Saturday, 31 May 2014

31st May - And The Flowers And The Trees

We have been in Iceland this week, and no not  the supermarket, but there will be more on that later, but safe to say the SD cards played ball this time.  We were out in the morning but had the afternoon free, and we set off on a walk.  The weather was quiet, overcast with some breaks in the cloud that allowed the sun through.  As we came out of the house I noticed something soaring away to the north.  I thought at first they were birds, but a closer look revealed them to be man-made, gliders.

The thermals looked good though so maybe there could be some birds of prey.

The bottom of Brislands Lane is now a large building site, however the builders have tried to make the entrance to the site offices attractive by planting some flowers and laying some grass.  Above the entrance though is a large caged bridge, inside which is some thick rope.  We were told that this is a "mouse" bridge, and that there are four on the site costing around £60,000.  

I can only assume by "mouse" bridge they mean Dormouse bridge, but it is very exposed, and extremely high, I can't really see a Dormouse climbing this!

As we walked down Brislands a Chaffinch was in full song, it must have another nest nearby.

I could hear the Firecrests calling, and as we stopped and listened it was clear that they had young  out as well.  They seemed to be in the leylandii.  Both adults were the only birds we saw, the female had a large green caterpillar, and waited on the wires.

Helen peered over the hedge and was immediately scalded by the male.  He must have been concerned that she was too close to the young.  He was extremely feisty and pushed that fire orange crest up as a sign he wanted her away.  We decided that we should leave them, and as I walked away I was really chuffed they had managed to fledge young Firecrests on the patch.

Out into the open fields a Whitethroat called.  I finally found it in the bracken, it too carrying food so it had nestlings nearby.

The sun was coming out now, and as it did a few butterflies could be seen along the sides of the lane.  I managed to reach the entrance of the wood with the sun out, and it changes the view.

Walking along the main path Helen found a Red Admiral amongst the nettles.  The first of the year it posed nicely.

Finding the butterfly, we decided to walk along the main rides as there could be the chance of more butterflies.  It didn't work out that way though as the sun went in.  Above us we could hear the mewing of Buzzards.  There were three circling above the wood, and one looked very tatty.

We took the perimeter path around to the Old Down cottage.  As we walked we looked for the Roe Deer and kid.  We didn't find the pair, but there was a male Roe Deer in their area, sticking close to the fence and sniffing the grass.

The garden of Old Down cottage was full of the purple pom pom flowers, and they were covered in bees.  I am now not sure what this one ios so as always any suggestion would be welcome.  The green and purple look lovely though.

We walked around to the pond where there were plenty of Azure Damselflies.  They were settling on the small lily pads, locked together.

This year has seen thousands of tadpoles in the pond.  They form large dark bands through the water, it will be amazing to see how many frogs and toads emerge later in the summer.

A clump of Iris was an attraction to the Damselflies and other insects.  This fly again challenges my identification skills, and I have had to give up, but it looks lovely in the green.

I wanted a Damselfly to settle on the Iris petals, and one duly obliged.  Later when I processed the images I realised that there was also a moth inside one of the petals.  As always I can't identify it, but its a nice composition.

I always check the small pool at the back of the pond, this is usually a site for Moorhen, but just recently the Mallard have been here.  This pair seem to be quite close, but no young, maybe next year.

We left the pond, and headed towards Kitwood.  There are Foxgloves appearing, and with them come the bees.  This I think is a Carder Bee, but I will always be open to any further advice.  It would choose the petal it entered based on the size, knowing it couldn't get into some of them.

As well as the bees, there was a micro moth sitting on one of the petals.

We walked along Kitwood, and route I have not taken for awhile.  The fields are full of cereals, and I have always hoped there may one day be a Quail here.

We soon became aware of the sound of bees, and they became louder indicating quite a large number of bees!  A little further along and we were confronted with a large swarm.

They appeared to be swarming around a conifer.  Bees were settling on the leaves, and would probably cover the tree.

It was now completely overcast, and the butterflies dried up, but Helen found this lacewing.  Checking the books I think its Chrysopa perla, a green lacewing with a blue tinge.  Apparently it is very abundant around hedgerows at this time of year.

Young birds called from the hedgerows around us, and if you stopped and waited the youngsters would come into view.  This young Great Tit had a caterpillar, and was holding it between its feet and pecking at it.  I wonder if it actually caught the caterpillar, or was given it by the parent.

More flowers at the farm, and another bee, A Bumble bee?

As we walked past the cow sheds a Cuckoo called from down in either Dogford Wood, or along Kitwood Bridleway.  I have heard three this year, and I was informed of another calling between Alton Lane and Willis Lane, which means potentially four birds this year.  A bird that looked like a Cuckoo flew in front of us, but searching the tree it flew into I found a Kestrel, and have to assume that was what flew past us.

We walked down Kitwood, and then along Hawthorn Lane past the horse stables.  The swallows were flying around and settling on the wires.  It is difficult to know how many pairs there are here.  We could see three birds and they must have nests right now, but we shall have to see how many are present at the end of the summer.

At the junction with Willis Lane there was a lot of Goldcrest calls indicating young present.  It was coming from a Spruce tree.  The adults were easy to pick out, but the young ones were doing a good job of keeping hidden, but at the same time letting you know they were there with their incessant calls.  Finally one came into view in the middle of the tree.  The young ones lack the yellow crest to start with.  It was nice to get one head on.

We walked up Willis and then took the footpath to the Garden Centre.  The fields look good for butterflies, but with the sun in, and thick cloud above there was no action today.

The garden centre has a new cafe and it was a very welcome stop off with a pot of team scone, cream and raspberry jam.  Walks can now be planned around this very welcome resource.

Leaving the cafe we walked the footpath towards Blackberry Lane and home.  The field was also well grown, with tall grass and some nice clumps of Ox-eye Daisies.

Last year the field alongside the path had many spotted orchids, but there was nothing other than some clover.  It may be a little early though, last year I didn't find them until the end of June.

The season now is all about looking harder for the things that you would not always notice.  Today it was the bees and the lacewing.  However today was also about the baby birds that are calling in the trees and hedgerows, one family being very special.

Monday, 26 May 2014

25th May - Yeah, He's A-Peckin' It All Day Long

A holiday weekend and a strange weekend for the weather.  Saturday was meant to be heavy showers, but where we were in the New Forest it was dry and sunny all day long.  The forecast had been for a good day on Monday, but by Sunday that had changed, and as I sit here typing this it is pouring.  I therefore took the decision to pop out in the late afternoon, while the sun was shining and there were some lovely white cumulus clouds.

Walking along Brislands House Martins were circling above the trees, you don't often see them here.

The rhododendrons along Brislands Lane are now in full bloom.  They look beautiful against the lime green of the maple next to them.  I waited for the sun to come back out to get the beauty of them.

I decided to go into the wood by the Gradwell entrance.  As I passed the copse there was plenty of alarm call ringing out.  I wondered if this is where the fox cub had come from the other evening so I took the time to have a look, but all I could find was a single Magpie.

Walking across the field the scene ahead of me would change as the sun came out, and then went back in behind the clouds.  The lush green of the crops being highlighted.

I could hear the twitter of Swallows and suddenly they were zipping past me, never one to turn down a challenge I had yet another go at photographing them in flight.  These two were not bad, but I still have some work to do!.

As I came into the wood I heard a strange call, but then behind it would be a typical Chiffchaff song. I found the bird in question and it was a Chiffchaff, but the song would start with a "Chee chee chee", and then the typical chiff chaff.

The bill looks extra long, and the supercillium is more distinct.  It flitted about in the lower branches continuing to sing strangely.

All I can research points to a normal Chiffchaff, and there has been a Chiffchaff here all spring singing normally, so maybe it had become a little bored with that song, or it felt a change might get the message across.

As I walked down the main ride, I disturbed a stag Roe Deer, it shot off, than paused to watch what I was going to do.  It was a little dark at this time and the picture is not one of the best, but you can see the rather grand antlers, already for the rut in July.

When the sun did come out it brought out the best in the greens of the wood.  The Beech leaves are currently at their best.

I walked around the perimeter to see if I could find the Roe Deer and kid, but there was no sign of anything in the field.  I then made my way out of the wood and to the pond.  I was still debating what to do and where to walk, but I hoped it would be possible to find the woodpeckers at their nest.

Around the pond the Yellow Irises have shot up and into bloom.

I found the nest hole, and could hear an adult woodpecker close by.  I settled down with the camera focused on the hole Louise and I had found last week, but nothing happened.  The I heard young Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling, and I saw the adult fly in...To a completely different hole!

As I watched the male Great Spotted Woodpecker came around the tree towards the hole, and was greeted by a youngster coming out of the hole.

After the male had left it continued to poke its head out of the hole and looked around.

Then the female arrived and the youngster came out even more to let it's Mum know it was there.

Once the female was gone the male returned they were coming back and fro very frequently, and it must have been different youngsters they were feeding.

On one visit by the female she actually went into the hole, and then came out carrying what looks like fecal sacs to deposit away from the nest.

I decided to leave the woodpeckers to get on with family life, and turned out on to the lane.  Above me I could hear more young birds calling, and stopped again to investigate.  At first I thought they were tits, but then I saw the adults and realised it was a family of Goldcrests, the fledglings call to be fed.

The adults worked busily hovering under the leaves to catch insects and spiders, and then over to the begging young ones.  They were very tiny, and very difficult to focus on amongst the leaves.  When I finally managed to get one in the open it turned its back on me.  So here is a tiny bundle of feathers, and you will have to take my word its a Goldcrest, but you can just see the wing stripe.

Moving on, I headed down Kitwood towards the school.  Looking across towards Old Down it was turning into a lovely evening, a shame about the forecast for Monday.

I carried on down Lymington Bottom, with Blackbirds and Song Thrushes singing.. They seem to be moving onto their next broods, and sing while their partners sit on eggs.

As I passed Belford House I noticed a brown blob at the top of their lawns, and on closer inspection I saw it to be a dozing Roe Deer, enjoying the evening sun.

Ever alert though, as I moved for a better position it heard me, and looked straight across.

I made my way home wishing the weather could always be like this.  There was though the feeling that the spring migration had come to an end for the birds, and it was into the summer doldrums.  A time to look for orchids and butterflies, but for that you need warm sunny weather, and there was not going to be much of that about over the next few days.

Friday, 23 May 2014

23rd May - I Don't Fly Around Your Flame Anymore

It has been an interesting week weather wise, and it transpired to prevent me getting out.  However there has been some interesting events throughout the week.  A Fox cub was seen wandering down the middle of Gradwell Lane early evening on Wednesday (21st), and the Jay that visited on Sunday has continued to use the bird bath by the fence in the garden.  Sadly we found a dead Slow Worm in the middle of Lymington Rise on Thursday, not sure how it got there, I hope it wasn't malicious.

As suspected the House Martins have stopped building the nest, and I believe they were a young pair that are not really sure where they want to nest.  Over the years I have seen this behaviour around the houses here.  Nests are started and then abandoned.  They may come back, we shall have to wait and see.

Last year outside my office window the nest box was used by the expected tenant a pair of Blue Tits, however this year the Blue Tits have missed out and it is now being used by Tree Bumblebees.  They have built the nest, and can be seen regularly going in and out.  My initial identification was wrong and was duly pointed out to me.  According to my informant they are really colonizing the country now after arriving from the continent.

It will be fascinating to watch and see how this develops, and how the bees get on.

Last weekend with the good weather I had the moth trap out, and there were several new moths to be found in the trap.  As always identification is a challenge on some of the smaller moths, and if I have made a mistake, I am always pleased if someone helps or points out the error of my ways.  Butterflies and birds I am totally confident with, but I am learning with moths, insects, fungi, and flowers.

So here goes:  First to catch the eye were several Cockchaffer beetles, or as they are sometimes known May Bug.  It usually flies by night, and can be quite noisy in flight.  The adults feed on leaves and shrubs while the larvae feed on the roots of crops

I love the pattern on the side of the abdomen, and although you can't see them here the antenna have a lovely feathery look.

This one is I think a Scalloped Hazel

This lovely soft grey moth is a Pale Tussock

This one is definitely a Brimstone.

This one was a surprise hiding under the egg boxes, a Poplar Hawkmoth.

Here you can see the size relative to my daughter's hand.  I love the frizzy furry look it has just like a poodle

This one is a Garden Carpet, and as well as finding two in the trap I saw several flying in the day as I walked around the patch last weekend.

I have caught this one before, the Games of Thrones like Muslin Moth.

Here we have a moth with a buff yellow patch on the head, otherwise know as a Buff Tip.

This I believe to be a Flame Shoulder

Now this one has been a challenge, the closest I can get is to Heart and Dart, but I am not certain.  The pattern on the wings may have faded, but I am open to offers here.

And I can't find anything like this one so please help.

A little more certainty here, I think this is a White Pinion Spotted, but....

Finally this is a Nut Tree Tussock, a close look at the pattern and you can make out the shape of a wolf's head, a really beautifully marked insect.

My sources for identification have been the "Collins Guide to British Insects", Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Townsend and Waring, and the Hampshire Moth's "Fling Tonight" page.  With all that information you can see I still struggle to identify these fascinating insects.