Friday, 14 June 2019

Playa de Oro (NW Ecuador) – 30th April (Day 6)

We were up at 05:30 to pouring rain, in fact the rain had been falling since at least 03:00 and it was so heavy that it had awoken me. We had a leisurely breakfast and by around 06:30 decided to head off to the head of the Penon del Santo trail 20 minutes up river by boat. The rain was still pouring and as we entered the forest the trails were flooded and the trees were dripping making birding challenging to say the least. The plan was to walk the trail back to the lodge, this was an all day walk.  The first couple of hours or so we birded in the rain and saw relatively little, a Semiplumbeous Hawk called moderately closely but would not come to tape, not surprising given the weather, and then some excitement when a female Long-wattled Umbrella bird showed overhead and gave good views. Walking up the steep and slippery slope which dominated the first kilometre or so of the trail we saw Band-tailed Barbthroat, Crowned Woodnymph and heard Berlepsch's Tinamou but little else. As we reached the trail junction with the waterfall trail the rain eased and the weather slowly turned more pleasant. We walked the first kilometre or so of the muddy waterfall trail but saw nothing – literally nothing.

Back at the junction we continued walking towards the view point, it was now around midday and the sun was just about out and activity had picked up a little, in quick succession we had Black-throated Trogon, a pair of Splendid Woodpecker, a pair of Rufous Piha and two Choco Manakin but a calling Lita Woodpecker eluded us. Things were looking up.

Black-throated Trogon - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Birding the waterlogged Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Splendid Woodpecker - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Choco Manakin - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

At the view point we had a lunch of soup, beef and rice and passion fruit juice – very civilised. Birding from here was excellent and we saw some good birds, first up were three Baudo Guan which showed well in a Cecropia below us. Then a feeding flock passed through and in quick succession we recorded Rufous-winged Tanager, Grey-and-gold Tanager and Scarlet-browed Tanager all of which were new for me. Best of all though was a Scarlet-and-white Tanager, so red that its colour cannot be described – literally the bird glowed in the green of the forest canopy. A pair of Great-green Macaw flew in the distance and we also picked up three Colombian Howler Monkey. The calling of another Lita Woodpecker which again eluded us signified the start of the rain once more and we decided to head back towards the boat, a walk of around one hour. The walk was almost birdless in the heavy rain with very little of significance, a small flock of calling Mealy Parrot, a pair of Uniform Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren but little else. We arrived at the boat at 17:30 for the short hop back across the river to the lodge. A flock of Swift were foraging on emerging termite over the clearing and we recorded Band-rumped Swiftlet, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift and some swift’s with a small white chest crescent which appeared to be White-chested Swift which as far as we are aware had not been recorded here. Finally, we enjoyed the sight and sound of 18 Pacific Cacique heading across the clearing to their roost.

As darkness fell the rain eased slightly and so we tried our luck in the forest for Choco Poorwill but it was not long before the heavens opened once more and we beat a retreat for showers, cold beer and a shrimp spaghetti dish at the lodge.

Grey-and-gold Tanager - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Purple Honeycreeper - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Baudo Guan - Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

The viewpoint along the Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

The viewpoint along the Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Lunch on the Penon del Santo trail, Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Titchfield Haven, Rough Bank and Chappetts Copse - 26th-29th May

A much needed free weekend after a very busy period at work saw Tobias and I venturing to Posbrook Flood and Titchfield Haven on 26th May. A Squacco Heron has been presented at Posbrook Flood since 24th May and as this was a British tick for me I was keen to try for it. Parking at the Bridge Street car park we walked south along the canal path to the main viewing area looking east to the rather obscured floods. A Treecreeper showed well as it fed its chicks in a hole in an oak at a height of only 1.5m, this entertained Tobias for a while. We eventually had rather brief views of the Squacco Heron as it fed in the reeds and grasses of the flood and a brief view as it took flight and flew to the back of the flood and into deep vegetation. Tobias was bored and wanted to go and look for Terns at Titchfield Haven and so we drove round to the coastline. It was extremely windy and the wind and kite surfers were out in force and after watching them for a while we wandered onto the reserve. From the Meon Shore hide we watched around 15 Common Tern at close range but the numbers of Black-headed Gull in the colony seemed very low. There was little else to be seen but we enjoyed a couple of Avocet and an Oystercatcher incubating its single egg. We decided it was time to head home.

Treecreeper -  Canal Path, Posford Flood

Common Tern - Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve

Oystercatcher - Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve

On 29th May I had a survey to do in the Cotswolds and after this was completed I popped to Rough Bank, a Butterfly Conservation Reserve. The weather was pretty dreadful and I only stayed a short while but it is a superb site. Highlights were Lesser Butterfly Orchid, White Helleborine, Small Blue and Adonis Blue. The butterflies were all sheltering atop of grass blades in the cold and windy conditions.


Rough Bank Butterfly Conservation Reserve

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Rough Bank, Gloucestershire

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Rough Bank, Gloucestershire

Another day, another survey and another bit of Orchid twitching. Firstly, I popped to a site on the outskirts of Guildford where at least 30 Man Orchid were at their peak of flowering, a species of Orchid that I had not seen before. Their stunning stiff flower heads topping the surrounding vegetation and making them conspicuous in the sward.

Man Orchid - Guildford

Man Orchid - Guildford

Man Orchid - Guildford

Sainfoin - Guildford

View from the downland at Guildford

I then went to the Hampshire Wildlife Trust Reserve of Chappetts Copse where adjacent to the small car park were two Bird's-nest Orchids. A short way along the main ride were half a dozen tiny Fly Orchid. The star here is Sword-leaved Helleborine, a rare and declining species in the UK which has one of its strongholds in the copse. The white flowers of the plant speckle the otherwise dark floor of the beech woodland in profuse numbers. I wandered amongst the plants for a short while before heading back to the office.

Bird's-nest Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Bird's-nest Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Fly Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Chappetts Copse

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Martin Down and Bentley Wood - 23rd May

On a beautiful sunny morning I visited Martin Down National Nature Reserve primarily to see Burnt Orchid, now in its peak flowering period. Parking in the car park off the A354, on opening the car door I immediately heard the beautiful soft purring of a Turtle Dove, the bird showed well in the scrub adjacent to the car park as it sat atop a Hawthorn and undertook frequent display flights. From the car park I headed directly to the Bockerly Dyke and walked southwards. The sound of Corn Bunting, Sky Lark and Yellowhammer filled the air and my first Cuckoo called distantly. Butterflies were abundant with good numbers of Small Blue, Common Blue and Dingy Skipper and smaller numbers of Adonis Blue, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. I soon reached the area for the Burnt Orchid and found around 10 nearly pristine examples. Wandering back towards the car I spent some time with the small colony of Marsh Fritillary that occur just north of the main mound of the firing range. I came across around 10 males and a freshly emerged female, these are stunning butterflies and one of my favourite British species.

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Field Fleawort - Martin Down NNR

Crosswort - Martin Down NNR

 Grizzled Skipper - Martin Down NNR

Adonis Blue - Martin Down NNR

Green Hairstreak - Martin Down NNR

Marsh Fritillary - Martin Down NNR

Marsh Fritillary - Martin Down NNR

Turtle Dove - Martin Down NNR

Yellowhammer - Martin Down NNR

Yellowhammer - Martin Down NNR

Corn Bunting - Martin Down NNR

I then headed the short distance to Bentley Wood where I spent an hour or so in the Eastern Clearing. Here a very obliging and freshly emerged Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was conspicuous amongst the more worn and more abundant (c.15) Pearl-bordered Fritillary. A couple of rather tatty Marsh Fritillary and a Grizzled Skipper were also present. However, the highlight was a stunning fresh Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk which showed very well, it appeared to have just emerged and spent some time perched low in the vegetation before vanishing at high speed and with a deep humming sound.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Red-belted Clearwing, Romsey - 22nd May

Over the winter I purchased a full set of clearwing pheromone lures and a pheromone trap from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies (ALS) I was keen to see more of these species having only encountered Currant Clearwing and Six-belted Clearwing previously. So with a partial day working at home in Romsey and lovely warm and sunny conditions, I studied the range, flight periods and foodplants of the 16 British species and decided to try for Large Red-belted Clearwing using the 'cul' lure. After an hour or so I popped outside and was amazed to see a clearwing in the trap, expecting it to be a Large Red-belted I was surprised when I captured the animal and realised it was a stunning fresh Red-belted Clearwing. This was an unexpected catch as the species is said to fly from mid-June and comes to the 'myo' lure. Still, I am not complaining, this was a stunning beast!

The Red-belted Clearwing is classified as Nationally Notable B but is actually probably more widespread than this status indicates. The species is found through south-east England roughly south-east of a line from the River Severn to the Wash. The larval foodplant is apple but it has also been recorded from hawthorn, pear, almond, and rowan. The species is found in open woodland, gardens and orchards.

Male Red-belted Clearwing - Romsey

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Noar Hill National Nature Reserv, Selbourne - 21st May

After a breeding bird survey near to Havant I headed to Noar Hill National Nature Reserve to see if I could connect with Duke of Burgundy. This 20 hectare reserve was was formerly a medieval chalk working is owned and managed by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT). The reserve consists of a mosaic of scrub and species rich grassland which has a high diversity of invertebrates, many of which are rare and scarce. The population of Duke of Burgundy at the site is one of the strongest in Hampshire and, while towards the end of the flight season, I was keen to see this rare and localised species which is on the wing for only a few weeks in a year. On arrival at the site the first butterfly I saw was indeed a Duke of Burgundy but it was a very tatty individual with worn wings and a missing antennae. The next butterfly was a stunning and pristine Small Blue and then a Dingy Skipper. I began to encounter more Duke's and through the hour or so I was at the site I encountered around 15 specimens, mostly they were fairly worn, but I came across at least three fresher individuals.

It was still a little early for the vegetation to be in full bloom but there were hundreds of Common Twayblade and Cowslip as well as around 10 Early Purple Orchid which were far past there best. It was a very enjoyable stop but the pressure was on to get back to my desk.

Duke of Burgundy - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Duke of Burgundy - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Duke of Burgundy - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Small Heath - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Common Blue - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Common Blue - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Small Blue - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Dingy Skipper - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

The micromoth Pyrausta purpurea - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Common Twayblade - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Eyebright - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne

Common Milkwort - Noar Hill NNR, Selbourne