Wednesday, 28 August 2013

27th August - Where is Everybody?

A misty morning, but the sun burnt it away by the late morning to leave unbroken sunshine.  By the late afternoon it was still warm, and with plenty of reports of migrants such as Yellow Wagtails and Flycatchers turning up in the county, there were also several reports of my bogey bird, Wryneck, I set off to walk around Plain Farm, with some hope of something interesting.

As i walked up the road towards the pond a Buzzard soared away in the distance, and Swallows swooped low over the fields either side of me.  The harvested fields were full of Wood Pigeon, and in the tress I could hear the calls of long-tailed Tits.  There was only a few Small whites around the pond, and it was only white butterflies on the thistles by the side of the path.

I haven't walked along here for a long time, and it looked so different, the footpath used to be flanked with high grass, tall enough to hide deer, but now the path and field had been mown, leaving it open and empty.

I walked on with the occasional Tortoiseshell joining the whites, but never stopping long enough for a picture.  The quarry was dead, nothing called sang or even moved, so I turned and walked across the road to Plain Farm.  The Grain drier was in full swing, and it was dusty as I walked past.  I would have thought this would have been a big attraction to the sparrows and finches, but again there was just nothing about.

Wood Pigeon were flying around the field to the south, and a Kestrel flew along the hedge to the north.  At the cattle sheds there were no birds at all.  Walking along the lane there was a sizeable flock of House Sparrows in the hedge, and a small group of five Linnet on the wires.  

I scanned both fields either side of the path, and was only able to disturb a female Pheasant that scurried away from me into the unharvested rape seed.  It wasn't until I reached the end of the path that something worthwhile appeared to photograph.  It was what looked like a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, that perched on a dead branch for sometime.

It had a ring on its leg which looked quite new, so I wonder if this has been ringed by the group here at the farm.

It sat in the sun for awhile, then made its way to the top of the branch, where it just seemed happy to sit an look around.

I left it sitting there and walked along the lane.  I disturbed a bird from the blackberries, and after some calling and patience it showed itself in the bush long enough to allow me to confirm a Whitethroat.  A little further on two Chiffchaffs called from the bramble, but despite my best intentions they just would not show themselves. 

I crossed the field and walked along Charlwood Lane.  I could hear the sound of harvest from a close field, and as I came around the bend was confronted with the end of the process, the grain being poured into the trailer.

There were swallows around the stables, but that was about it.  When Helen and I were out Monday we commented on how better the Horse Chestnut trees were looking this year, the leaves not showing so much attack from the leaf miner moth caterpillars this year.  The leaves on this tree were looking very good, as were others around it.  Why this should be I am not sure, lets hope nature is helping the tree fight back.

The walk along Lye Way to the car just about summed up the whole experience, it was deadly quiet.  As i walked along through the beech trees of Winchester Wood I heard a buzzard mew, but I never saw it.  It had been a disappointment, but then as I keep say if you don't look, you will never see.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

26th August - In From the Coast, Riding On The Wind

I put the moth trap out over night, and while there were no dramatic big moths in it when I checked in the morning, there were some new ones, and some equally impressive looking ones at that, despite the fact that they were small!  These were the best of the bunch:

The Flame Shoulder

The Feathered Gothic

Setaceous Hebrew Character

Grey Chi

Copper Underwing

The early morning cloud cleared by mid morning, and we set off to walk around the area, there had been reports of migrant birds turning up in Hampshire and Sussex, and there was always the chance that some might fancy dropping into Four Marks for a change.

The buddleia we passed was getting plenty of attention from the Small White butterflies, but there was nothing else.  We headed up Brislands towards Old Down, the view down the lane changing once again, the greens looking tired and washed out, they are badly in need of the autumn colour injection.

Last Tuesday I remarked on the Rowan berries and how many there were, well as we approached the cemetery there was a lot of activity in a Rowan tree covered with berries. Once we were closer it was clear to see that the Blackbirds were tucking into the bonanza already  This young bird showing a good liking for the vibrant berries.

White butterflies were everywhere, but I did manage to find this Speckled Wood, the first of many for the day.

It was quiet as we walked along Brislands, the fields had now been harvested, and on the south side there were bales in the field, some were round while there were also some stacked like the old fashioned hay stacks, something you do not see much of these days.

The path through the wood was narrow due to the falling nettles.  They seem to have reached their peak, and are now too tall for the stems and are falling over.  Very soon they will be dying back.  White butterflies flitted along the path, and there would be a few Speckled Woods on the brambles.  We headed down the main path towards the West End, stopping in the sun lit areas to see if there were any butterflies about.  On one such stop, I thought I saw a larger orange butterfly, but as we waited all we found was a Speckled Wood.  Then a larger butterfly appeared being mobbed by another Speckled Wood.  When it finally settled in the open I could see it was a Silver Washed Fritillary, but a very washed out and tired looking insect.

The wood was very quiet and still, there would be the odd call of a tit somewhere, but that was it.  It was dark, and the sun speckled the dark floor of the wood.  Of note this year are the berry stalks of Lords and Ladies.  The bright red berries standing out in the gloom.

When we reached the west end, it was back into the sun.  The field was partially harvested and the mixture of green in the trees and hedges and the cut wheat and bales was quite pleasing on the eye.

We climbed the style, and walked down through the paddocks, a Kestrel flew up into the Hawthorn bushes, and balanced on a branch as it scanned the field.

I could hear Swallows above us, and some could be seen skimming across the filed around the sheep and cows.  As we crossed into the next field I picked up a Kestrel flying low across the grass.  It flew up onto the fence and tangled with another that was perched there.  For awhile they sat close to each other, then the initial bird lunged at the other again, knocking it to the floor.  The first bird then flew off to an oak tree, and soon after the other followed, and as it did you could hear mewing calls, indicating that it was probably a young bird, that the parent was now trying to shake off.

A little further on as we approached the road I picked up a strange looking Gull, that turned out to be a Red Kite.  This was the first sighting since mid June, and as it had the gap in the secondary feathers on the wing, I believe it to be one of the pair that I had seen in the spring.  It was very distant and continued to drift off towards Ropley.

We crossed the road and walked up Andrews Lane.  There were more Speckled Woods in the hedgerow along side the track, and a few harebell flowers in amongst the grass.  we scanned the fields and paddocks for birds, but could only find the usual wood pigeons.  A little further on we stopped at a gap in the fence, and checked the next hedge.  A grey bird flew up into a dead tree, and was quickly followed by another.  They were Spotted Flycatchers, and were almost in the same place we had seen them this time last year.  They continued to fly out to catch insects, and then return to the branches, it is certainly a popular spot for them, and an area that I had hoped would turn up more migrants, but these seem to be the only ones.

We walked along the path at the top of the hill, and disturbed yet more Speckled Woods.  The field along side the path was still unharvested, and there were also some poppies by the edge.  As we set off onto the road I noticed a yellow butterfly coming towards me, and as it passed me I could see it was too small for a Brimstone, and that there was dark in the wings.  I turned and ran back around to where it was heading, relocating it amongst a small group of whites all nectaring on the yellow flowers by the edge of the field.  It was what I thought, a Clouded Yellow.  Yet another first butterfly species, the past few weeks being excellent for them.

It looks a little tatty, but then I can forgive it for its appearance as it must have traveled from the Continent to get here.  They are not regular migrants to the UK, but this year has seen a small increase in their numbers.  I have seen reports of several sightings along the Hampshire coast, so it is really nice to find one here.  The black spot, and white dot can be clearly seen here, on the under wing which help distinguish them from a Brimstone.

It would not open its wings as it fed, but as it flew you could see the dark band on the outer edges of the upper side of the wings contrasting with the yellow.  I waited and just managed to get this picture as it flew off.

The migrant birds had not really put in an appearance, so it was lovely to find a true migrant butterfly, and as we walked along Lye Way towards the village we reflected on what had turned out to be a good morning, Red Kite, Spotted Flycatcher and of course the Clouded Yellow.  But as we reached the end of Lye Way it got even better, a falcon appeared above us, and when I saw the long thin wings I knew this wasn't a Kestrel, and when I picked up the dark moustache, and red under tail, I realised that this was a Hobby, and the first I had seen here that would allow me a good photo opportunity.

It flew over us, and drifted away, only to turn and come back towards us, before gaining height and drifting away towards the south

I assume the Hobbies we get here come from either the south and the New Forest, or from Frensham.  The horse paddocks attract the swallows and this year seems to have been a good year for them, so this may be the attraction for the Hobby, hopefully there may be more sightings through the autumn.

We took the footpath towards Old Down from Kitwood, and as we walked through the small paddock a Common Blue flew past us, this time not stopping for a photograph.  The field crossing was very dry, even with the rain we have had this weekend.  As we came into the wood we found this bracket fungus on some of the fallen tree trunks.  It was quite fresh, and I think that it is a Clustered Bracket, but as always I am open to any other suggestions

From the wood we left on the Gradwell path, and made our way back home.  The buddleias were still attracting the butterflies in Lymington Rise, and a Red Admiral was the final addition to the butterfly list of the day

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

20th August - The Story of the Blues

It has been a while since I have been out around the patch, we have been away once again this time to Namibia, more of which will be posted soon.  It would appear that my House martins have been successful in raising their brood, Monday morning there were at least a dozen House Martins flying around the close, and going up to the nest, usually a sign that the youngsters have gone.  We shall now wait and see if they attempt another brood before heading off for the winter.  I put the moth trap out Sunday night, but was a little disappointed with the results, I will try again later this week. 

This evening I decided to set out for a walk around the woods and lanes, it was still warm, and the sun was quite pleasant.  The first thing I noticed was the amount of berries on the Rowan trees.  Since we have been away they seem to have just suddenly emerged.  You can guarantee though there will not be a Waxwing invasion this year, still the thrushes should make short work of them come the first cold snap.

As I walked around Lymington Rise there were a lot of butterflies on the Buddleia, they were mostly whites, but this pair of Peacocks were a nice composition.

I headed up Brislands and was debating whether to check the new development land, the planning notice is now up on the lamp posts, so I would imagine that they have managed to clear the plot of reptiles, and i wondered what other life might remain, I could see there was plenty of ragweed, and the thistles had gone to seed.  I decided it would be worth a look, and I am glad I did.

At the entrance there was a Speckled Wood butterfly, and plenty of bees.  The blackberries are starting to ripen, and were gaining the attention of a few wasps.

A flash of orange caught my eye, and a Comma settled on the bramble, it is now beginning to look a little worn out.

I made my way into the main field and scanned around, their were thistle seeds floating about, and mixed in with them were a few white butterflies, mostly Large.  On a clump of ragweed I found a few Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.  As I focused on one to photograph, this fly dropped on to the flower head in front of it.  I have tried to identify it without any luck.

At last I found a different butterfly from the whites, it was a small Tortoiseshell, and it looked lovely against the cream buff background of the grasses.

A small butterfly they fluttered past me, and this one was blue.  The only blue I have seen in the village has been Holly Blue, but this was totally the wrong place for them.  As I approached the settled insect, I could see that it was my first Common Blue for the patch, and it even obliged with a lovely pose with the wings wide open.

As I watched it another flew past and they flew up duelling, I then saw another two, one of which was definitely a female as it had the darker upper wing.  It settled on a thistle, and I managed to get a nice close up picture.

Just before we went away I found the first Small Copper, as always seems to be the case, when you find the first they just seem to come along like London buses!  As I watched the blue, one landed close by amongst the yellow flowers, it looked stunning.

The large numbers of Meadow Browns were gone now, but a few still hung about.  This pair were busy doing what comes naturally.

As I had said earlier, I was glad that I didn't decide to walk on by, the field had produced ten species of butterfly, one of which was a new one for me, and another that I had only seen once before.  What a shame that next year they will not be here, we are slowly running out of suitable butterfly fields around here.  The meadow is either cut too early for hay, or the fields are being turned over to development.

I walked along Brislands towards the wood.  There were still butterflies about, mostly Large and Green-veined Whites with the odd small white, but as I approached the footpath entrance I noticed a small pale orange butterfly on the bracken.  I got closer and could see it was a Small Heath, but as I tried to photograph it was off and away over the field.  Another new butterfly for the patch, it has been quite a special year with three new ones, and who would have thought when earlier in the year I was lamenting the numbers of butterflies about!

I walked into the wood, and instantly found Green-veined Whites where the sun made it through onto the bramble and nettles.  This one contrasted nicely with the dark greens of the leaves.

A little further on a single female was attracting the attentions of a pair of males.  She sat still on the leaf while the two males duelled around in their efforts to mate with her.  It was quite frenzied and the action doesn't come across well in the picture.

I decided to walk around the wood in the sunshine in the hope that maybe there would be some more butterflies.  I was also keen to see if the was any significant hirundine movement over the fields.  The latter proved very disappointing with no sign of any swallows or martins, but the butterflies continued to entertain.  There are a few buddliea trees on the edge of the wood, and they are now in full flower, and once again they were covered in insects.  Of the butterflies they were mainly whites and Peacocks, but this Tortoiseshell joined one Peacock on a flower head.

As I walked I would disturb Peacocks from the dry soil, and I would also see more Tortoiseshells flying over the ripe Barley.  The field looks ready for harvest, although the barley doesn't seem to be as high as in previous years.  This time last year the harvest had been completed, but that may well have been due to the farmer picking a dry day and just doing it.  This year it has been better weather at the end of the summer, and looks to stay fair for the next week.

I walked to the style and looked across the paddocks.  Birds have been very quiet.  As I walked around the wood I could hear the calls of tits, and a buzzard called away in the distance, but that was it.  As I looked across the paddocks though a Kestrel flew up from the ground and up into the distant tree.

I headed back into the wood, it was quite dark and very quiet.  The floor of the wood is now clear of any plant life, ave for the orange berries of the Lords and Ladies.  Different from the footpath, the pockets of sunshine were not attracting the butterflies, so I made my way quickly to the main track, and headed for the Swelling Hill exit.  Just past the large Beech tree I noticed an orange butterfly, at first I thought it was another Comma, but the flight was different.  As I got closer I could see it wasn't a Comma, and that in fact it was a Silver-washed Fritillary, could today get any better? (just wait).

It was away off from me, and it was dark, so this was the best record I could get.  Not a new butterfly as I saw them last year, but the first this year, and quite late too, both in the year and the time of day.

I left the wood, and headed to the pond.  Two Emperor Dragonflies passed by me at the thatched cottage, probably emerged from their large pond.  As i approached the pond I could see that the Moorhens had once again successfully raised young, and that they were still extremely shy.  I managed to get this picture before, as normal, they shot of into the small dark pond by the main one!

As I left the pond a Gatekeeper flew past me bring the total number of butterfly species for the walk to thirteen.  I checked the small paddock at Kitwood where there were three small heffers, the flowers were past their best, and there were no butterflies.  I walked across the field and into Old Down Wood again.  There was a little bit more bird call, mostly though associated with a singing Robin, a sign of the changing seasons.

Morris seems to have moved roost site, so when the leaves fall I will have to start searching for him.  As I crossed the field towards Gradwell one or two Swallows could be heard, but these were resident birds, and not a movement.

I turned onto Gradwell, and paused to watch what I thought must be a family of Robins on the gate by the field.  A bird flew up from the manure pile, and into an oak tree on the edge of the copse, that was in the sun.  I quickly picked it up with the binoculars, a Spotted Flycatcher, but as I raised the camera to get a picture it didn't work.  The battery pack had worked loose, and by the time I had it tightened up it was gone, and I couldn't relocate it.  I waited, but other than seeing the robins again, and a Blue Tit it didn't return.  Still the first for the year, and another area worth checking for them through the autumn, the manure pile clearly being an attraction.

As I came down Brislands towards Lymington Bottom I noticed the sign post in lovely light with a nice contrasting background.  I have often looked at this and thought I should photograph that, so tonight I did!

Some things have changed since we have been away, but we still await the full harvesting, and the butterflies are still here.  It has been quite a walk this evening, two new butterflies and a first for the year, and a year tick in the form of the spotted flycatcher.  I must admit to being as excited about them as some of things we saw in Namibia, but maybe not all!

Friday, 2 August 2013

2nd August - Beauty Is In Everything, You Just Have To Learn To Look

Last night it was hot, clear and very muggy, the forecast was for drizzle in the early morning, clearing in the afternoon.  I decided it was time once again to put the moth trap out.  In the morning when I went out early on to turn the light I could see I had caught quite a few, but I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see the detail.

When I finally got out to sort them all out, I was very pleased with the results.  Mind you it is still very difficult identifying them, but I am beginning to know where to look in the books.  So to the moths, and apologies up front for the “un-natural” background in most of these pictures, but I am looking to photograph them as soon as I can to ensure they don’t fly away.

First off was a Pebble Hooktip

The next was this rather neutral Plain Wave

I have seen this moth before in the garden; it is a Brimstone Moth, it being very similar in colour to the Brimstone butterfly

This next one gave me some difficulty in finding it.  Eventually I had to go to google, and I found it, an Orange Mint Moth, although it is normally known by the Latin name Pyrausta ostrinalis.

Then there were the beauties.  This is an Elephant Hawk Moth, apparently quite common in gardens, but I have never seen it here before

This was then followed by the equally impressive Poplar Hawk Moth.  When at rest, as it is in the ivy, it holds its wings like they are dead leaves

Back to the smaller moths now, a Scalloped Oak

A Flame Shoulder

And a Dot Moth

This is called The Herald, and looks extremely splendid close up

This little beauty is a Small Phoenix, look at the detail in the wings

I thought I was finished, but as I began to dismantle the trap, I found a few more different species.  This is a Ruby Tiger, and you can’t quite see it here, but when the wings open further the hind wing is a lovely reddish pink

The next two were an identification challenge, the first one is I think, a Sycamore

And this one is I think a Tissue

Looking just like a bit of peat or twig, this is a Garden Dart

This tiny moth caught my eye as I was clearing the tiny white ones off the egg boxes, it is known only as Catoptria pinella

Again you would think this one was easy, and from its name it should have been, but it wasn’t.  It is a Common Rustic

Finally the trap was empty, and this one tried to evade the camera by flying off, but I managed to find it on the garden fence.  It is a small Magpie, it lacks the distinctive yellow that you finfd in the Magpie moth

Some really lovely species here today, and looking into the hawk moths it seems the best time for them is late August through to October, so who knows what others are yet to turn up.

It is amazing to think that there are so many different animals in the garden, and normally you just wouldn’t see them