing trees and showing Tobias, Beech mast, Crab Apples, Sweet Chestnut 'conker's as well as hunting for Badger in various holes, the latter with little success. A few Marsh Tit were heard calling and Common Darter buzzed around the pools. I heard a call, 'Daddy, whats this' as Tobias pointed to the ground and there was a magnificent (if not pretty) Goat Moth caterpillar. This was a tick for Daddy and I am not sure who was the most excited Tobias or me. Anyway, after a bit of handling experience we placed the beast off the path and out of harms way. This is a scarce species in the UK, so named because the larvae is said to emit an aroma similar to that of a goat. The species is one of the longest lived moths in the UK living for around four years as a larvae feeding on wood of willow, birch and oak amongst others. Certain trees are traditionally used and it is thought that egg laying Goat Moth may be attracted back to the same tree by the aroma of the tree and its inhabitants. The sap runs caused by the boring larvae attract a diverse range of other invertebrates and such traditionally used trees are extremely important ecological features. A link to a Butterfly Conservation information leaflet can be found here.

Goat Moth larvae - Denny Wood, New Forest

Tuesday 30th August was a glorious day and I could not resist a trip down to Pennington Marsh. There were large numbers of hirundines present with an estimated 250 Swallow and smaller numbers of House Martin and Sand Martin. Fishtail lagoon is superb at the moment and I spent almost an hour here scanning from the bund to the east counting 11 Little Stint, at least nine Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, 12 Snipe, around 150 Dunlin, 30 or so Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Ringed Plover, a juvenile Pintail, three Wigeon and around 75 Teal. In addition, there were at least two Wheatear, 30 Yellow Wagtail plus a handful of Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat plus singles of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler.

Mediterranean Gull a moulting adult now in winter plumage - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

I then wandered along the south side of Butts and Jetty Lagoon before walking out onto the seawall. On Jetty Lagoon were around 250 Black-tailed Godwit, another Wood Sandpiper, 15 Snipe, around 125 Teal and eight Wigeon.

Black-tailed Godwit - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit, good numbers of juvenile with their scaly upper parts are now moving through the site - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Canada Goose - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Canada Goose - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

A scan to sea produced two cracking juvenile Little Gull, a patch tick for me, loitering offshore with the Black-headed Gull. Also present were around 25 Common Tern and 15 Sandwich Tern. Back at Fishtail Lagoon the same range of birds were present and I spent a short while enjoying the scene nice again before heading off to Keyhaven Lagoon. The water levels in Keyhaven Lagoon are looking good due to the current dry spell and there were 83 Grey Plover, 125 Redshank, 16 Little Egret, 75 Black-tailed Godwit and a handful of Dunlin. I searched hard for a Greater Sandplover but with no luck! Maybe next week....

Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Dunlin - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Little Stint and Dunlin - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

A news alert flashed on my mobile, Roseate Tern at the jetty so a quick walk along the seawall produced a group of birders studying a tern perched on one of the posts. It was a little distant and in a heat haze and did have a dark bill but its overall darker grey tones showed it to be a Common Tern. The bird was either an adult winter or a 1st summer bird, a plumage that is a little less familiar in the UK as much of the body moult from summer to winter plumage and back again occurs further south. Postscribt - Here is a very similar bird from Portland on 6th August 2017. This was identified as 'most likely an immature (first- or second-summer)'.

Common Tern, a first summer or adult winter bird - The Jetty, Pennington Marsh

I then made a quick stop at Matley Corner near to Denny Wood. This is one of my favourite locations for Orthoptera and one that I try and get to every few years. In a very small area one can find Wood Cricket, Heath Grasshopper, Woodland Grasshopper, Large Marsh Grasshopper and Bog Bush-cricket as well as most of the commoner species. A short wander into the bog produced around 12 Large Marsh Grasshopper, a stunning species. It has a very distinctive stridulation a series of single clicks rather than a rapid sequence as with most other species. The sound is produced by the animal kicking a single leg rhythmically. Unusually, I found no Bog Bush-criket and I wondered whether the grazing pressure was a little heavy.

Large Marsh Grasshopper - Matley Bog, New Forest

Large Marsh Grasshopper in mid stridulation - Matley Bog, New Forest

Woodland Grasshopper, a very localised species in the UK but with a stronghold in the New Forest - Matley Corner, New Forest

Back on the woodland edge the Heath Grasshopper and Woodland Grasshopper were very active and unapproachable in the very warm conditions so the only picture I obtained was of a single Woodland Grasshopper which I later realised had lost a rear leg - probably why it was easier to approach. A stunning little creature nonetheless. There were many stridulating Wood Cricket but I didn't have time to hunt them down but a colony of Bee-wolf distracted me and I spent some time watching them furnishing their burrows with Honey-bee, there must have been at least 40 burrows in the colony and I bookmarked the colony for a return visit when conditions are a little cooler and the insects more approachable for some pictures.