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