Monday, 22 April 2013

21st April - A Butterfly, the Birds and a Bee Fly!

After the heavy showers of Friday we were rewarded with a bright and sunny, if not cool, day on Saturday that resulted in a Brimstone Butterfly in the garden, and plenty of late evening bird song.  Sunday morning was my first opportunity to get out, but even though there was still sunshine, there were also signs of wispy high clouds to the west, the tell-tale sign of an approaching cold front.
There were blackbirds singing around the house as I set off, and the Starlings were gurgling from the rain gutters on several houses.  As I came around Lymington Rise I noticed this Robin with a beak full of insects for a nest nearby.  Probably still the first brood, this time last year it would have been the second.

I turned up Brislands and remembered that I had not recently taken a picture down the lane.  I duly did so, but other than the sunshine, there is still not a lot of difference, the oak and ash trees showing very little sign of leaves.

The horse paddocks had a single Mistle Thrush, and a couple of Blackbirds in it.  It still seems strange that the first bird I came across in the Khali Estate in India was a Mistle Thrush, they were quite common.  A Blackcap sang near the soon to be building site, but I couldn’t locate it, so I carried on past the Gradwell turn, and paused at the Nuthatch Ash tree, and almost immediately heard a Nuthatch calling from the top.  It was quite mobile, foraging in amongst the lichen on the branches, and knocking pieces off as it searched for food.

As I decided to turn away from the Nuthatch I noticed a bird fly up to a gate past on the other side of the lane.  It then exploded into song to announce the presence of a Wren.  I was able to capture it in full song, it’s just a shame the picture can’t deliver the Voice too.

Once again I wanted to see if there was anything of interest in Old Down Wood, the fields were again a different colour, the sun of the last few days drying them a very light brown.  Whatever crops have been planted look as if they have suffered in the cold weather, and are hardly developed at all.  From the edge of the field I noticed a butterfly rise up, it was a Small Tortoiseshell, and was quickly engaged in a duel with another before they parted, and one settled back to warm up in the sun on the bracken.
Before entering the wood I scanned across the fields and checked the pools of water for drinking birds.  There was a single skylark singing above me, and in the nearby hedges three Blue Tits were trying to decide who should go with whom.  Apparently the female Blue Tits are impressed by the brightness of a males yellow chest, as this is a sign of their ability to catch caterpillars.  These two were intent on scolding each other as the third one watched from a little distance.

Once again there was only a Robin singing at the entrance, but a little further on down the path I came across two singing Chiffchaffs.  I took the north perimeter, and followed the path.  The Bluebells and Dog Mercury make the ground a vivid green, and there are now signs of more leaves emerging on the hazel and hawthorn.  A male Blackcap burst into song right next to me, and after some searching I managed to locate it amongst the scrub.

Almost as soon as this one moved away another started up behind me.  The ear has to become accustomed once again to these songs, and I spent some time listening to them in the peace of the wood.  When the Blackcaps stopped you could hear the mewing cries of the Buzzards overhead.  One was very close by, but I could find it, as I came to a clearing I did see two fly over, again calling as they went.
At the West end I scanned across the fields and in the direction of the Watercress Line I could see several pairs of Buzzards circling quite high up.  At one stage there were five pairs in the sky, and a single bird that did not appear to be attached.  One pair was closer than the rest, and I noticed that one had something in its talons.  It was trying to impress the other bird by rolling and showing its catch as the other bird passed by.

This behaviour continued for a while, then the lone bird came in closer, and the unimpressed buzzard seemed to be more impressed with the loner, and drifted away with it, while the bird with the prize seemed quite dejected and dropped whatever it was holding a flew off in the other direction.

I decided to leave the buzzards and set off through the paddocks, as I did so two Swallows flew past me heading north.  Over in the fields with the sheep and lambs there was plenty of crows, but no sign of the Ravens.  I was going to walk up Swelling hill, and visit the pond, the sunny bank being a possible place to find some insects.  As I walked up the hill, Robins, Blackbirds and Wrens sang, and the calls of Great Tits came from both sides.  The hedgerows are still rather bare, and the hoped for Holly Blue on the holly trees did not happen.  As I walked up to the pond, the resident moorhen once again panicked and flew off towards the pool at the back.
Another Blackcap sang from the trees at the back of the pond, and a single Great-spotted Woodpecker was drumming somewhere in the oak trees.  I stood watching the periwinkle flowers on the bank in the hope that maybe a butterfly would drop in.  As I did so I noticed a bird fly up onto a moss lined branch.  It was a Treecreeper and it gave some nice views as it searched amongst the moss.

The Treecreeper then flew off to join another on the far side of the pond, probably a pair.  I could hear a bee buzzing around but couldn’t locate the owner, until finally it appeared on the periwinkle.  A White-tailed Bumblebee, it was very active as it moved from flower to flower.

As well as the Bumblebee I did find a single Bee Fly (Bombylius major), it was sunning on the bark of a tree, but as I raised the camera it was gone.  I only really noticed these insects last year, when of course I saw them in March.
Around the pond the water was quiet, and I couldn’t see any sign of Tuesday’s Toad mating.  I left the pond, and walked towards Kitwood.  Up to four male Chaffinches were singing in the lower branches of the trees as if they were all trying to outdo each other.

Instead of walking down the road, I headed across the field, and then around the outside of the wood, the bushes here are south facing, and there was always the chance of something, and there was always the chance of nothing, unfortunately it was the latter.  I crossed the field again and made my way to Gradwell Lane.  There was no sign of the Swallows from Tuesday, so maybe the resident birds have not arrived yet.
As I walked along Gradwell I saw a lone Jackdaw on top of the chimney, it would seem they have finally moved away from hanging around the rookeries, and started to think about nesting.  Chimneys are of course one of their favourite nesting sites.

As I came down Brislands on my way home I noticed another Tortoiseshell on the Celandines in the ditch.  As I photographed the butterfly I also saw a Bee Fly on the same flowers.  For such a large insect, very little is known of this family of insects.  They feed on pollen and can look quite threatening with the long proboscis, but they are harmless, and won’t be about for long so you have to enjoy them now.

Another welcome sight in the same ditch was a little patch of Wild Strawberry flowers.

Back home a single Peacock butterfly was sunning on the patio, but by now the sun was quite weak as the clouds began to roll in.  Spring is here, but it has a lot of catching up to do.


  1. And a warm welcome back. You are right, there is no place like home. Nature always surprises and this years weather has turned the 'norm' on it's head. A very slow start all round but I sense things moving into overdrive with this drier period afoot. By the way. the white tailed bumble in your shot is in fact a tree bumble. Getting more and more every year down here....which is nice! Looking forward to the India pics..and mistle thrushes??

  2. Good to be back too, making my way through the photos from India, but I can say it was an amazing experience, humbling at times. Any way good to see spring is returning, even if the weekend looks like winter once again!


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