Wednesday 27 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield and Pennington Marshes on 25th May

The Greater Yellowlegs that has been at Titchfield Haven on and off since 11th January has so far eluded me over the course of two visits to the site but during the course of last weekend when I was on the Isle of Wight it appeared to become a little more settled and had been showing on the river just off the coast road where mud is exposed at low tide and the Black-tailed Godwits gather to feed. So on the evening of 20th May as I passed nearby on my way between a survey and the office I popped in, the bird had been at the Suffern hide for much of the latter part of the day but when I arrived it had disappeared so I visited a number of the hides enjoying the Black-headed Gull colonies, Mediterranean Gull in full breeding swing and Avocet with about 35 of the latter present, many now with chicks. The news broke that the Greater Yellowlegs was showing from the on the Frying Pan so a quick dash around from where I was saw me enter the Knights Bank hide as the bird flew off - I had distant in flight views only.

Avocet - Nice views from Pumfrett Hide

The following morning (21st may) I had to drop Sarah off at Winchester train station and then head to Chichester for a survey so, knowing that the bird had been showing well at low tide in the morning from the coast road, I couldn't resist popping into Titchfield Haven again and as I arrived a small group of birders were staring intently at the mud and there it was, my first proper view of a Greater Yellowlegs in the UK. I enjoyed good scope views as it fed on the mud on the opposite bank of the river but my photos were poor due to the distance and the light conditions. Also here were around 100 Black-tailed Godwit which showed well close to the road. After 20 minutes the Greater Yellowlegs flew up-river and it was time for me to head-off.

Greater Yellowlegs - Distant shot of the adult from the coast road on the River Meon 
at Titchfield Haven

The bank holiday weekend had largely been a working weekend for me but I was able to pop down to Pennington Marshes on 25th May. I parked at the corner of Lower Pennington Lane and walked to the Efford Lagoon, passed the Shoveler Pools, passed Fishtail Lagoon, out to Keyhaven Lagoon and back via Butts Lagoon and Shoveler Pools. The marshes are a great place at this time of the year with breeding in full swing although it is often fairly settled with few migrants coming through. Highlights included 30 Swift over Efford Lagoon, two Little Ringed Plover at Efford Lagoon, good views of many Reed Warbler, six Dunlin in summer plumage, three Spoonbill and two Avocet on Keyhaven Lagoon, four Great Crested Grebe offshore, six Common Tern and a Wall Brown.

Oystercatcher - A pair are breeding close to the road at Lower Pennington Lane

Reed Warbler - Good numbers breed in the reed beds

Cormorant - Sequence of shots of a bird eating an eel

Spoonbill - One of three showing at a distance on Keyhaven Lagoon

Coot - Keyhaven Lagoon

Common Tern - Sequence of shots showing the male courtship feeding a female. Note the male bird has a ring on the leg, I have seen this bird (presumably the same bird) feeding a female on this same post over the last three years

Monday 25 May 2015

Isle of Wight Weekend 15th-17th May

Sarah, Tobias and I had a weekend on the Isle of Wight to catch-up with my family but I also hoped to get out and about a little. After a hideous wet day on 15th I decided to head for St. Catherine's Point early on the 16th for a bit of seawatching even though the wind was firmly in the west, this was a last ditch attempt to see Pomarine Skua this spring after several failed attempts at Hurst Spit and Milford on Sea but it was not to be and the spring could well be Pom-less. There was little moving in the two hours that I gave it, 125 Gannet, six Manx Shearwater, two Sandwich Tern and four Kittiwake all moving east. I decided to have a stomp around the bushes but again it seemed pretty quiet with two Lesser Whitethroat, a Reed Warbler and a single Spotted Flycatcher. A Red Squirrel showed very well at the top of the lighthouse road, a species I have only seen on a handful of times at St. Catherine's.

The 16th was spent with my family and I had a very welcome lie-in for a change. I was back at St. Catherine's Point on 17th in a south-west and again didn't expect to see a great deal - although the hope for a Pom was ever present. One Manx Shearwater moving west, a handful of Gannet and six Common Scoter east was all that was seen in two hours of watching so I gave up and wandered the bushes but it was very slow going. I decided to have a quick dash in the now sunny conditions to one of my favourite butterfly spots and one that I have been visiting for around 20 years now, Brook and Compton Downs. This site is a fantastic expanse of chalk downland owned and managed by the National Trust. I parked in the small car park near to Brook Hill House at SZ 3947 8506 and walked west along the foot of the downs to approximately SZ 3853 8513. The track running along the foot of the downs faces south and rapidly warms in the morning and it is an excellent location to see many of the species present. The first section of path supports a colony of Wall Brown, a very localised species in Hampshire now, and it was good to see around five on the wing. Dingy Skipper were abundant with perhaps 35 seen.

Wall Brown

Dingy Skipper

Buzzard - Two at Brook Down kept an eye on what I was doing

Stoat - This animal ran up the path towards me and was a little shocked to see me standing there 

At my most westerly location at SZ 3853 8513 there is a small quarry and this is an excellent location for Small Blue and around 15 were present, some of which had clearly very recently emerged. This is a good location for Adonis Blue but despite hunting high and low none were to be seen, my first Common Blue of the year was a welcome sight though. Walking back to the car, I followed one of the many livestock paths that contours the down. I scanned the bramble bushes and eventually picked out a Green Hairstreak, this is a species that is relatively common on the scattered scrub on the downs but can be somewhat elusive unless one knows the traditional patches of scrub where they occur.

Brook and Compton Down looking north-west to Freshwater Bay and Tennyson Down

Small Blue

Common Blue

Green Hairstreak

I spent the last 30 minutes in the quarry by the carpark, this is a fantastic little spot for a diversity of butterflies and have have spent many hours here in the past. Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Common Blue, Adonis Blue, Small Heath, Peacock and Wall Brown were all on the wing here.

Grizzled Skipper

Adonis Blue

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Beaulieu Road Station and Stockbridge Down - 13th May

Having finished a survey a little earlier than thought I decided to head to Beaulieu Road Station for a short walk before heading to the office. It was a beautiful warm mid-May morning, just when the New Forest is at its best. Dartford Warbler were conspicuous and in full song and on the path from Shatterford Car Park south to Bishops Dyke two males were in full song amongst the Gorse and Heather.  

Dartford Warbler (Male) - Beaulieu Road Station

Dartford Warbler (same bird as above)

There were three pairs of Stonechat between the Shatterford Car Park and Bishop's Dyke and all had at least three fledged chicks as a result the adults, and especially the males, were defensive and followed me with their harsh chacking. While there were at least two bubbling Curlew and two pairs of Lapwing I was a little concerned not to hear any drumming Snipe, a sound that is usually typical of this site in the spring.

Stonechat (Male)

Through the scattered trees that line Bishop's Dyke the distinct 'chipping' of Crossbill could be heard from the Larch and Scot's pines and eventually at least three adult male, five female and 10 juvenile were seen although all were rather distant in the tree-tops. There were at least three singing male Redstart here and again the birds were mostly frequenting the tree tops, their stunning plumage contrasting against the blue sky of the morning. I had a quick coffee in Denny Wood where other than a Cuckoo singing amongst the Birch little was to be seen - even the Redstart were remarkably quiet presumably settled into breeding.

Crossbill - Male in Larch

Redstart - Male

Cuckoo in Birch at Denny Wood

With an hour or so to spare I decided to head to Stockbridge Down, one of my old butterfly'ing haunts, to catch-up with some spring species. Stockbridge Down is a fantastic site with a good diversity of butterfly species as well as picking-up a few migrant birds. I parked in the lower car park and walked along the track running parallel with the road and then over the road to the fantastic flower-rich meadow with abundant Cowslip. Below are the highlights of my short stop, in addition a single Pearl-bordered Fritillary was seen, a species I have not seen at this site previously.

Small Heath - Two were seen and both appeared freshly emerged

Dingy Skipper - Approximately 15 seen, most were again very fresh

Dingy Skipper - Feeding on its larval foodplant, Horseshoe Vetch

Grizzled Skipper - Just one seen

Duke of Burgundy - The prize species with at least six seen

Duke of Burgundy showing the underside of the wings

Duke of Burgundy belongs to the 'Metalmarks' a family with distinctive metallic markings, in this image the metallic bluish of the base of the forewing can be seen

Monday 18 May 2015

Bedwyn Brail, Bentley Wood and Bonaparte's Gull - 12th May

Today I had the pleasure of spending a day surveying Bedwyn Brail in Wiltshire close to Shalbourne  this is largely a private site and I was there plotting the distribution of Bluebell and selected Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants (AWVP) within the woodland to inform the location of on-going conservation woodland management. It was a beautiful spring like day and the Bluebell were vibrant, a classic English spring-time scene spread over the floor of this fantastic broad-leaved woodland dotted here with the white dusting of Greater Stitchwort and there with the lemon-tones of Yellow Archangel. Insects were out in full force with many hoverflies including Eristalis pertinax and Eristalis tenax and species I come across less frequerntly such as Xylota signs and Criorina berberina. Butterflies included vibrant Brimstone, Large White and one of my favourite species which seems to be on the wing for a far to brief period in April and May, the Orange-tip with its vibrant orange wing-tips and intricately dappled green underside to the hindwing.

Bluebell - Bedwyn Brail

Greater Stitchwort - Bedwyn Brail

Oiceoptoma thoracicum - Bedwyn Brail

Woundwort Shieldbug - Bedwyn Brail

Xylota segnis - Bedwyn Brail

Criorina berberina - Bedwyn Brail

Bugle - Bedwyn Brail

Red-headed Cardinal - Bedwyn Brail

Orang-tip - Male at Bedwyn Brail

Having finished my survey I decided to head for the nearby Bentley Woods where Pearl-bordered Fritillary had been on the wing for a couple of weeks and within a few minutes I had found my first and in the, by now, mainly cloudy conditions they were readily approachable and during the course of my relatively brief stop I recorded approximately 11 individuals. Other species recorded included three Brimstone, a freshly emerged Fox Moth, Red-headed Cardinal (my second species of Cardinal beetle today), Common Lizard as well as Cuckoo and Tree Pipit.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Bentley Woods

Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Bentley Woods

Fox Moth (Female) - Bentley Woods

Green Tiger-beetle - Bentley Woods

I had to be home to take over the care of Tobias by 18:30 but I calculated that there was just enough time to sneak a quick twitch for the Bonaparte’s Gull that has been frequenting Riverside park and Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve (LNR) I first went to Riverside Park where there was little to be seen but for a few Herring, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gull so I decided to head for Chessel Bay where the Bonaparte’s has been regularly seen feeding on the foreshore in the afternoons. After a brief scan there was nothing to be seen but I continued scanning around and eventually saw a gull lurking on the shore-line, a brief and distant view and I was pretty much convinced that this was the Bonaparte’s. I spent the rest of the late afternoon trying to get some half decent photos in pretty harsh low angle light before heading home.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st Summer) - Riverside Park, Southampton

Bonaparte's Gull (1st Summer) - Chessel Bay, Southampton

Bonaparte's Gull (1st Summer) - Chessel Bay, Southampton

Bonaparte's Gull (1st Summer) - Chessel Bay, Southampton